November 01, 2022
Most archers don’t really think about how their shoulders are positioned, or how they align.
There are way more important things to think about during the shot, so they usually let the shoulders settle in wherever they want to be. We did the same thing — until one of us accidentally stumbled onto where our shoulders should be.
It all started when one of us was practicing and shooting horribly. In frustration, he decided to push his bow arm shoulder in toward the string and more in line with his bow hand at full draw (changing his shoulder alignment). Suddenly, his steadiness at full draw and shooting accuracy improved drastically. Had he found a magic recipe for holding steady?
He started consciously pushing that shoulder in (it naturally rotated up as well) and from practice session to practice session, he was able to find consistent steadiness. This was something that had eluded him before. He used to have good days and bad days. Now, he was stringing together a lot of great practice sessions.
This newfound form worked well, and he used it for many years. There was only one problem; his shoulder didn’t naturally like that position. So, as soon as he got tired or distracted, his bow shoulder would slowly creep down and away from the string. He would have to constantly force his shoulder into that position. It seemed to fail him in long tournaments and at the moment of truth during a hunt.
He eventually tried to find a more natural position for his shoulder, a position he didn’t have to constantly fight. So, he worked long and hard to find a position his shoulder naturally wanted to be in. The problem was there are many positions his shoulder felt comfortable in, but they weren’t repeatable day to day or shot to shot.
He was ready to give up when he decided to push his bow shoulder out (away from the string) as far as he could. His shoulder hit a wall (limit of his mobility) and locked in place. It felt good and seemed repeatable. He found that if he pushed his shoulder out and down, he could find the same location every time. And with a little practice he found it was very repeatable and natural.
There was only one problem with his shoulder pushed out; his draw length was now a little long and he didn’t want to lose draw length (speed). He was about to go back to the high and in shoulder position when he noticed a top shooter had his shoulder low and out. As he watched other top shooters, he noticed none of them had their shoulder high like he had been shooting. Only the newbies seemed to have their bow shoulder high and in.
He decided to sacrifice 5 fps, shorten his draw length and try the new shoulder position. It was a game changer. Before long, he had a repeatable shoulder position that he didn’t have to constantly police during his shooting. It felt natural and he held as steady as ever.
Almost all of us have since gravitated towards pushing that bow shoulder out and down. Yes, it felt weird at first and we lost a few feet per second in arrow speed, but our shooting improved substantially!