sharon - old bow

Low poundage bows are not a waste of time or money

So before I start let me wish everyone a very Happy New Year. I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and are looking forward to the new year, full of archery.

I wanted to start this year by addressing a question that has arisen through recent coaching sessions, that of the use of light draw weight bows.

In many of the techniques I’ve mentioned over the years and will be in these articles on target anxiety or target panic, I’ve sited, you are best using a light poundage bow, rather than your normal draw weight.
This is something I believe is of huge benefit for archers whether they are new to the hobby or experienced.
Bows of relatively light draw weight, say 18lbs provide a useful tool for an archer, as from personal experience I find them heavy enough to allow the person to execute proper back tension, whilst being light enough poundage for them not to have to be fighting to hold it at full draw. I’ve used light draw bows myself when I’ve been struggling with my form or recovering from a shoulder injury so I know it works.
Another advantage with these bows is it allows the archer time to focus on improving different elements such as draw up, release or anchoring more easily. By shooting the lighter draw weight, it allows you to develop good posture, overall form, release, etc. All these elements then go to give you confidence in your ability and shot sequence. In turn building confidence in your shooting when you transit to your normal weight bow.
Think back to when you started shooting. Chances are you didn’t start with a heavy draw weight bow? I’m guessing you started with a lower draw weight bow, so you could develop your skills and muscles, without straining yourself. So does it not make sense to revisit these bows when you are developing your confidence and techniques to overcome target panic?
Remember using these bows is less about being strong and/or hitting the bullseye at 40 yards, it’s about learning to control your anxiety.
I have a couple of such bows in my coaching arsenal that have helped more archers than I can remember. They are simple 18lb takedown recurves, one ILF for those more used to shooting that style and one with wooden riser and simple bolt-in limbs for those who prefer the feel of a wooden riser. I quite enjoy using these bows myself at times to keep my form and technique solid. For those interested, I normally shoot a 45lb flatbow.
Sadly I’ve seen an implied stigma from some archers when you suggest using a lighter bow, as though they see its a failure or not macho. It’s not an indication of failure and this mentality is something I get very annoyed about. So in short and a message to those that think that, grow up.

N.B. Just a quick point here. If you are fighting to draw and hold your bow at full draw, then chances are you are over bowed i.e. the draw weight is too high.

Thanks for reading

Bow weights for beginners and Juniors

At a recent coaching course I was co-running, the question of bow draw weights for beginners and junior archers was raised. This is both a very important question and a complex one, with no easy answer.
The true answer is partly dependent on what age the archer is when they start along with their physical development. Everyone is different and trying to standardise and prescribe anything in stone simply doesn’t work. So here are some points to consider to help you decide.
  • If you start with too high a poundage in draw weight  for the newbie they can become fatigued quickly and their form will suffer as the archer struggles to cope.
  • Too heavy a mass weight can tire the arms of young archers, resulting in dropping their arm.
  • Another factor that is worth considering is how some young archers develop in height earlier than others but this does not mean they have muscle development for longer draws.
There are other elements that play a part here too, such as peer pressure which can occur when coaching a group or even a family if there are two siblings that try to compete with one another. Peer pressure can cause anxiety and increased stress associated with being watched and not doing as well as others or drawing the same poundage as their fellow archers.
I was lucky enough to be shown the specifications that the scouting organisation in the UK use which provides some good guidance on potential draw weights for different age ranges.
Age Range Maximum bow weight at start of course Maximum draw weight by end of the course
Up to 12 yrs old 14 lbs 16 lbs
13-14 16 lbs 18 lbs
15-16 18 lbs 22 lbs
17-18 20 lbs 24 lbs
19+ 20 lbs 24 lbs

I have to say I am a fan of using small “jelly bows” that are very low draw weight and light in hand. Ideal for under 10 year old. We bought a couple of these from Merlin Archery ( though we don’t use the arrows provided.

On take down recurves I start low 10lb or 12lb and let them see how it feels. We have a selection of limbs which we can swap out and have found this of great benefit. Again we bought some bows from Merlin – the Core Pulse in both 54 inch and 64 inch.
When I get the opportunity I will write up a review of these bows in the near future.
The best advice I can give anyone is start with a low draw weight and light bow. If they aren’t having to fight the bow or struggle holding the mass weight they are more likely to learn and in turn succeed.
Thanks for reading.