Beyond Strength: Why Technique Matters for Shooting Asiatic War Bows

Measuring up: Why a bow scale is a necessary tool for charting progress

Now that you’ve determined your ideal draw, installed a bow hand anchor, developed a warm up routine, and chosen your baseline bow, you need a means of tracking your progress. As mentioned in the foreword, using a scale to measure the exact poundage of your bow is essential. One of the most reliable handheld scales on the market is the Last Chance HS2 Handheld Bow Scale, which can be purchased at Lancaster Archery Supply.

The CyberDyer 110 Lbs Digital Archery Scale, available on Amazon (look for Justin’s review), is a cheaper option than the HS2, and has the added benefit of reading over 100#. You will need to replace the luggage straps with a short open hook from the hardware store (see below picture).

Note: When purchasing a handheld scale, make sure it has a peak weight setting. Peak weight will record the highest poundage drawn. The Last Chance HS2 defaults to peak weight, while the CyberDyer allows the user to toggle between peak and “hold” weight. Make sure the scale is set to pounds.

The Last Chance HS2 Handheld Bow Scale is a reliable, sturdy scale that measures up to 100#. Photo credit: Lancaster Archery Supply

If you use the CyberDyer scale, you’ll want to replace the straps with a hook. Photo credit: Justin Ma

You can also use a tillering rig or draw table or to measure your bow’s weight. Just make sure you are marking off the appropriate draw distance as it correlates to your bow hand anchor. These two options are more expensive and require construction, so the handheld scale is likely your best bet, unless you already have access to the above.

A tillering rig equipped with a scale and draw length markings. Photo credit: Misko Rovcanin

A homemade draw table. An arrow marked with a bow hand anchor acts as a guide for measuring exact weight. Photo credit: Blake Cole

Once you’ve chosen your scale, simply nock your arrow, hook the scale around the string below the nock, and draw with the scale until the bow hand anchor reaches your bow hand. You may need to experiment with how you hold the scale to see what is most comfortable. This first poundage measurement at your bow hand anchor with your baseline bow will become the starting point for your journey.

Note: As you progress on your journey, any new goal bow should always be measured to ensure the increment of your poundage increase is within acceptable boundaries (said boundaries will be covered later in the article). There is always a chance a bow might be mismarked, as well. If you don’t have an accurate measurement of each new goal bow, you’ll have no quantitative data with which to chart your development.

To measure your draw weight, nock your arrow, hook the scale around the string below the nock, and draw with the scale until the bow hand anchor reaches your bow hand. Photo credit: Blake Cole

Tony Nguyen uses a handheld scale to measure the poundage of his Tiger Tail II Manchu bow. Note the use of a bow hand anchor (yellow tape on the arrow shaft). Photo credit: Tony Nguyen

Warning: Make sure your arrow is securely nocked on the string and you are facing a target when you perform your scale measurement. It is essential your arrow is aimed at a safe place and that you are at a safe distance.

See below for another video demonstration of poundage measurement using a handheld scale. Blake is aiming at a strong foam block (offscreen). There will be more information about setting up a space for training later in the article.

(Above) Blake uses a Last Chance HS2 Handheld Bow Scale to measure draw weight. A bow hand anchor (the yellow tape on the arrow shaft) is the only way to ensure consistency when evaluating poundage. Make sure you are pointing at a safe target.

The pushdown draw: Settling your bow shoulder and maximizing ideal muscle activation

The pushdown draw is a draw style that has been utilized globally all throughout history to draw heavy bows in a safe manner. When combined with good technique it brings to bear ideal biomechanics and muscle activation. The pushdown draw begins with the archer’s hands positioned above their shoulders. The arms draw by descending. This style of draw combines the best of the horizontal row and vertical row motions and maximizes the use of both sides of the strongest back muscles (latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboid). It also emphasizes a settled bow shoulder, an essential component to good technique and war bow shooting. A non-settled or hunched bow shoulder will activate suboptimal muscle groups, misalign joints, and likely lead to injury. Practice depressing the bow shoulder blade and retracting it towards your spine in order to emphasize a settled bow shoulder.

Using a draw that consists primarily of pushing the bow outward as you draw is not recommended for shooting heavy bow (this often presents with the archer “sky drawing,” or pointing the bow at an upward angle as they begin the draw). Though this method does encourage back muscle activation, and may allow you to draw a bow outside your normal range, it will put undue pressure on the bow shoulder (which will lead to injury) and activate other suboptimal muscle groups.

A step-by-step diagram of the pushdown draw process. Credit: Justin Ma

A diagram portraying improper and proper bow shoulder technique, as well as the muscle groups each activates. Credit: Justin Ma

(Above) Using the pushdown draw, Blake performs a form-focused shot with a 90#@35″ Tiron by MR Bows.

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