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9 Strength and Conditioning Exercises for Archery

Archery is a relaxing, calming sport, but one that requires incredible strength of mind and body. As you focus on your target, clear your head, and ready for the release, you activate numerous muscles throughout your body that need regular training. Whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned archer, incorporating archery strength training into your schedule is essential to improve your shot.  Archery training exercises vary greatly and depend on what you are capable of and which muscles you want to work. To give you a general idea of which types of exercise you should include in your archery workout program, we have compiled a list of 9 diverse movements.  First let’s start with a primer:

What Muscles Do You Use in Archery?

At first glance you may think that only your arms are working when you draw and hold the bow. In actuality, there are about a dozen main muscles throughout the whole upper body that are working together. Some notable muscles include:

  • Deltoids in the shoulders
  • Latissimus, teres major, and teres minor in the back
  • Biceps and triceps in the arms
  • Pectorals in the chest

Some of the best exercises for archery focus on the upper body and core. There are some workouts for bowhunters that isolate specific muscles and strengthen them as well.

Tips to Getting Started

Each of the movements we will look at can be adapted to your strength, ability, and accessibility to workout materials. If you are new to these exercises, start slow. For a modified version you can try doing exercises without weights. Just the movement will activate those muscles, and after a few reps, you will still feel a nice burn.

If you can’t do all the recommended sets, start with what you can and work up to longer sessions.  If you want to challenge yourself, increase the weight of your dumbbells and the number of reps you do. You can also increase how many times a week you do the exercises.

Remember, you want to focus on strength training for bow hunting. Results are never immediate and you must put in time and effort in order to see success.


Some of these archery exercises are more effective with equipment, but it is not always necessary. You don’t need expensive archery exercise equipment to do these workouts, although they are helpful. There are some suggestions listed below on how to activate the target muscles without weights or machines.

Set Your Routine

One final thing to keep in mind is what your bowhunting workout routine should contain. While you may want to start strong with 20 reps of each exercise, make sure to gauge your physical capabilities accurately. In general, beginners should do 1 set of 8 reps of each exercise. Over time, you can work up to the advanced level of 3 or more sets of 15 reps. Overworking, bad form, or pain can be detrimental and cause irreversible damage.

Start doing these exercises for bowhunting three days a week and increase it if you feel comfortable. Do less at first and as your body acclimates you can increase the number of reps and days that you workout. Starting small has a higher chance of success as you will be more willing to keep to your routine if it less time and work to begin.

Strength and Conditioning Exercises

Here are the nine exercises that should be at the core of a routine for bowhunting, competitive, or even recreational archery: 

  • One-Arm Bumbbell Laterals
  • Dumbbell Shrug
  • Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
  • Bench Dips
  • Back Raises
  • Push-Ups
  • Planks
  • Overhead Tricep Extensions
  • Rowing Machine

1. One-Arm Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Muscles used: Deltoids

Of all the bowhunting exercises, this one may be the most straightforward. Grab your weight (or start without) and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Put your arm that is not lifting the weight on your waist for support. Then, lift the other arm up and to the side at a ninety-degree angle.

When lifting the weight a good technique is not to “throw” the weight up but slowly raise it up. Make sure to bring the weight back down very slowly as well, still working those muscles. Using every angle and every second of holding the weight will build all the secondary and tertiary supporting muscles which are crucial shooting a bow.

2. Dumbbell Shrug

The muscle used: Trapezius

Pick up the weights you feel comfortable with and have one in each hand resting at your sides. If you need to, start without weights and work your way up to 10 pounds or more. 

The trapezius is the muscle that stretches like a diamond from the base of your skull to the center of your back. It also reaches the tips of your shoulders. To activate it, hold the weights still and just lift your shoulders in a normal shrugging motion. Control each movement, so you are continually keeping your muscles active.

Don’t just let your shoulders fall back to a resting position; follow the instructions in the video for the correct form. Again, slow and steady wins the race. We are looking to increase the strength of all the little muscles involved in pulling a bow back and stabilizing it. Big, fast movements will not get us where we want to go. We want slow and methodical reps that burn.

3. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

Muscles used: Latissimus, Rhomboids, Deltoids, Biceps, Pectorals

There are a couple of different methods to do this excellent bowhunter workout. If you feel comfortable using weights, go ahead and grab them. However, they are not necessary, especially for beginners. This workout is easiest if you start by resting one knee on a support structure, placing the other leg back a bit, and leaning forward resting one hand on the support as well. For the support structure you can use a bed, chair, table, or the bench at the gym.

If you don’t want to use any support, just stretch one leg back to make a straight line from your heel to your head. Bend the other leg and keep the knee right below your shoulder. On the side of the leg stretched back, pick up a dumbbell.

Your elbow should be parallel and at the same height with your shoulder at the apex of the movement. Gently bring your hand back down, not letting it fall, slowly. We are working muscles in both directions up and down. Your other arm can rest on your bent knee or the support structure. One final note is to keep your chest high and maintain form. Slow, methodical, and tense muscles are what we are looking for.

4. Bench Dips

Muscles used: Triceps, Deltoids, Trapezius, Pectorals

Bench dips are an effective archery workout that involves zero equipment, allowing you to do them anywhere. All you need is a table, chair, bench, or even stairs with the right height. You should be able to sit on it and have your legs bent at a 90-degree angle comfortably.

To do this exercise correctly, sit on the edge of the structure and grip the edge of it closest to you with your palms facing backward. Pick your butt up and move it off the edge while positioning your feet at whatever distance away you’re comfortable with. Further away will be more difficult. For beginners, you can keep your legs bent and feet flat against the floor. When in position bend your arms to lower your torso towards the floor but without coming in contact with the floor. Lift your body back up and repeat.

The more advanced version extends the legs straight out, lowering your body as far as you can to the floor. The video shows how to do both forms correctly.

5. Bent-Over Rear Lateral Raises

Muscles used: Deltoid, Teres Minor, Rhomboids, Trapezius

While this exercise for archery is more effective with weights, doing the movements without them will still use and engage the muscles. 

Sit down on a bench (or chair) with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Bend over and rest your weights directly behind your feet. For the right posture, be sure to reference the video. Without lifting your chest, raise both dumbbells straight out until they are at height with the top of your back. Do not allow the weight to fall back down. Control the weights and slowly lower them, taking advantage of gravity to work all the ancillary muscles that are crucial to archery.

6. Push-Ups

Muscles used: Deltoid, Tricep, Bicep, Pectoral, Abdomen

Push-ups are probably the most common archery shoulder exercises because they efficiently work so many muscles in the shoulders, upper arms, and chest. Even though they are popular and supposedly simple, you may need to switch it up a bit to make this bowhunting workout genuinely useful.

If you are new to push-ups, stick to the regular options: with your legs stretched out behind you or on your knees. For these generic push-ups, make sure your hands are placed slightly to the outside of your shoulders and keep your body in a straight line. Control every movement and ensure you don’t let your hips move up.

Take it up a notch with push-up variations, as shown in the video. One option is a rotational push-up, which includes a twist at the top. Open your body up to one side, pushing up on your fingers on the outer side. Go back down, and do the same on the other side. 

A perfect variation for the shoulders is a crossover push-up. At the top of the push-up, stretch one arm across the other hand and bring it back before lowering down. You can do this with or without a band. 

If you want to work your chest muscles more, place your hands on an exercise ball, and do the push-up. The inward force of your arms balancing on the ball will activate more muscles throughout the upper body.

7. Planks

Muscles used: Deltoids, Rhomboids, Triceps, Biceps, and Latissimus

Planks are famous for being an easy full-body workout. They are great exercises for bowhunting because they let you focus on the upper body while still activating your core and leg muscles, all of which are necessary for archery. Two popular planks for bow hunting workouts are on your hands or forearms. For both of these, make sure your body is in a straight line by activating your core muscles. Generally when we refer to our core muscles we are talking about our abdomen and lower back. When doing a plank workout, your abs should be tense at all times. When you are finished with your planks your abs will be screaming at you.

Keep your hands (or elbows) below your shoulders and hold for as long as you can. You can see the details of how to do the perfect plank with this workout video.

8. Overhead Tricep Extensions

Muscles used: Triceps

You can do this practical exercise for archers seated or standing and with or without weights. If you opt not to use weights, this is still good for warming up and stretching the triceps.

Extend your arms straight up over your head, then slowly bend your arms until you feel the weights touch your back.

Keep your arms bent and bring them forward before pushing them up and straight again, as shown in this video.

The key is to do this slowly, strengthening the muscle with each rep.

9. Rowing Machine

Muscles used: Deltoids, Biceps, Triceps, Pectorals, Abs

While we know not everyone has access to a rowing machine, we wanted to include this option because it is so effective. The rowing machine is so good because it uses the whole body. It uses muscles from the shoulders all the way down to the calves if done correctly. If you don’t have a machine, you can still do the same movements at home with bands attached to a door or wall. The machine will, of course, be easier and much more effective but you can still get an effective workout with bands.

Resistance Bands

Speaking of bands, they are a perfect way to do archery strength training exercises. While all of the previous workouts targeted the general upper body, there are specific exercises for archery muscles. One way to activate those muscles is to use resistance bands to create your compound bow exercises. Since the elasticity mimics a bow’s natural resistance to being pulled, it is a great tool for bow and arrow exercises that you can do anywhere. Bands are lightweight, cheap, and all you have to do is lift and draw them back as if they were your bow or they can completely replace dumbbells if used properly.

You can add bands, double them up, or choose a tighter elasticity to make your compound bow exercises more challenging.

Bow Trainer Resistance Trainer

While bands provide great exercises for archery, they still aren’t quite the same as an actual bow and arrow. Instead of getting all your equipment out every time you want to practice or maintain your muscles, Elusive Wildlife has made a unique product that allows you to simulate drawing a bow using differing amounts of resistance bands.

Bow Trainer Resistance Trainer

While maybe a little pricey for some, this is a great option for a highly specific training tool that can create exactly the type of motion and muscle activation that we are looking for. We’ve written an article about the Bow Trainer so be sure to give it a read!

Exercises for bowhunting are for everyone from kids to adults, from beginners to experienced archers. You don’t need equipment to improve your strength and precision, but something like a bow strength trainer is an excellent compromise if you aren’t looking to train at the gym. Resistance bands are an easy and cheap way to being your journey, too! Exercise is good for archery but it’s also good for our health. Start a routine and stick to it!

Last update on 2024-07-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Conversation | 5 comments:

  1. I have some rotator cuff issues on my bow arm. Are there exercises more specific to help with this that you would recommend?

    • Hey Ron. You have that backwards. Ours is the original article and took our content, but they graciously linked to us. If you go down to the bottom of the article you’ll see they link to our old domain We have made some updates and changes over time though so that’s why you see a discrepancy. I’m curious how you even came to your conclusion though, seeing as if you read the article and followed the link it would have landed you here…


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