Healthy Bowhunting Shoulders

Bowhunting requires healthy mobile shoulders to draw and shoot archery tackle.  An injury to either shoulder can leave you sidelined for the season or worst yet, have you permanently removed from the sport all together.  So if the shoulders play such an intricate role in what we do, the question is what are you doing to keep your shoulders bullet-proof?  You’re not getting any younger, so to keep those aging muscles strong you need a specific list of exercises to get the job done.

The Golden Rule

Skeletal muscle abides by one rule; use it or lose it. This generally accepted rule of thumb equates to gradual loss in strength as we age and become less active.  Any loss in muscle will have a negative affect on your ability to draw and shoot your bow.  You can easily deteriorate your shoulders by not using them throughout the year and believe it or not, your posture can have a big say in the matter as well.  All of us want accuracy and precision; it’s correlated to our ability to hold steady at full-draw from a solid foundation.  Our mid to lower trapezius muscles coupled with rhomboids and posterior deltoids make up some of our key bowhunting muscles.  To combat the aging process, you must implement strength training into your fitness regimen, and be extremely cognizant of your posture.


Like any other muscle, those in the shoulder will weaken if not used and strengthened; which will directly affect your shooting.

Straighten Things Out

The shoulders tend to roll forward when we are at a desk staring at a computer monitor.  We hunch forward when we drive, and most athletes I train tend to lack perfect posture.  Most folks are completely unaware that their slouch and forward head can devastate shoulder health and expedite problematic shoulder syndromes that could have been avoided entirely.  Poor posture is like driving a vehicle that is out of alignment.  Sure you can keep hammering the miles, but eventually you feel the effects of wear and tear and poor fuel economy.  The shoulders need to be in proper alignment.  So the first bit of advice is to fix your posture throughout the day.


There are several muscles that make up the shoulder and back and each one should be given equal attention when training.

Bring your shoulder blades close to the spine, and then depress them down.  You will definitely notice that this is an unfamiliar posture, but it is the correct one.  If you have a sedentary job make sure your chair is high enough to encourage strong ergonomics. Also, when driving adjust your review mirror so that you have to sit up tall to see behind you.  A few adjustments in your shoulder posture can prevent wear and tear, impingement, and other problems that a bowhunter simply does not need.  Now, let’s look a little closer at how to make your shoulders strong throughout the year.

Muscles Need This

Strength training is nothing more than providing a dose of “stress” to working muscle. You actually get your dividend once the broken down muscle has the opportunity to repair, adjust, and come back stronger.  Strength training remedies age-related muscle loss, mobility loss, and should positively affect your ability to shoot your bow.  Strong and mobile shoulders sponsor a smooth and stealthy draw, provide more stability while at full draw, and improve your ability to pull more poundage for years to come.  Many of my older bowhunting peers have been forced to drop their bow poundage down to the high forties and low fifties to counteract the loss in muscle strength.  Being active and pursuing resistance training will allow you to have complete confidence in your physical ability which enables you to focus your full attention on the process of shooting and hunting. 


You don’t need to build an “Arnold-like” physic to improve shooting but you should incorporate some type of shoulder training into your pre-season workouts.

The Workouts

The best bowhunting exercises are the ones that strengthen many different muscles at the same time while mimicking some of the same attributes of our sport.  This type of training is called “functional strength” training; which is the best approach to improving performance.  Incorporate the following exercises into your current routine (weekly) and you will slow down the sands of bowhunting time:

Other Strength Training Benefits:•Improves soft tissue structure (ligaments, tendons, etc.)•Increases metabolic rate•May lower blood pressure •Relieves stress •Decreases injury potential







While lying prone, pin your shoulder blades back as you move your arms backwards in the same plane.  Pause at the end of the movement. Perform a few sets of 12 repetitions.  Focus on slow and controlled movement and strive for full range of motion without bending at the elbow.

Incline Push-ups

inc1Draw the abs in while pulling the shoulder blades towards the spine and then down towards your back pocket, then perform a push-up.  You should feel this more in your mid back than your chest or arms.  Perform a few sets of as many reps while maintaining strict form.


spr1Surprised?  Actually, sprinting is your ace in the hole and requires bursts of powerful movements at the shoulder, back, and hips!  This move is great for postural strength and is very taxing on the entire body.  Find some stairs and you’ll feel it everywhere!  Perform a handful of sets and try to keep each sprint under thirty seconds.


t1t2Bend at the waist creating a 45 angle with your spine. Keep your thumbs pointed away from your body.  Let your arms hang towards the ground, then pull your shoulder blades close to the spine and depressed.  Raise your arms out to the side creating a “T” while maintaining perfect posture.  Perform several sets of 15 reps.


The author (pictured here with his first bull elk, routinely practices shoulder strengthening exercises to insure he gets the most out of his bowhunting career.


There’s an art to drawing a bow back undetected  especially when adrenaline has saturated your bloodstream after sitting motionless in a treestand for hours in freezing temperatures.  Then the labor of love dragging a big buck back to the truck or lifting heavy elk quarters into a backpack. Both require strong and healthy shoulders.  Your daypack or heavy backpack rests upon your shoulders.  In fact, all bowhunting endeavors rest upon your shoulders.  You owe it to yourself to take care of them through weekly strength training and a conscious effort to improve your posture.  Take heed to these words and don’t be that guy that has to hang up the bow due to an injury or surgery.  Keep those shoulders strong and mobile for years to come!


  1. Jeremy Yancey says:

    I found out last year when I decided to forego the gym in lieu of bowhunting all season that my ability to draw my bow was really affected. By the end of bowseason I struggled to get my bow to full draw without leaning back. This offseason I have hit the gym regularly and I was really suprised how easy it is now to draw my bow. I just did a 30 arrow 3D shoot and never once had to lean back. Working the shoulders is definitely a must. The downdraw was the hardest on my joints, it used to feel like my bow was going to rip my shoulder off.

  2. Just got back into traditional archery. Sore shoulders are a reality even though I’ve stayed in good “70 year old” shape. Doing lots of functional training and not shooting too many arrows in one session. So far no serious injury. I’m backing off for a week or so. Fun …..


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