Arrows Series – Part 7: Center Shot and Archer’s Paradox

Now that you have determined the arrows you should use you need to fine-tune your bow to maximize your arrows consistency. Most people think that once you set up a plunger and a nocking point it is all good to go, however that is not the case. The center shot of your arrow is one of the most over looked things when setting up a bow.

The center shot is where the arrow rests on the bow when looking behind it.  When setting up your center shot the arrow needs to be completely behind the string. Most traditional bows do not have a cut-away in the riser and the arrow has to deflect around the handle with something called archer’s paradox.

Archer’s Paradox: The term was coined by Robert P. Elmer in the 1930s. The paradox refers to the phenomenon that in order to strike the center of the target, the arrow must be pointed slightly to the side of the target. Modern use of the term has caused the interpretation of it to be corrupted and the bending of the arrow is often considered incorrectly to be archer’s paradox.

In order to be accurate, an arrow must have the correct stiffness, or “spine”, to flex out of the way of the bow and return back to the correct path as it leaves the bow. Incorrect spine results in unpredictable contact between the arrow and the bow, therefore unpredictable forces on the arrow as it leaves the bow, and therefore reduced accuracy.[1] Additionally, if an archer shoots several arrows with different spine, even if they clear the bow they will be deflected on launch by different amounts and so will strike in different places. Competition archers therefore strive not only for arrows that have a spine within a suitable range for their bow, but also for highly consistent spine within sets of arrows. (Wikipedia)

For an Olympic archer, ideally your set up should be 100% behind the string. Some people actually require the arrow lean a little to the opposite side of your riser so that the arrow can get past the bow without hitting it. You can reduce the effects of “Archers Paradox” by adding spin to the arrow by fletching your vanes or feathers with an offset or helical. It is critical that the arrow must have the correct spine so it can bend around the bow, so the fletchings do not touch anything for consistent arrow flight.

Therefore, once again I stress, for proper safety and best performance, arrows need to match your entire bow setup.

Simple Archery Exercises

One misconception about archery training is you need to do a lot of heavy weight training to reach the next level, and this is simply not true. In fact, heavy weight training can actually hinder you archery career. If you develop very large biceps it can hamper your form since you may have problem creating straight lines from the arrow through your anchor point and the back of your elbow.  Since long, lean, strong muscles are preferred over large muscle mass, it is important to do exercises with less weight and more repetitions rather than heavier  weights.

For younger archers, that are still growing, you do not want to hurt yourself or get ahead of your natural body development. Any type of weight training before your body is ready to accept it can do more damage than good long term.

Below are a couple of simple exercises to help increase you upper body strength for archery.

Open Door Push-outs

Anyone can develop some muscle and endurance without heavy weights, by using your body weight. Open Door Push-outs are a safe and easy way to train your back shoulder muscles for archery.

  • Using an open doorway, standing with your feet flat on the floor and slightly less than arm-length away, place your hands on either side of the door frame
  • In a very controlled manner, lean towards the door, similar to a push-up
  • Once your arms are at least 90 degrees, push yourself back out again.
  • Repeat several times.

Once you have mastered the above without any problems, you can vary it by standing further back or doing deeper push-ups.

Ball Exercise

Since it is almost impossible to be completely still for any amount of time, it is important to develop a fine controlled approach with shooting. One simple training exercise that will help develop a strong and controlled bow arm is the simple ball exercise.

  • Standing perpendicular to a wall and using a volley or soccer ball
  • Hold ball at shoulder height at arm length against the wall with a flat hand.
  • Using only your arm move the ball in a figure eight motion
  • Set a timer for 30 seconds.
  • Turn around and repeat with the other arm

Once you have mastered the above without any difficulties, you can increase the time by 30 second intervals to help build control.

Although, these exercises should be safe for just about everyone, it is important, especially for young archers, to consult a qualified archery coach before you add any type of training to their regular program.

Travelling with Archery

As soon as I decided to take archery outside, an archery friend offered only one piece of advice. “Start saving now”. I travel by car for just under 2 hours each way to train with my coach Kathy Millar of South Nation Archery in Winchester Ontario. Between regular training sessions, private sessions and competitions, I visit an average of twice week all year long in every type of weather including snow and sleet.

Travelling is a big part of competitive archery, and the higher the level of competition, the further you need to travel. Canadian’s have to travel for archery, since Canada is the world’s second largest country by total area and stretches about 5000 KM (3000 Miles) from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.  Even the province of Ontario is larger than Egypt, Spain and France and therefore even for Provincial competitions I have to travel a lot.

Travelling can take a toll on your body, especially at the national, international and the world level, since most of the time you are either driving for days or flying from one location to another. You are in a different time zone, with strange food, and completely different schedules.

I recently drove to Saskatchewan from Ontario, about 3000 KM (1900 Miles) and it took three 12-hour days. It was difficult to spend that much time in the car, I found it very difficult to eat properly, when driving you have to make quick stops and keep going so it is difficult to eat as well as you would at home. My muscles were starting to tense up from lack of  stretching and practice. It also took it’s toll with my sleep schedule since we travelled through different time zones.

It is now my understanding, that to compete at the next level, there a several things that you should do to increase your chances for success when travelling.

  1. Employ some discipline to eat healthy and according to your regular schedule
  2. Setup a good sleeping schedule to make sure you are well rested for competition days
  3. Arrive early, two days if possible, to become accustomed and acquainted with your new surroundings
  4. Practice, whether shooting of just stretching, to get your body ready to compete after your trip.

Competing while Sick

While at the Canadian National Archery Championship in Delisle, Saskatchewan this past month I got sick with stomach flu. We drove out to Saskatchewan in just three days and I originally thought it was the car ride, however shortly after arriving at the campsite I started to get worse; Dilemma. What do I do? I pressed onward and shot the Field Championships capturing the Silver medal however, I did not shoot well nor did I feel better. Should I stop? No, I kept shooting the Target Championships and the Canadian Open, placing fourth in both.

Did I make the right decision? I am not sure however, I did learn something.

Participating at any level while you are not feeling well is not an easy thing to accomplish.  Your body is weak and your concentration is not at its best, since your focus is on feeling better. Competing while you are sick with a virus such as influenza presents enormous challenges of exhaustion as your body fights the infection and you are unable to eat and provide your body additional fuel.

“Food is your body’s fuel. Without fuel, your body wants to shut down.” Ken Hill

Deciding to press onward is a personal choice and should not be taken lightly. Ask yourself one question “What is on the line with this competition?”  If the answers are World Championship, Olympics, National team, and perhaps future funding maybe you do need to force yourself to participate.

Medicine can help when you are not feeling well; however, not all medicines are approved for sport. All athletes that compete at an elite level will be subject to anti-doping testing and if you choose to take any medicine do so with great caution and consult the NSF website for those approved for sport.

Therefore, in a tournament, it is important to provide your body with some kind of fuel to maintain your strength for strong shooting; shooting weak results in weak inconsistent shots that translate into lower scores.  . You should also rest as often as you can and maintain a regular pace so to not over extend your body and lead to long term damage.

I drank orange juice and beef broth and I sat down as often as I could to maintain my strength. This allowed me to finish the tournament, even if it was not my best performance.

Importance of Footwear

Shooting requires a good strong foundation therefore comfort and stability as equally important, so you need proper footwear to be successful. When shooting indoors, you need to make certain you are comfortable in the shoes or boots you wear.  Since indoor floors are level, you are able to distribute your weight evenly on your feet, the important things to remember include good arch support, low or minimal heel and lightweight.

Shooting outdoors presents various challenges including weather, location, and safety. Various types of tournaments with various types of weather create different types of obstacles for archers. For target archers who shoot on a relatively level field, the weather is the largest factor. An archer needs comfortable footwear however they also should be prepared for bad weather and/or wet ground to trek through.  You do not want to be stuck shooting in wet feet for several hours; therefore warm, dry feet should be the priority. Rain boots or waterproof footwear are recommended.

If you choose to participate in field and/or 3D tournaments, you are often trekking through the woods and shooting on uneven ground. Once you add in weather conditions, you might have to deal with mud, puddles, slippery conditions as well as bush, vermin and insects. I would recommend you invest in a good set of waterproof boots or Gore-Tex hiking boots. Boots help protect the foot and ankle from brush, and provide traction on uneven or muddy ground. A shoe covering that goes over the ankle is recommended in any place that wood ticks can be present.

Therefore, for outdoor shooting things to consider depending on the types of tournaments you choose to participate in, are comfort, good arch support, low or minimal heel, lightweight, warm, waterproof, breathable, good traction and decent quality. A good quality shoe or boot will help with your posture and in turn improve your scores.

Also, remember to practice frequently in all your different footwear, since every pair can have a slightly different fit and have a different feeling during shooting. A tournament is not the time to be adjusting to a new set of shoes.

Importance of Hydration

The human body is made up of 90% water and represents approximately 50% of your total body weight. This percentage can be even higher in athletes as they have less fat and more muscle tissue, so while exercising it is EXTREMELY important to maintain your hydration.

Have you ever felt thirsty while shooting? Thirst is the carving of fluids by your body and it is your basic instinct to increase intake to fluid balance.

If you only drink fluids to quench your thirst while exercising, you will leave your body short on fluids and in poor physical state that will result in a lower performance.  You should be continually drinking water or other fluids to replenish your body fluids. Athletes also need to replenish electrolytes (or salts) in there system while performing and they play a key role in the performance.

Not being properly hydrated or lacking electrolytes can lead to muscle cramps or dehydration, neither of which an athlete wants while in competition. You should always be drinking something, especially during competitions, excessive exercise or outside on hot days as these all lead to perspiration and loss of fluids and electrolytes.

Choosing the right fluids is also important, drinking sugar drinks such as soda pop can cause your sugar levels to spike and then crash, this can harm your body during performance. If you need to maintain sugar levels choose drinks with natural sugars such as apple or orange juice as your body can more easily process and use the sugars.

Remember, if you are thirsty; drink something, your body is talking to you.


Archery does not require a lot of cardiovascular; however, the continuous drawing back of the bowstring requires strength and muscle endurance.  It is very important to prepare your muscles properly before you shoot, whether for practice, fun or a tournament.

How important? If you have ever felt a little stiff, neck kink or muscle cramps the next day, this is your body telling you should have stretched.  Almost everyone wants to start shooting arrows right way however, I personally find that it helps get a greater performance in fewer warm up shots if you stretch first.

Stretching achieves two things, extends muscle fibers and increases blood flow increasing oxygen to muscles, ligaments and tendons. This helps make them more limber and avoids minor, serious and even long term injury such as tendonitis.

Here are five easy stretching exercises that every archer can adopt to their warm-up

Head roll

Head slide

Side stretch

Arm cross

Arm circles

There is a long list of other stretching techniques advanced archers perform to prepare their bodies to get ready for a shoot. Some stretching routines are designed by coaches to address specific areas unique to each archer especially anyone that has sustained any type of major injury.If you shoot often, talk to your personal coach about the stretching routine that is best for you.

It is never too late to start stretching to prevent injury; make it a regular habit.