How many times have you been shooting and someone has said to you “it’s not on your back” or “put it on your back”. What do they mean? Simply that they are well meaning helpers that do not know what they mean or do not know how to communicate well.
There is some valid reasoning behind what they are trying to say, however. Let me try to explain.
When you draw the bow you have several options, one is to use fingers and arm muscles, but this makes for a very tiring shoot. Another is to use the front shoulder hunched in towards your ear and pull the bow by arm muscle and levering against the shoulder in your ear, end result – a wonderful bruise on your arm. Their are some strange variations on this theme but they all use arm muscles which will be tiring, especially over a two day competition. The best results will be when you learn to use the two large muscle groups that are in your back, either side of the spine under your shoulder blades. Hence ‘get it on your back’. But how do you achieve this.
First you need a blank boss, indoors preferably (garage, hallway or sports hall) at 12 inches from the end of your long rod. Then shoot into it with your eyes shut, you will not miss with it at the end of your long rod. See if you can feel which muscles that you are using. It will be difficult and will take time. If you cannot feel anything then you are dead! Clear your mind and try this. Raise your bow, draw it back and then heel the grip keeping your shoulder low. You are trying to feel the long muscle tense down your rib cage and under your bow shoulder blade. Try doing this until you feel the muscle hold down the shoulder and you can allow the hand to relax and move forward in the correct position in the grip (i.e. not heeling the grip).
Then move on to the drawing arm. Before drawing back ensure you put your fingers on the string evenly using the same amount of pressure on each finger and the back of the hand is flat and relaxed as much as possible. Then raise the bow with the drawing elbow higher than the hand so much so that your forearm touches your forehead. Push your elbow backwards in an arch keeping it as close to the face as possible whilst drawing the bow. This should cause you to draw the bow back further than you have before with your elbow being around behind your head and you should feel the shoulder blade come hard up against the tense muscle holding down the bow shoulder.
Practice this until you can do both movements together and you will have learnt to ‘shoot off your back’. The effect will be to ensure that you are using the correct muscle groups, it will produce a much cleaner shot, your groups will improve, you will feel less fatigued and you will have learned to feel the shot. This in turn makes the shot easy to reproduce, you are quick to notice if something has gone wrong and should be able to put it right by feeling your way through a few shots. But as always it will not happen overnight; both Jan and Lorna took all of one winter season to get it sorted. Now you will always hear them talking about whether something feels right or giving feelings to what they want to describe within their shooting routine.
Good Luck and remember to ask if you need some help.