Author: Steve Ruis

Wanna Do-over?

Wanna Do-over?

I just published a new book called The Best from a Blog for Archery Coaches. And, no I don’t expect you to buy it if you have been following this blog for any time (but you could recommended to others, just sayin’).

I took almost 350 posts from this blog that I thought were helpful or interesting and made a book out of them. I did this for a couple of reasons. One is I could make a little money from this blog (Okay I admit it!), and two I am getting somewhat long in the tooth. I have seen more than just a couple of archery information sources on the Internet disappear. What if WordPress goes belly up? What if WordPress gets taken over by corporate raiders who then require payment for continuation? What if I die? What happens to this blog? Is it left up? Will someone else take it over?

Our book publishing program has a feature to it based upon my first experience in seeking out archery books. When I got into coaching archery I did very extensive searches to find resources for archery coaches, and came up mostly dry (at that time). I then looked specifically for archery books and found great quantities of them, 95+% of which were out of print, so the only way to find them was to scour used book shops (made easier today by services like Abebooks and Bookfinder). We ultimately decided to go the “print on demand” route, which means that books are only printed when there is an order placed. Large stocks of books are not printed and stored (inventory, ugh!). There used to be a minimum print run for books, often 5000 or 10,000 copies and something needed to be done with them until they were sold.

With Print On Demand, books will never (well, hardly ever) go out of print, because the only thing stored are two files: typically one for the cover and the other for the interior content. So, this book, along with the rest of those we produce, will be available for a very long time, if we keep the channels of production open. (We will instruct our heirs what to do to keep receiving royalty checks.)

More importantly, we are currently republishing Al Henderson’s archery coaching magnus opus, Peak Performance Archery. More on that later.

Originally from A Blog for Archery Coaches.

Push the Bow Toward the Target?

Push the Bow Toward the Target?

We are taught to push the bow toward the target. Do you teach that to your students? Do you know why?

A perfectly lined up archery shot can still go awry. And I don’t mean because of wind and whatnot. The most critical time period in an archery shot is the 15-20 milliseconds from when the string is loosed (either by fingers or release aid) and when the arrow leaves the bowstring. After the arrow detaches itself it is an independent projectile, subject to gravity and, of course, wind forces, etc. The shot can go awry if the bow moves away from its perfect positioning because of something you did during that critical period. If you plucked the bowstring, you pulled the string away from your face and caused the bow to rotate away from you, sending your arrow to the left (all references are to those of right-handed archers). If you have death grip on your bow, after the loose that grip may cause the bow to rotate. Any such movement moves the string and arrow rest and as long as they are involved it affects the hit point of the arrow.

And, even the tiniest movement results in a missed target. Rick McKinney determined that in order for a arrow to land in the ten ring at 90 meters, the arrow point had to be in a circle only one sixteenth of an inch in diameter and then everything on the back half of the shot had to be perfect. Even the tiniest shift of string or bow out of proper positions results in a miss.

So, why the dictum to “push the bow toward the target”? It is because if you are pushing it up, down, left or right, as soon as you loose the string the bow will move in that direction. A classic example is “heeling the bow.” If the center of pressure (COP) of your grip on the bow is a tad low, due to you pushing too much toward the heel of your bow hand, when the string is loosed, the bow rotates a tiny amount upward (since the COP is below the center of mass (COM) of the bow) which moves the arrow rest up and nock down and you get a high flier.

Similarly “bow handle torque” which is twisting of the handle/riser from gripping the bow too tightly or even just inserting your bow hand too much from the outside of the grip, causes left and right misses.

So, how are you supposed to see what is going on since there are many, many causes of shots going left, right, up, or down from where they are aimed.

If you are working with a student using a long rod stabilizer, you are in luck. If you are, watch the tip of the stabilizer as shots go off. If your archer is heeling the bow, the tip will move up immediately upon the loose. If bow handle torque is involved the tip will move left or right. What you are looking for is the tip moving straight toward the target first, then rolling downward as the followthrough continues. (The downward roll is determined by the COM of the bow being in front and below the pivot point. The first movement desired is an approximately one inch “punch” straight out along the axis of the stabilizer. If this occurs, you are sure your archer is pushing straight toward the target.

In all of these discussions, we are talking about minimizing sources of error. These are not requirements, per se. I was shadowing a famous coach once as he worked with a very, very good compound archer. I watched the tip of the archer’s long rod and on every shot, the tip bounced up. He was heeling his bow. During a lull I brought this to the attention of the archer and he said he knew about it, and that he tried to set up his bow so it didn’t happen but when he did, he didn’t score as well. Now, I don’t know that he properly made that other setup and that there were no other problems with it, but when push comes to shove, any movement such as we are addressing now is a source of variation. With diligent practice such movement can be trained in and elite performances can still be had. Obviously the more of these an archer has, the more training will be needed and the more variation their shot will have.

Being an elite archer is a search to minimize variation. Capitulating to one such source is something we are forced to do from time to time, but these are to be avoided when possible. The more we make a shot into an athletic performance, the more day to day variation we will get. The more we can program a shot into an archer’s skeletal structure, the less variation there will be.

The TL:DR Summary
Yes, we push the bow toward the target because the bow will move and it moving straight forward is the only movement that doesn’t change where the arrow is aimed and will land.

Originally from A Blog for Archery Coaches.

Al Henderson Coaching Videos

Al Henderson Coaching Videos

I am currently working on Al Henderson’s 1986 book, Peak Performance Archery to bring it back into print. In the book Al refers to coaching videos he created (mid-1980s?). Has anyone seen these? Do any of you know where to get a copy?

These, I think, would be archery coaching treasure and should be freely available.


Originally from A Blog for Archery Coaches.

Coaching Tools—An Arrow Saw

Coaching Tools—An Arrow Saw

There are many tools that archers have available to them that also serve coaches. One of the most useful is an arrow saw.

The reason an arrow saw is one of the most useful tools to a coach is that we often find ourselves in the position of helping archers tune their arrows. And the absolute best way to tune a new arrow is to take a tuning set of five of them (never work on a whole dozen until you have nailed down the parameters for your arrows) and test them when full length (I use bare shaft testing). (Always order your shafts and arrows uncut if you have your own saw.) They should test “weak” at full length, so then you cut a little at a time, testing as you go until they test just right. (By making small cuts and bare shaft testing them as you go, you can get a feel for how much to cut each time (each cut will move the bare shafts closer to the fletched group.) Generally the cuts get smaller and smaller as you “inch” closer to the correct cut length for your system. When you find it. Shoot the test set until you are comfortable with them and then cut the remaining arrows/shafts to that same length.

The first photo is of a Decut Minicut arrows saw which I saw an ad for at US $200. My saw is an old Apple Arrow Saw (mine doesn’t have the dust collection system like the one in the second photo), and there are modular ones that snap together, professional ones (professional arrow cutting?), etc.

Once you acquire one of these, you’ll wonder how you got along with it.

Originally from A Blog for Archery Coaches.

Got Another One!

Got Another One!

A really good question came in as part of a comment: “Any thoughts for practices that have been virtual for a while?”

So, if we do get allowed out on our ranges and have been practicing solo or just working out, is there a good way to get up to speed again? What is we have been idle for quite some time?

My suggestions apply to anytime you have had a forced or voluntary layoff.

The danger is in trying to get too far, too fast. Your mind remembers how you shot before and won’t accept anything less . . . if you allow it full rein. Here’s just one scenario.

The danger is in trying to get too far, too fast.

Compound Archer—Compound archers often crank down their draw weights or switch to a lighter drawing bow for indoor competition and practice. So, two things are going on: a lower draw weight and fewer repetitions, both of which need to be cranked back up slowly.

It should take more than a few days to crank your bow back up. Maybe a half turn or a full turn on the limbs every other practice day is the max.

Similarly, too many shots in a session is also a no-no. When you get fatigued, your form and execution tend to decay, which is what you do not want to happen. Actually, this is a primary principle:

While recovering from a layoff, you must focus on retaining or regaining your good form.

This is the ultimate guiding factor in this process.

Recurve Archers—It is not unusual for recurve archers to swap out their limbs to a lighter pair during indoor season or a layoff. Cranking back up is not easy. If the draw weight difference is very small, say 2-3 pounds, one can safely switch back to the heavier limbs, or outdoor bow, and just ramp up the number of shots slowly. But if there is a large difference, 5# or more, then more care is needed. This may be able to be done by adjusting the weaker pair to the highest draw weight and when comfortable with that, switch to the heavier limbs, backed off as much as they can be adjusted (assumes an adjustable limb pocket bow) and then crank up those limbs slowly with practice.

You also have to look at your frequency of practicing. If you were practicing in your basement two days a week and then, excited by being able to shoot outdoors, you practice four or five days a week, you are asking for trouble.

Focus on short practices, fairly often, with the goal of maintaining or recovering your former form and execution.

I recommend that recurve archers retain at least one set of limbs when they move up in draw weight. Having a weaker pair to switch to when injured or after a layoff can be very helpful.

Listen to your body! I use a Rule of Thumb: if you are sore the day after a workout, that isn’t unusual. If you are still sore a day later, you probably over did it. If you are still sore one more day later, you definitely over did it. If you exceed this standard, wait until you feel better before working out again and take it a bit easier. And, if you feel pain while shooting—stop! See if you can identify the source of the pain (blister on string fingers, string slap on bow arm, etc.). If you cannot and try again, but feel the pain again, you are done for the day. If you resolve the issue (properly place your arm guard so as to not get hit by the string, adjust your tab or tape your fingers, etc.) and you can shoot without pain, you may continue.

I hope this helps somewhat.

Oh, it really helps if your coach is there to video you shooting, to compare with pre-pandemic form, etc. Or they may be able to do this from memory if they know you well.

Oh, oh, oh, oh—you can get started on these process before the ranges become available.

When I originally wrote this is was thinking of a short layoff, but the pandemic may be responsible for year long layoffs. If this is the case, I suggest that you start very slowly. At first, no bow, no arrows, just a stretch band/tube. Use a mirror to check your form. If you have a number of stretch bands of different resistances, start with the lightest and work your way through, up to the stiffest over several sessions. Get to full draw position with the band/tube, and pause there. Flex the muscles you use to hold while there, then let down. This is a form of the Reversal Drill.

Give your body time to report back. So, light session after light session—paying attention as to whether you get sore and where. Always allow time between sessions to allow your muscle fibers to repair themselves.

Work your way out of the bands/tubes into a light drawing bow as above.

If you have a coach, now is a good time to consult them.

Originally from A Blog for Archery Coaches.

A Correction

A Correction

In a previous post, “A Little Bow Geometry,” I made a mistake that needs correction. (I include that earlier post below so you don’t have to go fishing for it. SR) The error involves the diagram:

In this diagram you can see that I put the centerline of a recurve bow between the pivot point and the arrow rest hole. This might be a good place to put it but almost all recurve bows are designed with the center line right at the pivot point, not where I put it in the diagram. That deign places the center of pressure on the bow’s grip about as far below the centerline as the arrow is above.

The rest of the post is about right.


A Little Bow Geometry

Everything about archery consists of tradeoffs, starting with the design of bows.

Consider the recurve bow at brace in the figure. The horizontal centerline of the bow is midway between the arrow rest hole and the pivot point of the grip. The nocking point is about one half inch above the level of the arrow rest, so that arrow (depending on size) is centered about 3/8˝ above level and an additional inch or so above the previously mentioned centerline. All of these are examples of many of the various tradeoffs necessary to design a bow.

Basically this results in the archer’s fingers (plus tab), being 2-2.5˝ high, being practically centered on the bowstring (see fingers in diagram in relation to bows centerline (CL) which is also the string’s centerline). The bow hand is on the bottom half of the bow, creating what is called a “tiller” problem. (The word tiller means the same as the word tiller associated with sail boats; it means a thing “to steer.” By holding the bow asymetrically, that is on the bottom half, we in effect have made the top limb longer (and therefore weaker than the bottom limb). Many people adjust for this by turning the limb screws to create a slightly stronger limb on top than bottom. (In the old days, they actually sanded one limb more than the other to make it weaker.) Others address this issue by adjusting the nocking point location, leaving the limb bolts alone. If you move the nocking point up, you are decreasing the leverage you have on the top limb, making it effectively stronger, etc. and apparently only small adjustments in nocking point location are necessary to adjust for the problem that comes from holding the bow on its bottom half.

The same issues come up whether you shoot a longbow, recurve bow, or compound bow. The simplest approach is to set the tiller at “even” and then adjust the nocking point location while tuning (bare shaft test). Tiller is determined by measuring from the top or bottom of the riser to the bowstring (at a right angle), then “tiller = top tiller measurement – bottom tiller measurement.” Typical recurve settings are +1/8˝ to +1/4˝ (string closer to bottom limb than top). (Barebow is lower, sometimes a 0˝ or even negative tiller settings.)

This situation has benefits, though, in that as the bow is drawn, a torque is created hinging on the bow shoulder that helps to raise the bow. Basically the draw is part “back” and part “up” (using the bow arm as a boom.

Originally from A Blog for Archery Coaches.

Load Another Arrow Quickly?

Load Another Arrow Quickly?

We have all seen rank beginners shoot arrows (heck, we have all been rank beginners), be disappointed, then shoot another, then another, etc. making no changes in form or equipment. “Shootin’ and hopin’” is typical of beginners.

If you work with beginners at all, you will see this behavior. Your beginner fires off an arrow that could be instructive if they took the time to study it and figure out what changes in their approach are needed. But what do they actually do?

Quick as a bunny, they grab another arrow and shoot it. And another . . . and another. . . . Beginners want to shoot another arrow to see where it lands. Expert archers, on the other hand, know where it is going to land. Beginners seem to think that if they actually land an arrow or two in target center, then shot after shot will go their, too. They just need to figure it out and then they will be really good at this. And “figuring it out” means flinging arrows until they land where they are supposed to.

This “belief” of beginners is not at all rare. You will see it in other sports. Just blind repetition of what clearly isn’t working with no attempt whatsoever to figure out how to do it.

Fascinatingly, there are some seasoned archers who never grew out of this phase. So, my question to you is “What will you do if you identify one of your students as having this “syndrome?”

Originally from A Blog for Archery Coaches.

It Is How Your Brain Works, Deal With It

It Is How Your Brain Works, Deal With It

Try this little experiment. Pick up something heavy and hold it. If you don’t have something heavy, hold something like a can of soup or a quart of water in your outstretched arm. That’s it. Just keep holding it. And what do you notice? It is strange but the damned thing feels like it is getting heavier. And the longer you hold it, the heavier it feels it is.

This is due to the normal wiring of your brain. I do not know the details, but it makes sense that if it just felt “heavy” and that feeling never changed then the following could happen: Sure it feels heavy, but you think you could hold it like that forever, but suddenly it goes crashing to the floor. What happened? You dropped it!  In order for you to resist gravity, you must flex muscles, which consumes energy. When the chemical energy used to fuel this process runs out, so does your ability to flex those muscles and they go limp. So, apparently, as that muscular chemical energy is exhausted, the sensation we “feel” changes. It feels as if more and more effort is needed to hold the object up against gravity. But the mass of the object is constant, the acceleration of gravity is constant, so the force is constant. But it sure feels as if it were changing!

Okay, big deal, why are you bringing this up, Ruis?

Well, what are we told to expect to feel as “back tension.” This is the tension in the mid-upper back that complete the draw and effect the hold, prior to the loose. We are told to expect this muscle tension to build and build. Does this mean that the draw just continues and continues? I think you can see where this is going.

If your back tension feels as if it were building and building, then either the draw is continuing or you are holding still. Both are acceptable. What isn’t acceptable is any feeling that the muscle tension isn’t building or is slacking off. Both of those mean the draw is going backwards, which we call creeping, which can lead to collapsing (which is just larger scale creeping). Neither of these is conducive to consistent shooting.

So, the feeling of increasing back tension, at the very end of the draw doesn’t mean you are still drawing, it may mean that you are just holding. This has consequences for Recurve archers using a clicker. You can be “hanging on the point” with just a fraction of a millimeter left to go and feel that your back tension is building, building . . . but the clicker doesn’t go off. This is why clicker setup is critical. If this happens more than a few times in a shooting session, you need to move your clicker out just a hair, so that you will get through it 99 times out of 100.

Postscript The Nautilus and good weight training systems use this phenomenon to maximize the returns on your workout. They set the resistance and the numbers of repetitions to work the muscles involved into a state of complete fatigue, aka they stop working. Then they move you to a different exercise working a different set of muscles and do the same. In this manner they work each group  of muscles as much as they can be worked, every time, which maximize the return in your investment of workout energy.

Originally from A Blog for Archery Coaches.

Can You “Think” Consciously and Subconsciously at the Same Time?

Can You “Think” Consciously and Subconsciously at the Same Time?

I was reading Daniel Goleman’s book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence and the following leapt off the page at me “Voluntary attention, willpower, and intentional choice are top-down; reflexive attention, impulse, and rote habit are bottom-up” (as are distractions).”

By “top-down” he is inferring what Daniel Kahneman would call Type 2 thinking or archer’s “conscious” thinking,” and by “bottom-up” he is referring to what Kahneman would call Type 1 thinking or archers would call “subconscious or unconscious” thinking.

I have learned and have taught all along that an archer’s thought process was something the conscious mind taught the subconscious mind, until it became habit and then the conscious mind followed the process as an observer while shots were executed in earnest subconsciously. The monitoring of the shot sequence gives the conscious mind something to do so that it doesn’t interfere with the subconscious routine, aka habit, which is the shot itself.

For some reason, even though I understood this to be the case, that archers are trying to harmonize the workings of their conscious and subconscious minds to work together . . . at the same time, too often I took this to be switching back and forth between the types of thinking, but now I see that there are two streams of thoughts that are interwoven.

We now know that the subconscious mental activities use the same regions of the brain as do conscious activities. For example, when you are examining something visually, you engage the visual cortex of your brain. If you just imagine the same object, the visual cortex is engaged once again. Those brain cells have been optimized to deal with visual information, so using the same circuitry, as it were, makes very good sense.

So, as our conscious and subconscious minds weave their way through your shot sequence, we do not want to tangle those threads. For example, if you are aiming, you are using your eyesight intensely to align your sight aperture or arrow point with your point of aim. You do not want to use a visualization at this point to help with any aspect of your shot as the visual cortex is involved in aiming and you don’t want to pull it away to imagine a visual object.

So, while you are aiming, you need some nonvisual marker of whether you are completing your shot. Since we can’t use vision, either directly or in a visualization of your draw elbow, for example, we use instead something like the feeling of muscle tension building, building, building in our back muscles which are used to finish the draw and to execute the hold.

We now know that we can hold two things consciously in mind at the same time, instead of the one thing we used to think so we can aim (optimizing our sight picture) and focus upon feeling our back muscle tension building at the same time. (This, by the way, is the only time our conscious attention is split during a shot. The rest of the time, it is one thing at a time.)

So, while you are shooting are you thinking consciously or subconsciously? Answer: yes!

Both steams of thought are continuous and if trained right, interwoven. The key is assigning the right tasks to the right streams.

Originally from A Blog for Archery Coaches.

Did I Miss Something?

Did I Miss Something?

On the USA Archery website I was reading an article about how the U.S. qualified a full men’s team for the Olympics and I read the following in quick succession:

Their last three arrows each found the center of the X ring for a perfect finishing score.”

That last X in the semifinal really felt like an amazing shot.”

Did I miss something? Did they bring the X-ring back for Olympic competition?

I don’t see an X-ring. Do you see an X-ring?

Originally from A Blog for Archery Coaches.