Archery is a unique sport that has gotten a lot of attention lately because of a certain bow and arrow wielding lady, aka Katniss Everdeen. But even before her, there was Hawkeye and Robin Hood – characters that have made a lot of kids (and even adults) curious about the sport.
In general, sport is a way to develop self-confidence, teamwork, social skills, strength, and coordination; Archery is no different. Though it is not your typical, fast-paced, high-intensity sport, archery’s slow and focused nature is a great way to build your strength and coordination.
If you’ve ever tried pulling a bow, you may find that it can be quite difficult, especially when it comes to stronger and tighter bows. Pulling the string back does take some effort, but try doing it a couple dozen times – then you’ll start to feel the strain.
There are a couple of upper body muscles triggered during archery, with the most obvious ones being the back and shoulder muscles. If you want to be more specific about which muscles are targeted, the primary muscles used are the trapezius, rhomboids, biceps, triceps, and forearms. The secondary or support muscles used are the deltoids and pectorals, while the auxiliary muscle used is the latissimus dorsi.
When doing archery, these muscle groups are forced to expand and contract to accommodate the resistance from the bow, which over time builds strength as you consistently pull it back. Basically, the contraction and expansion of muscles are what forces them to grow and get stronger.
As you increase the draw strength of the bow and the amount of time you spend shooting, your upper body muscles will compensate for that extra work resulting in an increase in strength.
In the same way, the movements done when pulling the string back are very similar movements to a seated or upward row that you will see people doing in the gym. Bodybuilders and other people who work out often incorporate rows to build more strength and definition on their back muscles.
Other Physical Benefits
Apart from muscular strength, archery also works on your balance, posture, flexibility, core strength, cardiovascular fitness, mental focus, and coordination.
As you practice more, your fingers, hands, arms, and back muscles begin to get more flexible because of the need to draw the string back constantly. Stretching before archery is actually very important and encouraged as to avoid injuries.
Your posture is also improved by learning the proper stance and keeping it the same exact way every time to ensure precision and accuracy. The sport can help you find your center of balance and build your core strength because even the slightest movement will cause the arrow to move in a different way and miss the target.
Cardio, on the other hand, has more to do with the fact that you have to walk back and forth to get your arrows. In a competition, an archer may end up walking a total of about 5 miles, which would roughly be about the same during practice.
If you practice every day, that’s 5 miles a day – enough to get your heart pumping and strengthen your cardiovascular system a good deal.
IMPROVING COORDINATION AND FOCUS
It’s no secret that archery requires a lot of hand-eye coordination, after all, you wouldn’t be able to hit a four-inch target from 7 meters up to 70 meters away if you didn’t have some form of coordination.
Of course, everyone starts somewhere so, in the beginning, your coordination may not be as great. But over time, your body begins to understand what the mind needs it to do and your eyes are able to hone in on a specific target.
Archery trains your hands and arms to work together while doing other tasks, and then ultimately aiming and firing at something that your eyes are focused on. This is why focus is something that is incredibly important and will also improve the more you practice.
MAKING YOU HAPPY
Pulling from focus, developing and actually learning how to focus have positive impacts on your mental health and well-being. Think of it as a form of meditation. The focus you need in archery stems from the need to clear your mind and focus only on the target.
Interestingly enough, there is a form of meditation called trataka, which means “to look or gaze.” The method involves staring at a single point like a small object, but more commonly, a candle flame. Though not exactly the same, the focus in archery comes from the same principle of focusing on only one spot.
Archery also teaches you patience, which is something that can aid in being a happier person. Unlike other sports, archery is slower and takes time because it is about precision and not speed – kind of like trekking or hiking. Understanding this fact will teach you how to be patient, which can then turn into patience in everyday life.
As a final not on archery and happiness, countless studies have linked sports and being active to being happier. This is because our bodies were designed to move and archery gets you moving.
WHY DO IT?
Now you might be wondering, why archery? Why not just walk a mile a day just to improve my health? The thing is, it’s more than just health!
A great thing about archery is that virtually anyone can do it – young and old. In fact, older people can benefit greatly from archery because it helps keep the mind sharp and the body moving without being too high-impact.
Archery is even a sport in the Paralympics so people with disabilities are able to participate. There are people who are legally blind who are able to do it as well, making it a very open sport. It’s a great way to not only get moving, get active, but to get to know yourself and other people.
While it may not be a sport that is considered “mainstream” just yet, it is a great activity you can at least try with your family and friends. Who knows, if you get into it, you might actually enjoy it, and as time goes by, you’ll probably even notice how it has improved your strength, coordination, and happiness!