If you've shot a bow for any length of time, you have heard about follow-through. In this column, I am going to take a closer look at follow-through, specifically as it relates to your release hand/arm. In short, proper follow-through involves your release hand and arm falling away from the anchored position as the shot fires. A lot of people misunderstand what follow-through actually is. Most will say, "You really need to work on your follow-through," or "Make sure you remember to follow through," or something along those lines.
In reality, follow-through isn't something you should be working on to have a great shot. Rather, it's the result of a great shot. The goal in execution is a surprise release, where you aren't anticipating the timing of that shot. When that happens, a good follow-through is inevitable.
I often hear the comment, "Man, that guy has a horrible follow-through." But I learned long ago it does you absolutely no good to work on your follow-through, because "that guy" is just anticipating his shot, which is causing his horrible follow-through. Or rather, his lack of follow-through. You see, if I fire my release via conscious command, I am tensing those small muscles it takes to execute the shot, and my release hand will stay right next to my face instead of falling back.
If you have a poor or non-existent follow-through, here is a test to prove my point: Come to full draw and have a buddy slowly squeeze your trigger while you concentrate on nothing but aiming. When the bow fires, your release arm and hand will fall away from the position, because you're not fast enough to stop it. This means that when you are executing your own shot, you know the exact moment to tense up, causing the lack of follow-through.
Instead of spending time pointlessly trying to work on having a follow-through, work on executing a surprise release where you are focused on nothing but aiming. You should be slowly squeezing the trigger until the shot fires. This will result in a great follow-through. Anyone can fake a follow-through, but that will not make you a better shooter. Honestly, when I see a bad follow-through, it is just a red flag that the person has target panic. The two just go together. Working on your follow-through WILL NOT not fix your target panic. However, if you fix your target panic, you WILL have a smooth, consistent follow-through.
If you are really struggling to fire a surprise shot, I suggest getting a release aid you can't punch or command. Back-tension releases are great training tools for this purpose. When it comes to index-finger trigger releases, the Panic X from Tru-Fire has a setting that makes you slowly squeeze the trigger or it will not fire. Shoot with one of these releases until you aren't thinking about the shot or your follow-through anymore; only aiming.
There are a lot of myths on follow-through and how it's a necessary part of a great shot. While it is an indicator of a great shot, it's not something that needs to be practiced. Follow-through is when your release hand and arm fall away from the static full-draw position as the bow fires. This normally doesn't happen if you are commanding the shot or if you know the exact millisecond the shot is firing. Simply put, learning to execute a surprise release is a critical component of becoming the best archer you can be, and it will also produce that picture-perfect follow-through you've been looking for.