Thursday, May 28, 2009

Basic yet Of the Utmost Importance - Bow Arm (Grip) - Part 1

Bow hand position is an area which is somehow, criminally neglected in the coaching literature. Hand position is the only interface between archer and bow and therefore vital to get right. Poor hand position is the root cause of most technical failures and so can not be overstated...


The bow hand is the first body part to touch the bow as you set up for the shot and it’s the last body part touching the bow as the arrow crosses the arrow rest on its way to the target. This makes bow hand placement on the bow’s grip section extremely important. You have to do this form element correctly through most of your form steps if you’re going to be happy in archery.

So, what is the basis of a good hand position?

If you've asked most of the experienced archers, either recurve or compound archers about their grip, most of them will tell you or give you instructions on how to relax your hand and improve your archery result by using the grip as shown below (right) by switching from the grip which most beginners would use which is the left one.

So, how is it done? and why should we use this grip and what are the types of grips with their disadvantages and advantages? Let's discuss about all these.


As stated earlier, it is essential to keep the bow hand as relaxed as possible during and after the shot. Every movement while the arrow is still on the bow will result in a large deviation on the target, especially on longer distances.

A bow hand that grips the bow firmly will tend to move more during the shot than a relaxed hand because of the required extra muscle control. On the other hand, if you force your hand to be open by stretching fingers, this also will mean that more muscle control is necessary. Both styles are impossible to maintain over longer periods of shooting because it is impossible to use the same muscles in exactly the same way every time.

We can see that it is very important to maintain a relaxed bow hand throughout the execution of the shot.

When relaxing a hand, the fingers should be curved, not straight. Just try laying the back of your hand on the table and relaxing it. You will see it right away. It is normal that fingers are curved while holding the bow. This does not necessarily mean that they grasp the bow. When your hand positioning is correct, one or two fingers will not touch the bow. You can probably bend your little finger and ring finger without touching the bow. See also figures 2 and 3.
Holding the bow is here not really the right word. The bow should more or less 'rest against' the hand when it has come to a full draw or during the drawing, without gripping the bow.

So we shall start with:

Hand placement

General remarks

There are several ways to place the bow hand on the bow and keeping it as relaxed as possible.

With every placement you should keep the centerline of the bow in the same line with that of the hand, see figure 4. This is the best way to transfer force from the bow to the arm. In this way you use as much of your bone structure and eliminate the need for extra muscle control.
It is important that the bow is held exactly in the middle, that pressure is not exerted sideways. In this way the arrow, and after that the bow, will only move forward after release, giving the best possible arrow flight.

Finding the right placement: The Touch pad

The lifeline that runs down the palm of your hand separates your hand into two regions for the purpose of archery, the “inbounds” and the “out-of-bounds”. The thumb pad portion, called the thenar eminence, is the in-bounds portion while the other pad on the little- finger side of the lifeline, the hypothenar eminence, is the out-of bounds region. The thumb pad and only this pad should be touched to the grip area of the bow handle. If any other part touches the handle then side torque to the handle may, and usually does, occur.

It is also important not to try and hold your hand parallel to the handle but under an angle, of 45 degrees to a vertical line. This is the most natural position and thus is the best way to relax the hand. A way to experiment with this is the following:

Assume your shooting stance, without bow. Relax the bow hand and, with the tip of your index finger, touch the tip of your thumb. With a relaxed hand, the remaining fingers will also be slightly curved. The fingers should behave as they were handling something very delicate. Bend your index finger and ring finger a little more, until both fingertips touch the palm of your hand. Tilt your hand up and towards you and stretch the index finger a little. Now ask a fellow archer to push a bow into your hand. If this went right, the bow will now press on the inside of the ball of your thumb, see figure 5. Your knuckles will make an angle of about 45 degrees with the bow. Little finger and ring finger should be between hand and bow. Try and shoot some arrows in this way and observe the bow's reaction.

or more experienced archers, who have a fairly consistent release, the following method could be of help in finding the best hand position.

Shoot a few arrows without stabilisation and observe how the bow leaves your hand. You probably cannot prevent the bow from tilting backwards towards your head. What you should be able to prevent through your hand placement is left or right rotation of the bow.

To get an idea of what can go wrong, try and apply pressure on the left side of the grip. Do this by bending your bow hand to the right, your wrist is now left of the bow. ( for a right-handed archer). This results in the string hitting your armguard and the arrow hitting the target more to the right. Try the same for the other side of the grip, apply more pressure on the right side of the grip. This is not easy for a right-handed archer. You can do this by reaching towards the target with your thumb. The bow will rotate anticlockwise after the shot and perhaps the bow arm will move sideways to the left.

After experiencing these two extremes, try and find the golden mean between them, the ideal case being that the bow does not rotate either with or without stabilisation. After you are done, ask a fellow archer to watch if the tip of your stabiliser and if the bow travels in a straight line forward or not.

It is emphasised that this method will only give good results for archers that have a good release, i.e. a release that does not make the bow rotate.



Here’s a set of steps for getting the bow hand placed correctly.
1. Pen-mark the lower inch of the lifeline in the bow hand as atouch-point reference.
2.Touch the pen-mark to the left edge (for right-handers) of the bow grip section.
3. Relax all fingers and the thumb so they are limp.
4. Slide the bow hand upward until the index knuckle and thumb lightly touch the arrow shelf *naturally.
5. Allow the thumb pad to lightly roll onto the bow grip.
6. Do not pressure the bow hand onto the grip.
7. Hold the bow hand in the proper position throughout the raising of the bow to the target level.
8. During the draw, the bow will pressure into the bow hand at the target and aiming level yielding optimum bow hand consistency.