For the better part of a decade, I have trained all sorts of athletes

Learn to surround the castle

When it comes to their training program I have one rule. I try not to equate any of the movements to matching a skill within the field of play. Sure there are exercises that may resemble certain movement patterns, but at the end of the day that is still what it is; a movement pattern. My goal in this is to create strong movements that can translate into strong skills. Drawing a bow, as a coach, is no different. 

Archery Mechanics

Elbow up, No death grip on the release, push and pull keeping the arrow as horizontal as possible while finding my anchor point. This is the routine that I’ve been coached to use over the years. I’ve had the privilege of shooting with some great archers. This step by step method was created with a little help and a lot of sessions on the range. 

With a bow set at a 75lb draw, I don’t have room to make a mistake or pull anything out of line. But here’s the kicker: the position in which you draw and fire a bow, is a position that I would never try to recreate for reps and progressive overload in the gym without an actual bow present. The position of the elbow can make for some not so fun things to happen at the shoulder joint. Which leaves the question of how you strengthen your bow arm? Keep reading, I’ll tell you.

Only Rows Will Do

That subtitle can be misleading as rows are the number one go-to exercise when trying to strengthen your draw. I’ll level with you, it may be the most important but there are other factors that go into drawing a bow. It comes from focusing on the position your arm is in while at full draw, more specifically the elbow being high. 

Sure as you draw the bowstring, your arm is moving backward, clearly a row. But what about the rest of your shoulder having to stabilize as you do; more importantly the top of the shoulder. If you think of the tension on top of the shoulder I think of overhead pressing and then side raises or rotator cuff stabilization as maintenance work. 

Many have said I’m overthinking the drawing of a bow, however, I have seen people that can row an 80 and 90lb dumbbell that cannot draw a 70+ pound bow. At times, it takes looking at the entire picture to maximize  movement.

Surround the Castle

Rowing is important but so is shoulder stabilization

There is a phrase and practice that I’ve stolen from one of my favorite fitness icons, Alwyn Cosgrove. It is the practice of ‘Surrounding the Castle.’ In fitness, your main goal for a program or phase in a program is your “castle.” In this case, drawing a bow will be our castle. As you work to increase your strength to either increase your draw weight or just be able to shoot with ease you have to look at every aspect that could be weak in it. Rowing should be your main focus. It is afterall a pulling motion. But surrounding that movement with the likes of Over Head pressing, Landmine pressing, and lateral raises to help stabilize your string will give you a huge advantage.

Nothing you do in the gym can ever replace getting your reps in at the range. But like any strong castle, fortifying your drawing motion from all angles and with more than rows can only make you better.

It is time to start shooting to prepare for the fall.  For a free consultation shoot me an e-mail at  I’m happy to answer any questions you might have and help you get and stay #FitToHunt!

Nick Lape is the head coach and co-founder of #FitToHunt