Increasing Poundage on a Recurve Bow

Shooting an Olympic recurve is demanding.  Unlike a compound bow there is no let off when the archer reaches their draw length.  The archer has to hold the poundage at full draw.  Increasing poundage can be useful and finding an ideal limb weight takes time.

Adult beginners can typically begin and enjoy shooting a recurve bow at lower poundage.  As they improve they’ll often want to increase their draw weight.  Younger archers take time to develop and their draw weight increases as they mature.

Initially an adult who begins at 25 pounds may see a rapid changes in poundage.  Many people can jump from 25 to 35 in 2 to 4 pound increments fairly fast.  Fairly fast is months versus years. Even so there will be people more comfortable remaining at lower poundage for much longer if not indefinitely.

Higher poundage does have some advantage.  At longer distances an arrow launched at 32 pounds will travel more slowly and with more arch than the same arrow launched at 42 pounds.  (Yes, I know the spine is different for 32 versus 42 pounds – this is an example for illustration) The faster arrow and flatter trajectory is affected less by wind.  With a higher weight many archers see an improved release.

Moving up in poundage is not simple.  An increase from 28 pounds to 30 pounds may feel easy where moving from 40 to 42 can feel exponentially more difficult.  If the archer shoots using a clicker the archer may notice the clicker is more difficult to trigger.

The clicker and anchor point are note solely impacted by the increase demand to draw to bow there is additional compressibility of the soft tissue between joints.  When changing limb weight the archer may find their clicker needs a slight adjustment of a millimeter to a few millimeters.

If you are considering increasing the poundage of your limbs and shoot a couple of hundred arrows per day don’t stay at that same volume with you increase weight.  Decease by half or more until you can control your bow.  This will aid to maintain form and reduce the risk of an injury.

Vacation Can Be Tough

Vacation is fun or so they say.  However, it you are a competitive athlete time off can be tough.

It doesn’t matter what the sport is when athletes pause for recovery it can be difficult.  There is a feeling that time is wasting and opponents are getting better while you are relaxing.   That really isn’t the case. By that the case being that an opponent is getting better while the vacationing athlete is losing form.   Breaks are necessary.  It allows the body to recover and the mental stress to abate.  Non-stop training leads to injury and burnout.

Too many breaks is another matter. Pretty much that means, when you are taking lots of breaks, you are an enthusiast. Being an enthusiast is fine.  Most athletes fall into this class. The sport is more of a hobby.  Some folks call these individuals weekend warriors.  Again, this is the class of athlete that is the foundation of sport.

Top athletes are different.  Not simply that they train differently often times they are genetically different.  In football those professional athletes are bigger, faster stronger and have an ability to see rapidly moving patterns on a field. In baseball their speed and reflex ability is breathtaking.  In archery the top athletes can shoot hundreds to thousands of arrows (weekly) without damaging shoulder joints and have a keen sense of feeling a target and loosing an arrow. All of those top athletes still need to plan for recovery.

Jerry Rice the greatest of all time at his position was not the most gifted player of that position. He did however plan specific times for recovery and had a very specific off-season training plan.  Archery can be done year round.  As archers, we really don’t have much of a down season.  Once indoor season ends outdoor season begins.

This essentially non-stop sport requires scheduled period to recover.  In your yearly training plan you do need to have select periods where you don’t pick up a bow.  It is hard to do but it will help you recover and last as a competitive archer.

Lifting Weights

A friend of mine recently asked if I lift weight.  I do. When the Covid pretty much shut down the gyms I didn’t.  Now, I do, again.  Only, now I don’t go to the gym.

I bought a weight bench and some weights and workout in my garage.  Turned out that my home gym is less expensive than an annual gym membership.  For sure I don’t have all the fancy gear but I do have enough.

I’ve also changed when I lift.  Rather than in the afternoon I lift in the mornings four days per week.  You can believe during those days at some point while practicing archery my arms are going to feel like they’ve done a lot.

Today was no exception. I lifted weights this morning. The morning practice, 100 arrows at 60 yards, was fine.  The afternoon session, 50 arrows at 40 yards was misery.  Usually the afternoon is a minimum of 60 arrows with a maximum of 120 arrows.  I quit at 50 arrows.

The last end of 10 arrows wasn’t too awful.  Five 10s, one 9 and four 8s.  The four 8s at 40 yards is, of course, a sign.  The more obvious sign was pulling through the shot. One in ten draws were where I had to let down and start over.

To be fair it was a particularly arduous weight lifting workout on this morning.  On the prior day of weights and shooting at forty yards I didn’t land any 8s.  Today it was different.

I felt I could have worked though the stiffness in my muscles.  I decided against it.  Over the past 3 days, the time since my last recovery break, I’ve flung 526 arrows.  On the last end, at 50 arrows, a Kenny Rogers song popped into my head.  The lyrics were, “you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run.”

New Target, More Poundage, and a Bonus of Heat

Putting up a new target is nice.  There aren’t holes everywhere.  It is clean.  Clean targets are nice.  Shooting a clean target with new limbs that are 2 pounds heavier takes a little bit of the fun away.  New limbs, even a 2-pound difference can be tough. Especially when the temperatures are peaking.

Beginning with an Olympic recurve I chose 32 pounds as the initial limb weight.  Moving up, as I got comfortable with the prior weight, I increased at 4-pound intervals.  Thirty-six pounds wasn’t a stretch.  At 40 pounds I felt the increase more so than moving from 32 to 36 pounds.

New 122 cm target for those long shots

At 40 I thought I might stop adding weight. Then, 40 began to feel too light.  Rather than make another 4 pound jump I moved to 42 pounds.  Today is the 4th day of practice at 42 lbs.

It started well.  I didn’t overload my work.  I started with a low arrow count, just 320 arrows over three days.  Today’s count isn’t included since I’ve held off shooting for a bit having done a longer than usual training ride on my bike.  I’ll get to the range soon.

Putting holes in a new target face

Next week is a long break.  A long break means four days off.  Honestly, I know I need the rest but it is hard not to practice.  Practice lately has been hot.  I’d rather train in the heat than the cold.  But, when it is approaching 100° F the heat takes it out of you (and me).

A new target and new limbs are fun.  I think I’m going to like 42-pounds. The heat near 100° leads to a good nights sleep.

Moving on Back

Practicing archery, for me, is more fun than tournaments.  Tournaments are slow.  Practice moves at a livelier pace.  Still, there are times when flinging arrows for hours can become monotonous. That can be improved by adding training games to your practice.

If you practice solo there are ways to make your planned sessions exciting.  There are a number of games I use.  These are: the yellow game, the tournament game and the Move Back game – among others.  Of these I find the Move Back game the most challenging.

The yellow game is simple; shoot as many arrows in the yellow rings at any given distance.  Record the shots at aim for 100% of your arrows in the yellow. The tournament is where you work to duplicate the conditions of an actual tournament.

The Move Back game is where you select a starting yardage and don’t increase the distance until a set number of arrows hit the center ring.  For example, 30 out of 30.

Thirty out of thirty can be tough as distances increase.  To reduce frustrations make changes.  You can personalize any way your want based on your ability. A change I use is 10 center shots in a row starting at 30 yards.  I also move back using increments of 10 yards; some folks might rather use 5-yard increments.

For me, 30 yards is usually just 10 arrows.  Forty yards takes a few tries, fifty yards gets more difficult to get 10 center shots in a row, 70 yards – well that remains a frustration for me.

Generally, I stop shooting after 100 to 120 arrows.  At that point I take a break.  When I resume shooting I pick up where I left off.  That is I start at 60 yards if that is where I left off during the earlier practice.  (This is on the same day.)

The day after shooting a Move Back game I’ll not continue the game.  The Move Back game is tough so the next day I’ll plan something else.  Once I’ve taken a break from the Move Back game the next time I practice it I start short and work my way back.  Even if I am close to 70 yards when I shoot a Move Back practice session I’ll start at 30 yards after any break extending into another day.

That doesn’t mean I won’t practice at 70 between Move Back practices.  If I shoot a couple of 100 arrows at 70 the next Move Back might be easier.

The Move Back game is also a good way to verify your sight calibrations.

Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head

Of the past three outdoor tournaments where I’ve competed it has rained during all of them.  One was soaking rain, another was paused due to lightening, and the remaining event was a drizzle.  Lately, practice has followed suit.

Today, I was debating taking a break.  I’ve not has a full day off in five days.  While I didn’t feel the build up of lots of arrows today really needed to be a recovery day.

I caved and went out to the range.

Not yet raining – it didn’t last

Mother nature seemed to know better and began pouring rain on top of me.  It rained on me yesterday and the day before.  On both days I shot through it. Today was different. I was getting soaked.

Taking the drenching as an omen I packed up and headed indoors.  Perhaps it will clear up this afternoon. Almost a half a day off seems okay at the moment.

Under Recovery

This morning the plan was 100 arrows at 45 yards.  I stopped at 70 arrows.  I was exhausted.

The fatigue I am feeling was obvious during the pre-archery workouts of stretching and cardio.  While running I slowed my pace but made the distance.  When it was time to shoot I didn’t have that usual spark. In fact, over the past week or so I’ve been tired.

Furthermore, and to my dismay, my groups have been expanding and my ‘test’ tournament scores have dropped. Something is up.

A friend of mine, a ex-pro PGA golfer, Tim Simpson, once told me, “You don’t want to be tired going into a tournament.”  I am 11 days out from a Georgia State Target Championship (International Round).

Going into the event my training has been 100 arrows per distance per week with a practice tournament on Saturday and recovery on Sunday.  The distance interval practice means 1000 arrows over 5 days.  The practice tournament (all distances arranged via a random number generator for those 5 yard increments) with warm-up is 80 arrows (60 for the scoring 20 warm-up).  That comes to 1080 per week.  Not overwhelming.

When it comes to any delayed onset muscle soreness and arms feel good.  When running or cycling I admit some ache.  Overall, the fatigue seems greater than the exercise input. So, physiologically it comes down to inadequate recovery. (1)

Not all physical effort is limited to an athlete-training plan.  Outside my plan I do a lot of other physical activity.  For instance, this week I’ve dug holes and planted 10 moderate sized trees. That included carrying 50-pound bags of soil around my property.  In itself not exhausting.

While shooting field distances there is a lot more walking versus winter training for 20 and 25 meters.  The walking, by itself, not an issue.

Cycling has been slightly harder since everyday there has been more wind that usual.  Again, by itself, not an issue.

Combined, there is an increased workload.

The way out is a slight reduction for a few days regarding the overall workload.  Evaluate my nutrition, hydration and sleep.

The first problem that comes to mind is sleep.  The inadvertent increase in workload probably pushed me to the edge and has led to sleep disruptions.  A key indicator for me in this regard is a lowering of my concentration.  That is easily picked up for me while shooting and playing music.

Playing music is a standard for me when it comes to concentration.  While I am playing and reading the sheet music and not know where I am it is a sign of mental fatigue I’ve associated with poor sleep.

I also expect my caloric intake has been low.  There was a time when I recorded it, when I was racing, because it was hugely important.  It is important in archery as well but I have taken a more relaxed tracking of my input and output.

At this point I feel my hydration isn’t a problem.

I also have had exercise-induced anemia in the past that is controlled by iron.  This is been just a low does of iron supplement until the sinking has passed.  Although I’ve not checked by hemoglobin I’ll get that done.

Hopefully, I can get through this in a few days.

Reference:

(1) https://sportmedbc.com/news/tired-athlete-issue-underrecovery

Listening to your body

Today I am exhausted.  Outside it is storming, it is Monday and all the local indoor ranges are closed.  The plan for today was 200 arrows, 100 in the morning and 100 in the afternoon.  My scheduled recover day was Wednesday.  The training plan will need some refinement to reach my weekly goal of 1200 arrows. (1200 at this phase of my training plan)

I am glad for the rain.  We’ve just returned from a week’s vacation where there was no archery.  There was a lot of cycling on vacation.  Since the return my arrow could has gradually reach 200 per day.  After a week off it was had to stop at 100.  But, lowered the daily count to give my body time to get back into archery form.

The archery and conditioning training isn’t what has caused the fatigue.  It was been planting trees or rather digging holes.  We’re talking 10 trees, fairly larges trees, digging holes through Georgia clay using a Maddox and a shovel.

The initial thought on the trees was to hire someone to dig the holes and plant the trees.  The lowest price for the holes was $175.00 per hole. (That’s $1750.00 for those that are math adverse)  I can dig a hole.

It felt good while digging the holes.  It has caught up with me.  I am glad for this storm. Equally glad to have not hired anyone to have dug the holes.

Building a Training Plan

USA archery coaches have access to general training plans for archers.  These plans are generally good.  If you work with a coach that coach might make changes on such a plan to meet the specific needs of an archer.  It is good to have a plan.

Among an archer’s training plan a coach might include activities for fitness.  Those activities may include cardio workouts and weight training.  Both are excellent for archery. Another element of a training plan may include stretching.  The focus is, of course, on archery.

Plans should include periodization.  That means a cycle based on workloads prior to specific tournaments, base training, and recovery.  The cycle might include exercises that cover volume and intensity.  They can also focus on unique points for technique improvement.

One simple measure of training is going to be arrow count.  It takes a lot of arrows to ‘get good’ even more to become ‘great.’

Starting new to recurve it is important not to overdo it from the beginning. Throughout the training there are periods of several days in a row where there is no shooting.  Becoming an excellent archer takes time.  No one gets there overnight.  A plan can reduce wasted time and provide a foundation for growth in the sport.