Bow Hunting and Your Shoulders

imageWhen it comes to archery, the maintenance of your shoulders and rotator cuffs is extremely important to prevent any type of injury, especially overuse. As for every physical activity, there is a proper way to recover and prevent future overuse injuries.

Shoulder impairments, caused by over use are very common injuries and are often avoidable. In fact, rotator cuff injuries (such as strains, tendinopathy, or ruptures) account for nearly 75-80% of shoulder injuries in the US.

Shoulder instability and shoulder impingement takes place in the capsuloligamentous structures (demonstrated in the image below). These shoulder impingements are typically recognized by a pinching sensation that occurs when the arm is raised and by accompanying pain while moving through the rotator cuff. This injury usually arises from overuse of overhead movement of the shoulders ie: swimming, pitching in baseball, or tennis. Shoulder instability develops when the muscles outside Glenohumeral joint don’t work effectively to stabilize the humerus.

So how do these injuries affect archers? Let us talk about shoulder anatomy, and just how it affects how well you are able to perform as an archer or bow hunter. Your rotator cuff is highly involved in every process of shooting a bow. Not only does it take great strength in the rotator cuff to pull your bow back, it also stabilizes the arm while you aim for that perfect shot.

shoulder impairment prevention-3
Moffat, Marilyn. The American Physical Therapy Association Book of Body Maintenance and Repair. New York: Owl Book/Henry Holt, 1999. Print.
shoulder impairment prevention-2
Moffat, Marilyn. The American Physical Therapy Association Book of Body Maintenance and Repair. New York: Owl Book/Henry Holt, 1999. Print.

Your rotator cuff is made of many different bones, muscles, joints and ligaments that all work together during this process. The four bones that make up your shoulder are the scapula, sternum, clavicle, and acromion. These four bones become the working joints of your shoulder. Acromioclavicular (AC joint), Glenohumeral (GH joint), Sternoclavicular (SC joint), and your Scapulathoracic (ST joint). These four joints — in particular the GH joint — are under a great deal of stress during archery. Most of the movement involved in your rotator cuff comes from the GH joint. This is a ball joint and is at the top of your humerus (arm bone) and top of your scapula. This joint is a ball and socket joint that moves in indefinite directions.

But it is not just the bones at work. There are approximately 56 muscles that are used when drawing your bow back; 26+ of them are in your shoulder. The muscles in your shoulder that are used to draw your bow back are your pectoralis major/minor, teres major/minor, subscapularis, Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, deltoid, levator scapularis, rhomboid major/minor and your serratus anterior.shoulder impairment prevention-1

Axford, R. (1995). Archery anatomy: An introduction to techniques for improved performance. London: Souvenir.

When drawing your bow back you require the use of not one, but both rotator cuffs; thus, form plays a huge role in injury prevention and muscle impairment. There are two different ways of shoulder loading during the draw back of your bow:


High Preparation

  1. High preparation- During high preparation drawback your strength and force is above your shoulder joints during prep and follow through of your shot.

“V” Draw (Low Draw)

  1. “V” Draw or low preparation- When using the “V” draw, everything is maintained below the shoulder joints during the prep, and follow through, of your shot.


Both of these methods allow for less stress upon the shoulder joints when drawing the bow.
Now that we have covered the anatomy of your shoulder and it’s action during use of your bow, let’s discuss flexibility and exercises that will help prevent over-use injury and increase strength and stability for the future.

The Warm Up: 

A warm up is essential to any workout program to prevent future injuries. As a form of flexibility training, I recommend the use of self-myofascial release (SMR). Self-myofascial release is the use of tools to help muscles lengthen and increase the blood flow with in the muscle. Your body will benefit from using SMR because it will help correct any muscle imbalances you may have, release knots in your muscles (trigger points), as well as shut down those over active muscles. Foam rollers are a great type of SMR. Foam rollers use applied pressure to locate tender spots and melt tension away. To achieve release, run the roller over your sore muscle and, when you feel an increase of tenderness, hold the position and apply local pressure for 30 seconds at minimum.

SMR/Foam Roller Exercises:

  • Wall Angels with tennis ball
  • Seated Shoulder Drops (Lengthwise on foam roller): Reach out your shoulder blades as far as you can spread them, then draw shoulder blades back and pinch your shoulder blades directly back (imagine pinching a penny)
  • Seated Open T (Lengthwise on the foam roller). Inhale opening your arms to a “T” position and Exhale when bringing them back to the front of your chest.
  • Forearms-
  • Lats (Latissimus Dorsi)-
  • Chest release-  Foam roller positioned vertically across chest extend arms out to side and keeping your abs tight slowly lift your arms off of the floor.
  • Bicep Release
  • Deltoid release
  • Low back release

After these SMR techniques, begin a dynamic warm up.

Dynamic warm ups use your body’s force to lubricate your joints for full range of movement. Think “aerobic” instead of “stationary”:

  • Shoulder rotations.
  • Lift and chop
  • Arm Circles
  • Lunge with twist
  • Windmills
  • Arm W for 30 second
  • Right/left for 30 seconds

The Workout!

The moment you’ve been waiting for. These are perfect exercises to increase strength and stability in your rotator cuff. You will want to choose a weight efficient enough you can complete 3 sets for 15- 20 reps :

  • Push up plus 3 x 15-20
  • Sword draw Cable 3 x 15-20
  • Facepulls- 3 x 15-20
  • Ball shoulder Combo I 3 x 15
  • Renegade rows 3x 15-20
  • Ropes Circles In/Out 3 x 30 seconds (Endurance)
  • Ropes quick waves 3 x 25 seconds (Endurance)

Now that you have completed your workout, be sure to cool down using static stretching as well as SMR techniques mentioned above. This workout will help you be a better bow hunter as well as prevent future injuries in your shoulders. I hope you enjoy this workout!

Works Cited
Clark, Michael, Scott Lucett, and Rodney J. Corn. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2008. Print.Wilkins.
Moffat, Marilyn. The American Physical Therapy Association Book of Body Maintenance and Repair. New York: Owl Book/Henry Holt, 1999. Print.
Axford, R. (1995). Archery anatomy: An introduction to techniques for improved performance. London: Souvenir.
Knopf, Dr. Karl. Healthy Shoulder Handbook. N.p.: n.p., n.d.Print.
Clark, M., & Lucett, S. (2011). NASM’s essentials of corrective exercise training. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


Hiking while Pregnant-11 Things I've learned

I really enjoy being outdoors, but being pregnant during the summer months is tough on it’s own. I am really glad I did not allow my pregnancy stop me and my family enjoy being outdoors. Over this summer I continued to hike throughout my pregnancy, while packing our 1 year old with us. Earlier on in my pregnancy it was just our one year old and me, then the further along I was I wouldn’t go alone so it was our 8, 6, 1 year old, and my husband would join us whenever possible. If my husband couldn’t make it out I made sure to invite a friend. I have learned quiet a few things during the past few months.


  1. Drink pleny of fluid! This should be a pretty easy thing to remember, but its easy to forget when you’re focused on the trail ahead. I actually used to carry several water bottles, but then my husband gave me a camel back that fit right in my Deuter Comfort Kid II. It was life changing.


            2. Take Breaks. As much as we really want to be super mom, it is so super important that we take breaks. Our bodies are in the process of doing something amazing and we need to do our best to keep from over exerting ourselves.


3. Wear supportive shoes. Tennis shows are great, but I really suggguest something with some ankle support as well as arch support. First few times on the trail I wore my regular addidas that I would wear to the gym, however as I got deeper into hiking and more into my pregnancy I noticed my arches and ankles were beginning to pinch. I also noticed that my body began to compensate because of this. I shortly after bought hiking shoes and I insantly could tell a difference.


4. Pack Snacks!  Nothing makes you more hungry than hard work and that is exactly what hiking while pregnant does to you. Your body needs extra 300 to 500 calories per day when you’re growing a baby. When you hiking you work hard, but when you’re packing a todddler and a bun in the oven you’re really exerting some energy. The best way to prevent dizziness on the trail is to be sure that you have plenty of fuel on hand


5. Posture check your posture is so important at all times. When your pregnant your center of gravity changes, therefore changing your posture. Bad posture causes back pain and neck pain. So be sure your body is properly aligned when hiking



6.Sunscreen super important thing to bring. Who wants to add anything more miserable to pregnancy. Your skin and hormones are all very different during pregnancy you just want to be sure that you’re taking the best steps to prevent adding anything that will cause your pregnancy to be any more miserable!


8. Pack light I like to think I’m wonder woman and the first time I went I packed tons of extra crap and carried my 15 month son on my back as well in a soft carrier. What a terrible plan. I was so tired and sore. I learned fast to pack light.


9. Share the weight if you can’t pack light be sure you are sharing the weight. Don’t try to be a super woman and haul everything.It’s ok to ask for help!


10. Heart rate monitor although you don’t need to stay away from certain zones you do need to be aware of what your heart is doing. If your heart spikes for an unknown reason you’ll need to know. Be sure you have a monitor!


11. Listen to your body! If your body is telling you you’re over heated and need to sit and breath then do it! If your body is telling you you can’t go any further, then turn around. Don’t push your self!