String Alignment

Consistency is the key to a successful archer. In an earlier blog, we developed a consistent anchor point to develop a starting point for your hand and grip to help develop consistent vertical groupings. Now we need to address consistent horizontal groupings through the use of string alignment.

IMG_8525So, while at full draw at your anchor point, you should be able see a blurred image of your string; align this “blurry” image of the string with the riser. If it’s slightly off, rotating your head either left or right slightly will correct this. (Remember to maintain your anchor as you quickly check for this alignment). If the string picture is in the wrong place, then your aiming accuracy will be off and the result will be groups which are spread horizontally.

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Quick Tip : Note that sometimes a dark string is difficult to see against a dark riser, therefore try adding a small strip of white tape along the inside of a dark riser to help see the string.

Ideally, you should try to use the same spot for all distances, however this can be different for all people. It can help some archers by aligning the string on the inside of riser for close distances, middle of the riser for middle distances, and outside of the riser for long distances. The best alignment it is different for everyone because everyone has different head and nose structures. Therefore, you will need to experiment with the string alignment until you have the perfect string alignment for you.

Quick Tip: If you are having difficulty seeing your string, try closing you non-dominant eye.

Remember once you have your string alignment, changing things such bow length, draw length, arrows or anything else can effect your “perfect spot”. Consistent form is vital for consistent groupings, if you get a consistent string alignment, the bow will be at a consistent horizontal angle, and your horizontal grouping should improve.

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Anchor for increased Accuracy

All archers need an unchanging anchor point for their draw hand, a location on or below your chin to ensure you have a consistent starting point for your hand and string. One of my Tumbler followers, Andy, asked…

…Since I’m just an amateur with the bow and don’t have any training… why you and archers in general, when they stretch to the full pose, set the hand that is stretching the string with the arrow bellow the chin? That helps for a better accuracy shoot? or is because the type of bow?(sorry I don’t know any terminology if you can help me with that too it would be cool). Thanks for the help…

There are four basic locations for an anchor point; under-the-chin, beside the face, over-hand anchor, and floating anchor, all have there pros and cons depending on your shooting style.

Under the Chin      

Draw the string to the center of the nose and middle of chin. A good anchor point consists of an unchanging triangle with the string touching the center of your nose and the center of your chin and your thumb tucked squarely under your jaw line and the shelf of your index finger riding along your jaw. (Alternatively string to the side of nose and the corner of your mouth however this is typically less accurate for recurve archers and better for peep sight usage on compounds.)

  • Advantages: This anchor has multiple touch points for triangular consistency and helps avoid overdrawing.
  • Disadvantages: It takes a little longer to position and master, and can be less comfortable depending on the archer.

Side of Face

Typically the string is drawn back until the tip of the index finger is at the corner of the mouth with the hand tight against the face. Some archers tuck their thumb under their jaw.  Depending on the tournament, some archers can face walk for difference distances. (move your hand up and down on your face)

  • Advantages: Anchor style can be established quickly and allows bare-bow to sight down the arrow shaft.
  • Disadvantages: This style is not typically as precise as under the chin and sometimes leads to plucking the arrow string.

Over-hand (Mechanical Release)

Typically over-hand is associated with a mechanical release. Mechanical release aids offer less interference with the string and are most commonly used by compound shooters and hunters. When having an over-hand release for a compound shooter you would have either your knuckle(s) or your thumb touching behind the corner of your jaw.

  • Advantages: Very accurate and it allows your elbow to align with the arrow at release
  • Disadvantages: Takes longer to set and position and a release aid needs to be setup based on the individual archer. Also since it very accurate scores are VERY high in competition and you have less room for error.

Floating Anchor (or partly floating)

A floating anchor is another option for some archers, the shape of some people’s jaw can make it difficult to do an under the chin anchor position. Some people take this position literally and have their hand floating in the middle of nowhere; this is really hard to make consistent because you have no point of reference to make the anchor position easily repeatable. However, you could go with a ‘partly’ floating anchor where you can have your hand touching a point of your jaw (or more if you can).

  • Advantages: Can provide an easier anchor point  for people with wider jaw lines.
  • Disadvantages:  Typically, not as consistent or as easily repeatable.

The anchor needs to be consistent and repeatable  on every shot. Some tips include…

  • Keep your head straight and still and bring the string to you so you can easily make your anchor and draw length consistent.
  • Chewing bubble gum, talking, or even moving your chin will result in inconsistent shots and therefore lower scores since you are changing the angle of the string as our jaw moves.
  • Keeping your shoulders relaxed and in their sockets and pointing your draw arm directly behind you.
  • Check your string alignment by matching the blurred image of the string in relation to the bow’s riser.

You will want to establish as many touch points as you can manage to help develop the most consistent anchor. A great consistent anchor leads to a happier more consistent archer.

Shooting with a Clicker

Every competitive Olympic recurve archer uses a draw length checker or “clicker”. A clicker is a device that assists an archer to draw their bow consistently.  The clicker rides along the side of the arrow and produces a “clicking” sound after it passes over the point, hence the name “clicker”. By consistently measuring the draw length of the arrow, you get a consistent power off the bow and therefore a more consistent grouping of arrows resulting in better scores.

There is a lot of debate of when you should start to use a clicker. Anyone who wants to advance and develop smaller groups should start using a clicker as soon as possible. HOWEVER, since clickers take a lot of discipline, patience and practice, maturity is the key factor; age maturity and shooting maturity. If you are disciplined and maintaining consistent form, then you are ready for a clicker.

Recently, one of my readers asked:

I just wanted to ask, with regards to the form, if I should be expanding my chest during the draw (pulling your shoulders back towards the spine) in order to activate the back muscles to take the load rather than the arms.

Shooting a clicker is a relatively simple process however; it requires the use of back muscles to create something called back tension. By compressing the rhomboid major muscles (between the shoulder blades and spine) together, it will draw the arrow past the clicker for the shot when you are at full draw.

First, you need to determine the ideal location for your clicker. Have a friend mark where the tip of the arrow is at full draw. This will be the initial starting location for your clicker. There are tons of clickers on the market however there are two basic types of clickers; riser-mounted or sight-mounted. Depending where the initial starting location is measured it will help you determine the type you need.

Once you have mounted your clicker follow this shot process.

  1. Nock the arrow, with the arrow under the clicker and on the arrow rest.
  2. Raise the bow and draw towards your anchor point.
  3. Continue to draw the arrow until the tip of the point is still just in contact with the clicker.
  4. Aim and while still maintaining, squeeze your rhomboid major muscles together.
  5. Once you hear the “click”, relax your fingers and finish the shot.

It is important that you are able to reach your anchor point at full draw. The clicker needs to be within the distance so your rhomboid major muscles can activate the shot. Remember, over the course of an entire day of shooting, your muscles weaken and you will have to work harder to draw the same amount, it may need to be adjusted to find the ideal location for entire day of shooting.

Important: Once you have determined your clicker location, leave it alone. Making any adjustments will affect all your sight marks, and they will need to be adjusted too.

If you have never used your rhomboid major muscles before this is going to take some time to master. Practice using your rhomboid major muscles with the following exercise.

With palms down and your forearms parallel to the floor, bring your fingertips together at chin level. Try squeezing your rhomboid major muscles together. You should witness your fingers spread apart about an inch. This is all the space you need to activate the clicker at full draw.

You can also check out this website for exercises to help develop strength in your rhomboid muscles.

The mastery of a clicker is essential for any competition archer. You will need to work on it regularly however once you master the process a clicker will become your best friend.

Arrows Series – Part 3: Draw Weight

Obviously, force is required to move the arrow forward off the bow and it is generated from the tension of the limbs through the bowstring. Therefore, when purchasing arrows you need to know your draw weight so you can purchase the correct corresponding spine size for best performance. Limbs stiffness is determined by the amount of force, measured in pounds, required to draw the bow to a 28” draw length as outlined in the following Archery Trade Association (ATA) standard.

AMO BOW WEIGHT STANDARD

For Conventional Bows

Bow weight is the force required to draw the nocking point of the bow string a given distance from the pivot point of the bow grip (or the theoretical vertical projection of a tangency line to the pivot point parallel to the string). Draw length from pivot point shall be designated as DLPP and shall be referred to as TRUE

DRAW LENGTH.

For the purpose of uniform bow weight designation, bow weight is the force required to draw the bow string 26 1/4” from the pivot point. This weight will be marked on bow as being taken at 28” draw (26 1/4” plus 1 3/4” = 28”) See DRAW LENGTH STANDARD.

EXAMPLE: Weight Adjustment Range: 45/55 lbs. Weight Set At: 50 lbs.; Hold 32 lbs. Draw Length Range: 29” – 30”

EXPLANATION: The pivot point is a more realistic measuring point (when compared to the variations of profile of the back of bows at the handle section) for establishing bow weight since the pivot point is a constant in all bows as well as the contact point of the bow hand from which the true draw length is generated.

The 26 1/4” DLPP is the approximate equivalent of the 28” draw used previously on the more massive wooden handle bows.

Therefore, your draw weight is a combination of your draw length (See Arrow Series – Part 2 Measurements) and the combination of your riser (23” or 25”) and your limb stiffness (15#-50#).

For example, a 25” riser with a 34# long limb produces a 70” bow with a draw weight of 34 pounds at a 28” draw length.  If these same limbs were used on a 23” riser, the combination would produce a 68” bow with a draw weight of 36 pounds at a 28” draw length.

However, not everyone has 28” draw length, especially young archers whose draw length will change progressively with growth. So as a rule of thumb you can add or subtract approximately two pounds for each inch your draw length is over or under the 28” standard.

Using the previous example, if an archer has a 26” draw length and uses a 25” riser with 34# long limbs it will produce 30# of force at full draw OR uses the 23” riser with 34# long limbs it will produce 32#.

This is very important to select limbs that enable you to develop and compete however do not cause long-term physical damage. When purchasing limbs you need to determine if the limbs are too heavy, you can try this simple 7-second challenge.

7-second challenge

  1. Draw the bow to the anchor
  2. Hold seven seconds
  3. Let down without lowering your hands, stay in set-up position to take a 2 sec brake,
  4. Repeat several times.

If you cannot do it properly then the limbs are too heavy for you. If you find this challenge extremely easy, you can look at heavier poundage limbs, if you choose.

Now you understand draw weight and used in combination with your draw length you can see the arrows that match your equipment using a manufacturers arrow selection chart. In the up coming blogs we will try to examine the arrow spine, flex and stiffness.

Competition Baby Powder

This past weekend, I participated in the Ontario Spring Classic held at Woodlands Park in Toronto, Ontario. Toronto just happened to have very hot and humid weather during the tournament.

Heat and humidity can affect your arrow flight. Humidity can cause your arrows not to spin as quickly leaving your shot grouping lower since they do not gain as much distance. Heat affects the archer too with hot and sweaty hands. Sweaty hands affect your grip on the bow possibly changing your point of power and the heat causing your hands to swell which in turn affects your feel for the string in your fingers. Check out my previous blog about other effects of various weather conditions.

 Weather is a great metaphor for life – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and there’s nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella.  -Terri Guillemets

This year I packed baby powder, something that every competitive archer needs to bring with them to every outdoor competition.

A little baby powder on your…

…under your anchor point will help allow your hand ride along your chin smoothly

…inside of your string arm keeps your arm from becoming too sticky keeping your draw and release smooth.

…bow hand helps deal with sweaty hands that can affect your grip of the bow

… string fingers to allow your fingers to have a good grip on your finger tab making it easier to control your drawing and releasing of the string cleanly.

…cheek bones under your eyes, if you wear glasses or sunglasses, will help prevent them from fogging up.

The Ontario Spring Classic is a two-day tournament with high-performance archers including past, current and future Olympians hopefuls with the winner in each category receiving $500.00 prize money. This open tournament is a great way to measure your development against some of the best archers in Canada. If you are ready to take the next step in competition in Canada, I suggest you plan on attending next year and pack a little baby powder just in case.

Getting more Distance

Summer is here and with it the outdoor archery season. One of the biggest differences between indoor and outdoor archery, other than weather, is distance to the target.

Indoors everyone typically shoots at 18M however outdoors, depending on your age, division and category, you can shoot anywhere from 15M (Peewee) to 90M (Senior Male). As young archers get older and move up in division so do the distances they are asked to shoot. For instance, a pre-cub only needs to shoot maximum 30M in a target competition, however as a cub they need to shoot 50M. I remember trying to shoot Junior/Senior distances as a Cadet; 70 meters was a challenge. My sight was at the bottom and I was still not getting the distance I needed.

If you are struggling with a new distance you can make some equipment changes that can help such as ….

  • Heavier Limbs

Increasing draw weight will give you more force and therefore greater distance.

  • Move the entire sight down

Some sights, like the Cartel Mighty sight, you can move the entire T-bar lower. This allows you to lower the scope. Just remember to keep it out of the arrows flight.

  • Finger tab with a Shelf

Some finger tabs, like the Cartel Midas Finger Tab, have a shelf. If you adjust the shelf to be fully extended, you can lower your anchor point.

  • Spin vanes

For target archers you use synthetic feather fletchings, switching to plastic spin-wing vanes manufactured by Range-O-Matic can help a lot. Spin-wing vanes are lighter, offer less drag and are more forgiving as they help the arrows get into a tighter spin earlier.

Some times equipment changes are not an option because of cost, physical limitations and some times they only get you part way. Here are a couple of simple tricks that may help you reach those last couple of meters.

  • Wear a Mouth-Guard

Using a mouth-guard (or a piece Lego between your teeth) keeps your jaw open lowering your anchor point.

  • Mount your Sight Backwards

Mounting your sight backwards inside your bow, moves your sight marks lower and therefore changes the trajectory.

  • Use your Limbs as a Sight

In clout, a long distance (100M to 200M) sport you use your bottom limb as the sight. This can work for target archery as well. Pick a spot near the top of your lower limb to aim with for your possible distance.

If you have any tricks or tips to help gain more distance, I encourage you to share them.