As with each new year, fascination with the word ‘exercise’ swells. Gym memberships surge, diets proliferate, and alcohol consumption plunges, all in an effort to reclaim some small semblance of our former physical and mental self.
Our feeds are flooded with exercise-tailored content to support this surging desire for fitness, providing us with thorough step-by-step instructions for a total body makeover.
This article is not that.
Instead, consider this a guide to off-season maintenance, where we’ve highlighted six quick and easy exercises that can be done at your desk.
An overall bowhunting fitness regime involves a multitude of muscle groups not covered here. However, there is much to gain from a few reps here and there. The bar is low, yet the benefit high.
For each of the exercises documented below, I leveraged a power resistance loop band. They are narrow flat bands with a circumference around seven feet and can be folded or looped to fit most exercises.
Even though I prefer the broad functionality of the power resistance loop band, tube, flat, bungee, or therapy style bands will suffice. Regardless, any band is better than no band, so pick one out and get after it.
Perform the exercises below once a week to maintain key bowhunting-related muscles during the off-season.
1. Bow Row
Any variation of the row is a top choice for improving your bow draw strength, regardless of body position or equipment. It works the key muscles required for confident bow draws.
The, “bow row,” as I like to call it, further tailors the standard row exercise to archers by mimicking the actual drawing motion. It’s the pushup of the archery exercise world.
To perform the bow row, start by positioning your body in typical bow-shooting form. Then, wrap one end of the band in the pocket of your off hand, just as you would hold your bow.
Next, keep the band taught and firmly grip the band with your draw hand, about 10 inches from your off hand. Finally, pull the band back to anchor, ensuring proper bow draw form. Hold this position for several seconds, then slowly return to start and repeat.
For muscular balance, be sure to repeat the bow row on your non-dominant side.
2. “Just a Forky” Shrug
Traps exist in the critical back muscle group, which are the primary muscles leveraged when drawing back your bow. They run along your spine, from the base of your head to the middle of your back, extending out like a triangle at the shoulders.
Arms, head, neck, and scapulas all get support from the traps. Whether ascending a tree or hauling gear through dense cover, these puppies get a workout. They’re important. These shrugs will keep them in shape.
First, layout the band and step in the middle, grabbing each end of the band with your hands. Move to a standing position, hanging your arms on your sides. Activate your core, keeping your body straight and slightly bending your knees.
Now, pull your shoulders up, like your trying to touch your ears. Hold this position for several seconds, then slowly return to start and repeat.
The shoulders are one of the most neglected parts of our body. Add this quick exercise to your repertoire for a quick and easy way to keep them in check.
3. “Tailgate” Chest Press
As with any fitness regime, muscular balance is vital. All these back-focused archery muscles need a ying to their yang, and the chest is a popular option. Fortunately, your chest plays a massive role in everyday activities like lifting and pushing, while also stabilizing your shoulders.
It’s easy to understand how hunters and bowhunters alike benefit from strong chest muscles. So, this is definitely not a wasted effort.
For this exercise, grab each end of the band and wrap it around the middle of your back. Now, with your arms at chest level, extend your hands out in front of you. Hold this position for several seconds, then slowly return to start.
4. “Buck Down” Shoulder Press
Shoulders are (or will be) a persistent trouble area for most people. They’re complicated, frequently used muscles; therefore, easily susceptible to damage. Sports, exercise, or any repeated overhead motion can take its toll.
Since bowhunters typically hunt from an elevated position, bowhunting is no exception. No matter how you cut it, the shoulder is a vital muscle, and it behooves us to keep them tuned.
To perform this exercise, place one side of the band under your feet while grabbing the other side with both hands. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart.
Next, position your hands on the outside of your shoulders, engage your core, and press up toward the sky. Briefly hold at the top.
Now, using a four-count, slowly descend your hands down back to the starting position and repeat. Add in a squat for added benefit.
5. “Dramatic” Pull-Aparts
Ah, the back again. See a trend here? While a tone back might not garner more gawks than bulging biceps, it’s challenging to identify a more critical, yet overlooked, muscle group.
Whether sitting, lifting, or coughing, your back is heavily involved. This particular exercise will focus on the upper back and the shoulder, both of which factor heavily in draw strength.
For pull-aparts, start by placing your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the band in front of you at chest level. Next, pull the band out to your sides until your arms are aligned with your shoulders. Imagine the antler width of your next trophy and hold that position for several seconds.
Slowly return to start and repeat. Be sure to keep your core engaged throughout. If you’re so inclined, this exercise works nicely with a lunge. Otherwise, keep it simple to encourage consistency.
The next time you draw your bow, drag harvested game, or load up your pack, you’ll be glad you did these pull-aparts.
6. “Trophy Pose” Curl
This one might fall under the category of glamour muscles, but I couldn’t resist. Most exercises that work the arms already place a considerable load on your biceps.
However, considering how long we like to pose with our trophies, a smidgen of supplementary bicep burn can’t hurt.
For curls, fold the band and lay it flat on the ground. With your feet shoulder-width apart, stand in the middle of the band and grab the other end with both hands. Your arms should be fully extended, with your elbows close to your side.
Next, keeping your elbows in place, pull the band up. Hold this position for several seconds, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
These curls should give you plenty of strength to hold next season’s monster rack.
While this is not a step-by-step tutorial toward total body fitness, it’s a useful off-season maintenance tool kit. Many of the critical muscle groups for active bowhunters are barely covered here, if at all.
However, these quick and easy exercises will retain a good portion of your bowhunting muscles during the off-season. If you have a band lying around, give them a try. Ten minutes once a week should do the trick.
How do you stay in bowhunting shape during the off-season? Let us know your routine in the comments below.