I would like to take this time to try and uncover one of the most talked about and yet to most one of the biggest mysteries in archery, the proper way to learn and execute a shot using back tension. It is no secret that the use of back tension is one of the most powerful tools one can have in thier archery arsenal, and yet every year countless numbers of shooters either ignore or try and discard this method of executing a shot. I’m going to try to help everyone get to the bottom of why they just can’t seem to make this work for them.
By this time most of us have heard of the advantages of shooting back tension and yet for the most part we avoid it at all cost, or we try it for a week and switch right back to our old way of shooting in this article i would like to get right to the bottom of why so many do just that. While back tension is held as the best way to execute a shot what many people don’t understand is that it is not a magic spell to great shooting and there is a great deal of learning that needs to be done before you will see the effects. I believe this factor alone is why many give up long before they ever even come close to grasping the consept.
To properly learn back tension you have to first realize your actually learning two things not just one. The first thing we need to learn is to execute the shot using back tension, in this step we need to totally re-program our shot execution. once this is acomplished we then need to learn to trust our new shot sequence. i am going to try to cover the best possible way to acomplish both of these.
1. The shot
First thing we need to learn is to properly execute the shot. this step should take no less than 2 weeks prefferably a month. The first thing we need to do is learn just how a properly executed shot is supposed to feel. It is best to learn this using a string bow (a piece of cord with a large loop tied on one end for your hand and a smaller loop on the other end for your release) it is important to adjust your cord to perfectly mock you actual draw length. once you have your string bow built it’s time to start. Set up for your shot with the string bow like you would for any other shot attach your release to the small loop and apply preasure to both ends as if you were at full draw and then find a comfortable/repeatable anchor. At this point i like to pre-load my release by tightening my grip just tight enough to reach my click (if you use a clicker) after this is acheived there should be no more movement in your hand at all. from this point you want to picture your string bow as being a big rubber band, the idea is to stretch the band by pushing and pulling. as you are pushing toward the target and pulling directly away from the target you should feel the muscles right underneeth the lower half of your shoulder blade (between the shoulder blade and the spine) start to tighten, you want to continue to stretch the band until the shot breaks free. At this point it should be obvious wether you executed the shot properly or if you cheated your way through it, with the properly executed shot the string should snap forward several feet. Once you learn to execute the shot properly you need to give yourself some time to remember this step before moving on, practice with your string bow several times a day for no less than a week (prefferably two weeks for this step) through this step you need to ingrain both in your brain and in your muscles exactly what a good shot should feel like, once you have acomplished this much it’s time to move onto a real bow.
now with your bow ready remove the sight (it will only get in the way at this point) now it’s time to learn how to take what you’ve learned on the string bow and apply it to a real bow where other forces will be introduced. spend the next 2-3 weeks practicing your new shot execution on a blank target bale from a distance of 6 feet or less, again we’re trying to ingrain this new shot and how it feels into our brain and our muscles. i suggest making at least 50 blank bale shots a day for 2-3 weeks until you no longer have to think about what to do to reach the feeling in your muscles that makes the release fire. once you have the shot thoroughly ingrained into your muscle memory it will be time to move onto the next step.
2. learning to trust your new shot.
It is my belief that this is the step that most people skip and also the reason why most people give up on back tension all together. This new shot process is no different than anything else that is new, we don’t quite have the confidence we need in it yet, many people skip this step all together and at first they may shoot ok using back tension but all of a sudden they’ll have a bad day and ditch back tension all together.Like anything else we need to learn how to use this and learn how to trust it if not it will be the first thing we blame when something goes wrong because it’s the newest tool in our arsenal. to learn how to trust it we need to start close and make it easy. put your sight back on your bow and for the first time in weeks get ready to shoot at an actual target. start out with a big target and stand close to the target. i suggest starting at 7 yards some might want to start at 10 yards either is fine but no further than 10. practice shooting at close range at a larger than normal target (5-6 inches) at first your brain is going to want to freak out this is perfectly normal and the key reason for starting so close and using a large target. shooting up close is easier to hold on target and using the larger target makes it even easier these two things combined should help to ease your mind. practice daily at this distance until you can consistantly hit the target with no thought at all going into the release proccess. once you are comfortable at this point and your shots are happening effortlessly move back 2 yards and repeat. you should spend no less than 1 week shooting at each distance moving back 2 yards at a time. each time you move back you should carry over the confidence you built the prior week. through this process you will teach yourself to trust the shot and just aim, by starting close it makes it easier for you to hit the target and thus making it easier to trust the shot. if at any distance you loose your comfort or your confidence move back to the previous spot and start over from that point. ( i find it easier to start each practice session by shooting a coulple of rounds from the previos weeks distance just to get into the groove). over time you will learn to trust your new shot process at any distance and it is then that you can start to see the advantages of shooting back tension.
The real key to this whole process is comitment don’t short change youself or try to hurry the process at all or you’ll end up like everyone else who tried and gave up on back tension. your going to need to commit alot of time to learning this the right way but in the end it will all be worth it. plan on spending a few months learning and be prepared and warned that it will get worse before it gets better. back tension is not an overnight remody but if given the time and learned right it will be the thing that can take your shooting to the next level. keep a posative mental outlook and commit yourself to learning it the right way and you will thank yourself down the road.
good luck and shoot straight