Archery Exercise and Practice

Blank baling is a pain on the best of days… It’s boring and repetitive and you can quickly reach a point where your just don’t want to do it anymore…

It is, however, one of the best ways to build stamina and muscle memory if you are willing to treat it as a serious exercise and not just flinging arrows to fill up your numbers “quota”.

The MOST IMPORTANT part of blank baling and aiming drills is this:

Every shot must count and must be executed like its the shoot off arrow for the World Cup gold medal.

That means, a full and complete shot sequence:

  1. focus on “target”
  2. pull and nock arrow
  3. adjust bow hand with slight tension in the bow
  4. clean and smooth draw
  5. anchor and aim with a steady bow for 3-5 seconds
  6. release a surprise release (NO Punching or pulling the “trigger”)
  7. smooth follow through directly towards the arrows in the but
  8. say out loud: “Good shot” or “excellent release”
  9. bow down, reset
     
  10. [Go to point 1]

How many shots? That’s up to you, but I think a full round (so 72 arrows if you generally shoot WA720’s) is a good starting point…

So let’s get to some drills

Basic blank baling:

Set up a blank butt about 3-5 yards from your shooting position and execute a set of perfect shots.

Why is this important?
You train shooting stamina as well as muscle memory – when it’s crunch time and adrenaline is pumping, this will be your fallback… The form you created here…


Blind Baling:

Exactly the same as blank baling, except you do it with your eyes closed. This will give you a good idea about your natural body position and direction on the one hand and allows you to feel your release and follow through.

Why is this important?
If your eyes, and therefore your brain, can’t see a target (the butt is also a ’target’), it can’t force a Pavlovian response inducing target panic through drive-by shooting.


Blank Let Downs:

Standard blank bale but with the let down twist.

Shoot one arrow perfect, then do everything with the next arrow, except shooting it. Let it down smoothly after holding the aim for 5-7 seconds. Remove the arrow from your bow, and replace in quiver. Reset and shoot the next arrow with perfect shot execution.

Shoot one arrow, let down one arrow, shoot one arrow, let down one arrow… Until the quiver is empty

Why is this important?
Firstly, it teaches your mind that you do not need to take a shot. You can start again, the sequence can be broken and reset.
Secondly, you practice a maneuver that doesn’t get practices often… The action of slowly bringing the string back without releasing an arrow uses a lot of other muscle groups in a different way. Practicing this gives you confidence in your ability, and also builds stamina to be able to do it without influencing your next shot too badly.


Targeted blank baling:

Set up small target faces on your blank baling butt. Half as many faces as you have arrows. Move the butt to about 10 yards or so… You can move it further over time, if you need to.

Shoot your first arrow at a target with a perfect shot. The next one blank, then target, then blank… Until all your arrows are shot.

You can alternate this with let downs to make this exercise even more taxing.

Why is this important?
When we shoot at a target, we inadvertently want to release a good shot, so we slightly or subtly change our grip and anchor points, etc. By swopping between a target face an a blank face, we give our body a chance to reset to a “perfect” form between shots… Enforcing muscle memory during a “target” practice.


Basic aiming drill:

On a short distance butt, place small target faces (like indoor spots). Set up to shoot a perfect target shot, but hold your aim in the inner ring (white 5-ring IFAA spot or yellow 9-ring on WA indoor 3-spot targets) for 3-5 seconds before shooting.

Why is this important?
Aiming drills like these teaches you to remain steady on target, and not shoot on response to seeing the centre of the target face (”drive by” shooting)


Let down aiming drills:

On a short distance butt, place small target faces (like indoor spots). Set up to shoot a perfect target shot, but hold your aim in the inner ring (white 5-ring IFAA spot or yellow 9-ring on WA indoor 3-spot targets) for 3-5 seconds before letting down.

Remove arrow from the rest and put it away.

You can change up this practice drill by alternating shots with let downs.

Why is this important?
The let downs simulates what happens in competition when you don’t achieve a good aim. You teach your body and more importantly, your mind, that you can let down, even though you were “reasonably” happy with your aim, give it a rest, and reset to try again.

This is also a big stamina builder.


Super aiming drill:

This drill is pure stamina for mind and body

On a medium distance butt (10-20 yards), place small target faces (like indoor spots). Set up to shoot a perfect target shot, but hold your aim in the inner ring (white 5-ring IFAA spot or yellow 9-ring on WA indoor 3-spot targets) for as long as you can. Hold it until your pin or dot goes outside the white/yellow ring. Let down.  

Remove arrow from the rest and put it away.

Why is this important?
There will be days that you will need to hold the bow for extended periods, due to wind or inclement weather. Having the stamina to do it, and knowing that you actually can do is a big bonus. Added benefit, a standard 3-5 sec aiming shot will be easy to maintain.


Grids and Lines Aiming drill

Set up your empty butt at any distance (varying the distance helps to see problems with sight setup or a leaning bow as well) Set your sight to a different distance than what you are shooting at. Now simply shoot a shot and then shoot your next shot at the nock of the previous one, building grids.

Why is this important?
Any “leaning” lines shows a problem with your bow leaning or your windage setup (left/right) but more importantly, you are teaching yourself to aim small in a big space. If you are shooting a dot on a lens, it also teaches you not to worry about not being able to actually “see” what you are aiming at.


First shot aiming drill:

Set up two or three new indoor target faces on 10yds or so. Set your sight far left or right (or up or down)

Now simply do a steady aim on the large clean face and take your shot. You will not be close to the middle of the target, but that’s the idea. Repeat for a session.

Why is it important?
The very first shot on a clean target face without reference marks can be nerve wrecking as you try to place your spot or pin right in the middle of the face. Not such a big problem when you are fresh, but if judges change your target face during a round to be able to call line cutters better, then you suddenly have to face the clean target face again.


Line cutter aiming drill:

Set up a medium distance target about 5m away on your butt. Shot an arrow on the line for every scoring ring exactly in the midline (horizontal, then vertical) – so 6/7-ring then 7/8 ring, 8/9 ring etc, etc… So you will end up with a cross of arrows on the lines of the targets.

Alternative: select a line/ring and shoot in a circle around the target on this ring.

Why is this important?
You are teaching yourself to aim small, at a very specific point on the target, and making your brain used to the fact that you can shoot where you aim.

By doing it this way, you have good focus, and good aim, but without the attached pressure of a score.