Today I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Ruth Rowe.
Ruth shot on the 1984 Olympic team, set a World Record in the FITA 1440 in 1972, and now coaches aspiring archers here in Virginia. Despite my severe Newbness, she managed to impart a great deal of knowledge to me in a short interview. Due to same Newbness, I probably got most of it dead wrong. I’ll depend on all you experienced archers to jump in here and correct me.
Of the many gems I brought home (and I’ll share more after Ruth tells me I can), one that resonated deeply with me was
Proper Spinal Posture While Shooting.
The alignment of the arms and shoulders in archery is addressed in many spots on the Interwebs. When done correctly, it’s a visual treat.
I’ve found less written about spinal alignment. I strongly suspect the reason for this is that the most effective spinal alignment for archery is — well, frankly, ugly as hell, even when done by beautiful people.
First, let us consider these four posture types:
Posture A, the “Ideal” posture, is healthy and normal, designed to support the weight of a head. Encased in the right amount of flesh, it creates an attractive physique. Lots of women (namely me) tend to Posture B, medically termed the Butty-Sticky-Outy posture. It is the source of much lower back pain. (Posture D is irrelevant to this discussion. I hope. It’s only there because that was the best graphic I could find.)
And The Winner Is…Posture C!
The Flat Back appears to be what we are striving for in Archery. This is achieved by activating your deep abdominal muscles (NOT your gluteals!) to tuck your butt under and forward, while simultaneously pulling your ribcage both downward and inward. Done right, it will take a full inch off your height, and will leave your abs rather achy afterwards. And, if I’ve learned my Pilates lessons well at all, I believe it also requires you to expand your ribcage laterally while breathing — a learned skill, to say the least.
The overall effect is somewhat — simian.
(I feel sure by now many of you are screaming NO, NO, NO, that’s not right, or possibly Nanny Nanny Boo Boo, it doesn’t hurt MY abs to do that, you sissy. Whichever, please feel free to chime in down at the bottom with your own take on the matter. You’ll educate me AND your fellow archers, and the world will thank you. Or not.)
But Do I Have To?
“But why,” you whine, “Why should I have to force my naturally curvy spine into such a tortured linearity in order to shoot an arrow?” Well, you don’t. But you might have to if you want to shoot your arrow WELL.
It was explained to me thusly: How does the weightlifter align his spine to best support the huge weights he lifts? Clearly, the weightlifter wants his vertebrae stacked in perfect vertical alignment to create the most solid support with the least reliance on his muscles.
The same reasoning applies to archers. The Flat Back creates the most structurally sound VERTICAL support for the horizontally aligned arm/shoulder unit to sit on. The weight of the draw, transferred to the large back muscles, will cause little or no stance shift if the core is solid and structurally sound.
So you want your back to look like this:
…and NOT like the curvy waves of Kim Kardashian‘s hair.
(And to my earlier point, which is prettier? Kim, or that hex bolt? Yes, I know, it’s a matter of opinion.)
Of course you don’t want your back to look like that ALL the time, because your spine isn’t designed for it. But when you are shooting, this posture will make you, for that one crucial moment, as solid as a rock.
Human beings are not Rocks, but with mucho practice and conditioning, and with coaching from someone (not me) who knows what she’s doing, you can be a Rock, at least intermittently.
And it has been Scientifically Proven that Rocks score better than Spaghetti in archery tournaments. Really.
So…. Newbie Archer Girl’s Advice For The Day:
Shoot From The Rock.
Disclaimer: Nothing here should be construed to be approved by Ruth Rowe, FITA, World Archery, any Pilates professionals or amateurs, the National Bowling League or Kim Kardashian. Especially not Kim Kardashian. Because it’s probably all entirely wrong. Thank you and good night.