Healthy Shoulders for Bow Hunting

Make your next bow hunting season successful using prehabilitation exercises (prevention), rehabilitation exercises strategies’ (if you are injured), and strength tips for rock solid healthy shoulders.


Courtesy of: Morrel Targets.com


One thing I have learned over my fitness professional career, and hunting experiences is not to waste time doing basic gym exercises, but to train specifically for bow hunting. I will describe specific bow hunting exercises and how to do each exercise followed by a workout program with repetitions, sets, and intensities specific to bow hunting shoulder health.


Shoulder Kinesiology (aka movements)


Did you know that your shoulder does twelve basic movements? The shoulder joint moves; in, out, up, down, front, back, rotates in and out. On the technical side of shoulder kinesiology (aka movements) your shoulder; elevates (up), depresses (down), protracts (front), retracts (back), flexes (forward), extends (back), internal rotates (rotates in), external rotates (rotates out), abducts (out), adducts (in), horizontal abducts (front across) and horizontal adducts (back across) - See figure 1.



Figure 1 - Courtesy of: Illinois Neurological Institute


Add the complexity of doing 2, 3 or more of these motions all at the same time. Essentially shooting your bow. Bow or archery shooting requires shoulder retraction, shoulder abduction, shoulder internal rotation, horizontal shoulder abduction and scapular elevation. If your shoulder can do half of these well, one to two ok, and not do one to two movements you will eventually find out with pain, injury or surgery. This is why training, specific exercises, and how we work on these movements can be helpful or harmful to overall shoulder health. Just doing a dumbbell row, shoulder press, or deltoid fly may work, but it might not be an effective or optimal shoulder health strategy.


This topic can be very technical and overwhelming, so please bear with me as I give a helpful overview, as well as an in depth view of techniques for training the shoulder. With that in mind I think this is a great place to start thinking more sport specific about training for bow hunting and archery on a more focused level as opposed to just pulling on a dumbbell in a gym. I understand everyone is coming from a different perspective but overall this should be good sound advice. Know that some movements aren’t for everyone and in my opinion every person should have their own custom exercises/routines.


Here are some helpful exercises, tips, and tricks for archery hunting fitness that I implement for optimal success. Please note that these are suggestions/recommendations and can be modified depending on level/ability and/or equipment. Also note that prehabilitation and rehabilitation exercises can be interchangeable depending on your shoulder health status (healthy or injured). You should consult your physician and/or physical therapist before starting any exercise program.


Prehab. - Prehabilitation exercises (Injury prevention)

Corrective exercises or Prehab is a way for you to keep healthy shoulders (aka prevention).

Internal Shoulder Rotation Isometric: rotator cuff muscles. Lie on your back, with your elbow at shoulder level and your elbow bent at 90 degrees. Then place a book or yoga block in front of your hand/wrist. Lower your hand/wrist down/forward to book/yoga block and push into it. Your hand should end up near your waistline level. Hold with pressure for a given length of time. 3 sets of 10-15 sec. @ 10-20% 1RM.



External Shoulder Rotation Isometric: rotator cuff muscles. Lie on your back, with your elbow at shoulder level and your elbow bent at 90 degrees. Then place a book or yoga block above your hand/wrist. Lower your hand/wrist back/down to the yoga block and push into it. Your hand should end up above your head. Hold with pressure for a given length of time. 3 sets of 10-15 sec. @ 10-20% 1RM.


Single arm stability ball “figure 8” on wall or “circles”: (shoulder stability for push and pull arms). Hold a stability ball on a wall at shoulder height. Then do a figure 8 motion with your shoulder. You can also do circles with a ball on the wall. 3 sets of 15 reps in each direction.



Band Pull Aparts: rotator cuff muscles. Hold an elastic band at shoulder level and pull both arms apart. This will engage your rotator cuff muscles, tendons, and ligaments.3 sets of 15-20 reps. Alternative versions are low (waist height), high (overhead), behind (behind waist). Helpful tip - Start with hands together and pull 3-4 feet apart or as far as your band will let you.


Overhead pull apart shown abv.


Rehab. - Rehabilitation exercises (if you are injured)

Isometrics are my go to exercises if you are injured or on the mend.


If you have pain in a joint or notice differences between the right vs left side, I recommend switching to isometric (hold) exercises verses traditional movement reps to allow your body use the proper muscles and nerve signals. When you put too much weight on your joint and it can't handle the stress, your body will compensate or figure out another way to get the job done (Plan B). You may be able to finish the exercise, but it may not be safe for your joints long term. If you sense pain do isometric holds aka pause with resistance at a safe joint angle that does not cause pain. Never work through pain. Adjust angle, position, load/weight, stop, or consult a professional.


“Y,W,T,L” on a Stability Ball: (10-15reps) with 1-3 lbs. Like the YMCA song you will lie on a stability ball on your chest/stomach. Hold light weights 1-3 lbs.


“Y” is reaching over your head. Raise and lower for a given amount of repetitions.


“W” you will bend at your elbow and pull back. Raise and lower for a given amount of repetitions.


“T” is reaching out to the side of the body and pulling up or back. Raise and lower for a given amount of repetitions.


“L” is bending your elbows at 90 degrees or lying on a stability ball. First pull back then rotate back. It is a two part motion. Raise and lower for a given amount of repetitions.

Pull elbow up from floor

Rotate shoulders and arms back (toward ceiling)


Standing Band “Y’s” Overhead: “Y” is reaching over your head. Raise and lower for a given amount of repetitions. Alternate version - Internally rotate shoulder, or externally rotate shoulder and pull back with overhead pressure backward.



Standing Yoga Block Overhead Squeeze Isometric (Shoulder Adduction): Grab a yoga block, book, or object that is around 6-12” in length. Hold it over your head and apply pressure inward so that your hands are squeezing together. Alternate version - Internally rotate shoulder, or externally rotate shoulder with overhead squeeze pressure.



Single arm stability ball “figure 8” on wall or “circles”: (shoulder stability for push and pull arms). Hold a stability ball on a wall at shoulder height. Then do a figure 8 motion with your shoulder. You can also do circles with a ball on the wall. 3 sets of 15 reps in each direction.



Healthy Shoulder Strength Tips


I encourage you to work out every other day to prevent overuse injuries. This will give your tissues time to heal and repair. If you challenge your body too much, too often you will increase your risk for injury thus jeopardizing your ability to shoot and/or hunt. It is better to go hunting than be sidelined because of an injury. I do heavy resistance training every other day and do corrective, light maintenance range of motion movements, prehab exercises most days to everyday.


Did you know it takes 2-3 days for muscles to repair or heal? Tendons can take 2-3months to heal and ligaments 6-12 months. So even though your muscle(s) can repair your tendons/ligaments might not be healed or recovered. This is why I and you should take a week off every 2-3 months to let my tendons/ligaments heal or repair. This is known as periodization (aka a planned, long term scientific progression).


General Strength Exercises


Back Row(s): Back and shoulder muscles for pulling back your string/bow

3 sets of 10-12 reps (2-3x per week) @ 70-90% effort. This can be done with a dumbbell, barbell or an elastic band. Standing or seated. An alternative is a bent over row.



Side Lying External Shoulder Rotation: rotator cuff muscles. Lie on your side, with your elbow bent at 90 degrees and holding a dumbbell to lift the weight up.

*Tip - try to keep your elbow pinned into your ribs and just move your upper arm (rotating from ball and socket joint).



Chest Press: Upper body push movements are important for shoulder stability and used for pushing your bow out when releasing your arrow. Examples - Chest press, Push up, Db Chest Fly, Dips. 3 sets of 10-12 reps (2-3x per week) @ 70-90% effort.



Door Jamb External Shoulder Rotation: rotator cuff muscles. Stand in a doorway. With your elbow bent at 90 degrees rotating from the ball and socket joint push your wrist/forearm into each side of the door jam. Another option is if you don’t have a good door or your shoulder can’t physically touch the door jamb(s), use a handrail on stairs or on a deck/porch. *Tip - try to keep your elbow pinned into your ribs and just move your upper arm.



Shoulder Shrugs: Shoulder & Neck Muscles. Using a dumbbell or a barbell at your waist level, while holding the weight at your side pull your shoulders up to the ceiling. I usually cue clients to “pull your shoulders to your ears”. This will contract your trapezius muscle which is a major bow/archery mover. Your hands should remain along your side (thighs) from the start position and glide upward to hips while pulling up weights. 3 sets of 10-12 reps (2-3x per week) @ 70-90% effort.



3-Way Shoulder Complex: Front Raise, Deltoid fly or lateral raise, and Side Raise or lateral raise with internal shoulder rotation. This is typically done with dumbbells but you could use a band if needed.

Front raise - you hold dumbbells at thighs and raise them to shoulder height straight ahead. 3 sets of 10-12 reps (2-3x per week) @ 70-90% effort.



Lateral Raise - hold dumbbells at your thighs and lift weight out to side to shoulder height. 3 sets of 10-12 reps (2-3x per week) @ 70-90% effort.


Side raise with internal shoulder rotation: holding dumbbells at your thighs rotate your thumbs backwards (internally rotate shoulder joint). Maintain internal shoulder rotation throughout the entire movement and lift weight out to side to shoulder height. 3 sets of 10-12 reps (2-3x per week) @ 70-90% effort.



Seated Neck Rotation & Neck Extension Isometric: Sitting with a chair against the wall or seating on the floor; lean back, rotate your head and push your head back into the wall. Try to push your chest forward or off the back rest almost like you are arching your neck. Use a yoga block if you need more mobility and can’t touch the wall. 3 sets of 5-10 seconds (2-3x per week) @ 10-25% effort.



These are examples and suggestions, modify as needed.


Disclaimer: Please note that these are suggestions/recommendations and can be modified depending on level/ability and/or equipment. Also note that prehabilitation and rehabilitation exercises can be interchangeable depending on your shoulder health status (healthy or injured). You should consult your physician and/or physical therapist before starting any exercise program.


Workout - Healthy Shoulder Program Example: 3x/week (Basic)


Day 1 (Tuesday)


Pre-Hab.

"Y,W,T,L" on Stability Ball 2x10 each 1-3 lb light dumbbell (25-50%)

Supine Internal Shoulder Rotation Isometric 3x10 sec. each arm 5-10% light effort

Supine External Shoulder Rotation Isometric 3x10 sec. each arm 5-10% light effort

Band Pull Apart 4x10 reps total 50%-60% effort (1x @ Low,Med., High, Behind)


Strength

Back Row (Db, BB, Seated Cable, Band) 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps 60-80% 1RM

Door Jamb External Shoulder Rotation Isometric 3x30 sec. 75-85%

Trunk Rotation (Band or Cable) 3x10-15 each side 75-85%

Prone (Face Down) Back Extension 2x10-12 Bodyweight


Shooting

Basic (Fixed Yardage) 4x10 reps (10@30yds, 10@40yds, 10@50yds, 10@60yds)

Day 2 (Thursday)


Pre-Hab.

Figure "8" on Wall with Stability Ball 2x10 each No resistance just Ball

Door Jamb Internal Shoulder Rotation Isometric 3x10 sec. each arm 5-10% light effort

Band External Shoulder Rotation (90 deg. Elbow) 3x10 sec. each arm 5-10% light effort

Prone (lying face down) rotate neck and hold 4x10 sec. total (2x right, 2x left) Bodyweight


Strength

Shoulder Shrug (Db or BB) 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps 60-80% 1RM

Dips 3x10-15 Bodyweight

Band Wood Chops 3x10-15 each side 75-85% (High to Low)

Band Row while holding a 5 lb dumbbell 3x10-12 75-85% 1RM (Single Arm)

(db in bow hand holding, band in string pulling hand)


Shooting

Contrast (Alt. between close & far Distances) 4 rounds @ 5 reps at each distance (40 total shots) (5 reps @ 20yds + 5 reps @ 80 yds)


Day 3 (Saturday)


Pre-hab.

Mini Band Overhead Pull Aparts (Shoulder Abduct.) 3x10-15 Light Band

Seated Neck Rotation & Neck Extension Isometric 3x5 sec. each side Bodyweight

Shoulder Depression (ROM) 2x10 Range of Motion

Shoulder Protraction (ROM) 2x10 Range of Motion

Shoulder Retraction (ROM) 2x10 Range of Motion


Strength

3 Way Db Shoulder Complex (Front Raise, 2x10 each way 65-75%

Lateral Raise, Internal Rotation with Lateral Raise)

Sidelying Db External Shoulder Rotation (90* Elbow) 2x12 each side 60-65%

Seated Neck Rotation & Neck Extension Isometric

Band Wood Chops 3x10-15 each side 75-85% (Low to High)

Seated Side bend Isometric 3x30 sec. 75-85% (use armed chair if needed)


Shooting

Down Angles & Up Angles 4x10 reps total

Practice on a tree stand, roof, (10reps @ 5yds down) or you can shoot down or (10reps @ 15yds down) up a steep hill/canyon (10reps @ 25yds up) (10reps @ 35yds up)

Copyright by Science of Cardio All Rights Reserved @ 2022


Again I recommend not to work through pain. Try to go to a lighter version and/or an isometric (hold) version or change the angle/position. If you still have pain contact me, a physician, or a physical therapist. I highly recommend doing prehab or isometric exercises from above before and after you shoot on the range. I am humbled when I cut corners, it bites me verses when I do the proper warm up, and I usually feel great.


I hope this helps and makes a difference in your hunts and skill sets. These training techniques should improve joint health, overall strength, and decrease injuries. The goal of this article was to have hunters put prehab, strength together in a total package for healthier shoulders, thus more success.


If you are interested in custom workouts please contact me at info@scienceofcardio.com


Good luck with your upcoming season(s). More information on this topic can be found at:

www.scienceofcardio.com/hunting-fitness


Happy training, shooting, and happy hunting.

8 views0 comments