Shoulders play a vital role in drawing and holding a bow.
As all of us know, preparation is the number one key to
success especially when it comes to bowhunting. The difficulty of taking a game
animal, especially a “trophy animal” with a bow necessitates a lot of time and
effort before the hunt. Now, we aren’t going to pretend to be bowhunting
experts. Many of you reading this have more bowhunting experience then we do.
But with extensive experience in weightlifting, power lifting as well as medical
practice, we can give you very good advice on how to safely strengthen the
muscles you use bowhunting and how to avoid common muscular injuries.
Speaking of expertise, when you have transmission problems
and need it repaired you take it to an expert who has lots of experience.
Transmissions are complicated and can cause a lot of trouble including personal
injury if not repaired correctly. That is the very same scenario with modern
bows. If you are not an expert in bow selection, tuning and set-up, we highly
suggest making an appointment with your regional archery pro-shop. They can
suggest the right equipment for you in the correct size with the proper
poundage and the necessary accessories. Their advice will not only save you a
lot of money in the long run but also reduce your chance of injuring your
shoulder. In and around the midlands of South
Carolina, we trust the advice of well known archer Mr. Tom Jeffery of Jeffery Archery (803
776-3832). They have been expertly equipping archery enthusiasts for
decades. We got our 2006 Bowtech
Allegiance bows outfitted there.
We can make a case for overall fitness to enhance your
bowhunting success. We plan on just such a column later on. What we want to
focus on here is the muscles used in drawing and holding a bow on a target; the
shoulder musculature otherwise known as the limb girdle area. Unfortunately, this
area and more specifically the rotator cuff of the shoulder is very prone to injury
as many of you have already found out.
Listing all the Latin names for all the muscles involved in
drawing a bow gets us the restroom key at the local medical society, but really
isn’t helpful here (we like to go outside anyway). So rather then bore you with
all of that, you need to know that there are five major muscles or groups of muscles involved in pulling a bow
(correctly). The most obvious is the
Deltoid. This roughly triangular
shaped muscle (hence Deltoid like the
Greek letter Delta) is the big boy of the upper limb girdle.This is the source of shoulder strength and
shape. The Deltoid needs three divisions (heads) to
accomplish its job of elevating and pulling your arm up no matter what the
direction, be it toward the front, the side, or the rear.
The second muscle is actually a group of muscles called the Rotator Cuff. This is made up of four
smaller muscles that serve the purpose of holding your arm in its socket.
Sometimes it rains and gets cold in South Carolina so we may need that bathroom
key after all, so here are the names of the four muscle that make up the
rotator cuff; Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis, and Teres
minor. These four attach on one end to your scapula (shoulder blade or wing bone) and the other end to the upper
end of your arm. The rotator
cuff muscles are not designed for doing the heavy work of the upper limb
girdle, hence they are frequently injured. In addition to holding your arm in
its socket, they assist in lifting
the arm (a deltoid job) plus they help
rotate your arm backwards and forwards. The supraspinatus
muscle is the most susceptible to injury in this group.
The third muscle is another big one; the trapezius (AKA traps). How big this muscle is can be misleading. The trapezius goes from the base of your
skull to the edge of your shoulder; it also goes at an angle from the top of
your shoulder to the low-middle part of your back and all the way up the spine
back to the base of your skull thus forming a large triangle. It sticks up
prominently in football players especially the ones that look like they do not
have a neck. This is the muscle that allows you to shrug your shoulders. In bowhunting, it plays a major
role in pulling your shoulder and arm backwards when drawing the bow.
The fourth muscle is again a group of smaller muscles that
work as a group. For simplicity we’ll just call them the Scapula Muscles.They
secure your scapula to your back
bone. These are also critical in pulling the scapula backwards which caused it to wing out thus the name “wing
bone”, when you draw your arm backwards.
Lastly, in drawing the bow you need to use your upper arm
muscles. These are easily found.
The Bicep muscle does the lion’s
share of work in this group. It is helped by the brachialis muscle that lies underneath the bicep. When they contract, your hand is pulled toward your body
otherwise known as flexion of the upper extremity. These are the “make a
muscle” muscles of the arm.
Now that we have named all the parts, we can move on to the
task at hand, namely enhancing your ability to draw your bow and doing it
safety. Please note it is not necessary to join a gym or invest in expensive
equipment to accomplish your goals here. A simple trip to any sporting goods
store can yield the stuff you need. Feel free to buy used equipment, as weights
weigh the same shiny or tarnished.What
you need to buy are hand held dumbbells. Remember, we are not looking to turn
you into the “Hulk” or Arnold Schwarzenegger so forget the 80 pound dumbbells.
Also, if you are even thinking about anabolic steroids (without a real serious
medical need and medical direction) lose that thought. In four
simple easy to do exercises you can train all the muscles described above
and do it well. Remember to stretch and warm up first. Most of us are not
teenagers anymore so injuries can occur easier and take longer to heal.
Exercise Group One:
The first and most important exercise to do is the
combination Front, Lateral and Bent Over
Arm Raises. This will build and strengthen the deltoid muscle but more importantly the rotator cuff. Remember to go slow, start light, and be consistent
with long term goals. DO NOT try to accomplish getting into shape a week or two
before the season starts. This is more than the common sense you could get from
your mom. The rotator cuff is prone
to injury and is the focus of most shoulder surgeries that we all want to
Standing upright with your arms down at your side and light dumbbells in each
hand, alternate raising one hand at a time front wards to a height just above
the top of your head then lower slowly and repeat with the other hand. Keep the
dumbbells level to the ground and your palms facing the ground. Do this 8 to 10
times with each hand then rest a minute or two. Gradually build up to 3 sets of
12 raises with each arm.
Front lateral raises start
Front lateral raises end
Lateral Raises: Next,
start again standing upright with your arms down at your sides. This time raise
both arms at the same time but laterally (sideways) away from your body up to
the level of your eye and then back down. It is critical to keep your thumbs
pointing down. This is a variation of the standard lateral raise and is much
harder to do. Start light; macho is a bad idea! Repeat this 8 to 10 times then
rest again. Gradually build up to 3 sets of 12 raises with each arm.
Laterial side raises start
Lateral side raises end
Bent Over Arm Raises:
Stand upright then bend over so that you are facing the floor and your arms are
hanging down next to the floor with dumbbells in each hand. You do not need to
be perpendicular to the floor and be careful not to injure your back with
carelessness. Now raise both arms at the same time sideways or away from your
body. Again your thumbs need to be pointing downwards all the while you stay in
the bent over position. Raise the weights to the level of your shoulders and
then back down slowly. Repeat 8 to 10 times and rest. Gradually build up to 3
sets of 12 raises with each arm.
Bent over raises start
Bent over raises end
Exercise Group Two:
Exercise two is called Bent
Over Rowing. It is simple, easy and done one hand at a time. Bend over
again facing the floor with a heavier weight in one hand hanging next to the
floor but this time make sure your other hand is on a chair seat or bench to
balance yourself. Now just pull the weight straight up to the edge of your
chest which requires you bending your arm. Slowly go back down and repeat 8 to
10 times then do the same with the other arm. Gradually build up to 3 sets of
12 raises with each arm.
This exercise is critical in building strength in the trapezius, scapula muscle group and the bicep and brachialis
muscles. This replicates the action of drawing a bow. Start lighter than you
think, and pretty soon you can be using weights way heavier than you thought
you could use.
Bent over row start
Bent over row end
Exercise Group Three:
The above two exercises will definitely suffice but nothing
excels like excellence so there are two others to do for maximal benefit. The Military Press is next and it really
builds the deltoid muscle. The
starting position is sitting all the way back in a chair with a straight back
and dumbbells in each hand that are resting on your shoulders . Begin by simply pressing them up
one hand at a time over your head to full
extension and then back down. Repeat 8 to 10 times per side.
Gradually build up to 3 sets of 12 raises with each arm.
Seated military press start
Seated military press end
Exercise Group Four:
Lastly, is the Bicep
Curl which will greatly enhance your upper arm strength. There are numerous
ways to do this but we will keep it simple. Starting position is sitting in the
chair with the straight back and the dumbbells in each hand hanging down. Begin
by simply curling them upwards to your shoulder and then back down slowly
alternating arms as you go. Try to do it with your palms pointing upwards.
Repeat 8 to 10 times with each arm and you are now done. Gradually build up to
3 sets of 12 raises with each arm.
Seated bicep curls
Time for exercise is always an issue. Recovery time from a
shoulder injury can last through several bow seasons. You really want to be
careful and start slow and be consistent. The more you exercise the better the
result obviously, but you can show real improvement with a minimal schedule. If
you really don’t have the time to work up to the 3 sets per arm per exercise,
then you can make a substantial difference by doing each exercise above with
only one set three times per week. This would only take approximately 15
minutes three times per week which is a small amount of time to invest to
greatly strengthen your shoulders and your bow draw. Heavier poundage (that you
can comfortably and safely draw), a longer period that you can hold at full
draw, and a significantly decreased risk of tearing your rotator cuff is worth
45 minutes per week isn’t it?
Surfing the bowhunting.net
site we came across an alternative to the dumbbell investment, so we tried it.
This product can be packed up virtually anywhere including your luggage when
you travel. It
is extremely light weight
and portable and replicates the action of drawing a bow very precisely.
product uses the concept of both isometric and non-isometric exercises
shoulder and arms . We found
that drawing it like a bow either with grasping both opposing handles,
or placing your bow hand on the inside frame of the unit, was a smooth
process with an even increase in
resistance being experienced. The booklet that came with the device
showed its versatility for over 40 exercises and we concur that it
really does what it says it will
do. You can strengthen your shoulders and arms safely and dramatically
this fitness tool. It is called the ROTAFLEX
and was developed by Dr. Bill Connelly who also invented the Venom Peep Sight, which is on both our bows.
It is available from Rotaflex Fitness
at : 1-928-757-9328.
Rotaflex strength builder start
Rotaflex using both handles
Another product that replicates the actual draw motion of a
bow is the BowFit and is certainly worth consideration.
Inventor of the BowFit Dave Cole
We can’t stress enough to stretch and warm up first before
exercising or you will eventually tear/strain something that you wished you
didn’t. Also, when you can do 8 to 10 repetitions of a particular exercise
easily then it is time to go up on the weight of the dumbbells. Remember: Macho = Doctor’s new Lexus!
We hope this helps you understand the importance of
flexibility and strength in preventing shoulder injury and enhancing your bow
hunting abilities. One last word of advice; this is a specific exercise program
aimed with one goal in mind. Rotaflex,
BowFit or dumbbells should not and will not replace a general strength training
program and/or an aerobic regime aimed at improving your heart or
As always, enjoy the outdoors and be safe. Visit our website
(www.thehuntdoctors.com) for other
medically related hunting articles. Now go out there and get the Edge!