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.

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Training Vacation

Athletic training is a full-time job, I train a lot, 6 days a week, 2-3 hours per day and as a full-time student, a coach, and with a part-time job my schedule is full.

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell

Besides regular competitions locally, provincially, nationally and internationally, along with the unique opportunities of Canada Winter Games and World Indoor Championships, I have been without any break for over two straight years. Personally, I never realized just how tired and exhausted I was, however my coach did. Therefore, I am on a two-week vacation from shooting and training.

There are many benefits for taking a vacation including…

  • Recharge & Avoid Burnout – Taking regular time to relax helps avoid burn-out and get us back to feeling our best.
  • Overall Well-being – Lower stress, better sleep and better mood will improve your overall energy levels.
  • Friends and Family – Reconnect and strengthen relationships with loved ones and reaffirm the support you have behind you.
  • Performance – Better focus and re-energizing will influence your performance in a positive manner in the end.

The key is taking a good amount of time off from the stresses of training and competing will recharge your batteries and help you reach those long-term goals. Personally, I recommend at least one to two week break between indoor and outdoor seasons and easing back into to your full-time training programs.

A good vacation is over when you begin to yearn for your work.  – Morris Fishbein

Remember to stay active to during a vacation like swimming, taking a walk, going for a bike ride, going to the batting cages, or playing laser tag. Remaining active will make it easier to re-start your training program after the vacation is over.

“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vincent Lombardi

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.

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.

Stretching

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.