Archery for the unfit and large-breasted?
May 4, 2012 8:11 PM   Subscribe

Archery filter: I want to check out archery, but I have some basic questions first.

I've never, ever been remotely athletic, but at summer camp when I was 12, to my shock, I seemed to have a natural affinity for archery. Now, 40 years later, I might want to explore it again. But, a couple questions first:

1. I am very, very overweight and very, very unfit and sedentary. I feel like I have OK strength in my arms, not great (e.g., I can lift heavy grocery bags with not much difficulty). Do I need to have better muscle strength and tone in my arms before I even try using a bow? In other words, will it be so hard that it will be overwhelming and too discouraging?

2. I am quite large-breasted. Is archery impossible with big breasts?

What else do I need to know before just showing up at a range for a lesson?
posted by primate moon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
re: 1: most archery strength is actually in the back muscles of your drawing-arm, and a little bit in the forearm of the arm that holds the bow. There are also a wide range of bow strengths, and as an adult you should have no difficulty with a basic 25# bow. If you're drawing an appropriate weight for target shooting, archery is never taxing. (other than walking up to collect your arrows, it's not what you'd call exercise)

Don't know about 2.

Make sure to call the place you decided on first, in case they need you to make an appointment. Also ask for a finger tab (bit of cloth/leather that fits over your drawing fingers to take some of the pressure off them from the bowstring; otherwise your fingers will be quite sore and there's always the possibility of a pinched nerve if you hold the string wrong) if they don't just offer you one off the bat, and probably an arm guard (if you hold the bow right, you should never need a guard, but it might be nice since you're learning). Don't wear anything with really loose, baggy sleeves.
posted by curious nu at 8:25 PM on May 4, 2012

Strength should be fine. I did some archery as a young kid who wasn't very strong. There should be a bow that accommodates.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:32 PM on May 4, 2012

You might have to alter your stance to avoid your bust, but I've seen very busty women archers.

I have very little upper body strength and I don't have a problem. You will just need to be outfitted with a bow that fits what you can do.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:36 PM on May 4, 2012

Boobs will not get in your way, if you pay attention. It is totally possible (nay, even intuitive?) to draw the bow and hold a stance in such a way that there is flesh in the way when you let go, but it's not necessary to stand like that. You have to be aware of it, think of the bow and the string as defining a solid geometric plane that you intentionally stay away from, don't be lulled by the "empty space" you create as you draw back.
posted by aimedwander at 8:39 PM on May 4, 2012

Bows come in varying tautness levels, ie; varying difficulties to pull. They call them weights, as in drawing the bow is equivalent to lifting XX pounds.

It's been a while some I'm unsure of the numbers but I think a real competitive bow is 40 lbs, but you'd start out with a lighter weight like 20 lbs. (again, I could have these numbers way off.) Without doubt there are "beginner" bows that will be great for starting off with.

Around here there are places you can rent equipment across all levels and spend some time trying it out, or even take lessons.
posted by oblio_one at 8:40 PM on May 4, 2012

The bow you will probably learn with (at least this was SOP when I learned a billion years ago) was a 20 lb fibreglass "jelly bow". You will definitely be able to handle this easily. And competitive bows don't have a lower limit, I competed with a 28 lb bow.

Boobs are not a problem. You draw into the side of your boob, so no flesh gets in the way. You can optionally wear a chest guard, which is a leather cover over one side of your chest. Most women wore them when I used to shoot.
posted by Joh at 9:40 PM on May 4, 2012

1. A dedicated archery center* will allow you try both a compound bow and recurve bow. The compound bow has a pulley system that lets off at full draw, enabling the potential energy to be stored in the limbs of the bow, not your arms. You can easily hold the bow at draw for an extended time.
On a recurve bow, at full draw, the energy is stored in your upper back. You won't have a problem drawing the bow--it will likely be set at ~22-25 lbs--but you may begin to feel a bit fatigued after a few ends, which is very common for your first few sessions. Ask to try both types of bows--you may prefer the feel of one over the other.

2. The archery center should provide chest guards, along with the standard arm guard. Ask when you call to make an appointment.

*try to find an archery center with USA Archery or NFAA-certified coaches.

Have fun.
posted by prinado at 9:55 PM on May 4, 2012

Best answer: I'm in almost exactly the same situation - very overweight, was really good at archery when I was 12 (also at summer camp) and just now thinking of taking it up again (I'm only 29 though). I just went for a "fitting" apparently they've had some women sign up to the course who were physically incapable of drawing the 20lb training bow (so I'd take everyone's assurances that of course you'll be able to do it with a grain of salt) so they asked me to come in early to check that I could.
IMO stamina is more important than strength, I have plenty of raw power but I found after 2 ends my concentration was waning due to fatigue (granted I was drawing and holding the bow more than you typically would once you know what you're doing, so that the instructor could adjust my position/technique but the real lesson is going to be 2 hours, I was only there 30 minutes!)
There are training devices you can get specifically for strengthening archery related muscles (google bow trainer) or if you have regular resistance bands you can use those.

I only shot 2 ends but I never had a problem with my boobs being in the way - in fact the only problem I had is with the 'anchor point' they were trying to get me to use. They were teaching that the string should touch the middle of your chin and nose - which means when you're in a stance to avoid your body being in the way of the draw you have to stick your neck out like a chicken and its really awkward - your trainer may not use the middle chin/nose thing or they may let you use a different anchor point - I'd prefer thumb under my cheek bone but they don't like beginners to draw past the side of their face in case they get hit! (which given the state of my arm - the string somehow hit me behind my armguard - youch, is understandable)
posted by missmagenta at 1:19 AM on May 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all some great responses. I'm feeling really encouraged and can't wait to give archery a try again. Thanks, everyone!
posted by primate moon at 8:26 AM on May 5, 2012

Don't ask for a finger tab unless you plan on shooting 20 years ago. Use a release.
posted by Bonzai at 1:53 PM on May 5, 2012

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