Bow Grip 101: Guide to Proper Archery Form

Jeff
| Last Updated May 15, 2021

When it comes to maintaining or improving consistency in hitting your target in archery, you need to look no further than how you grip your bow.

The same principles apply to accurately shooting a rifle—where you need to gently 'squeeze' the trigger instead of 'pulling' it.

Aspiring sharpshooters, please read on.

Bow Grip Terminology and Common Concepts

Archery, like many other activities, has its terminology. The following are words and terms that you will most likely come across while learning about bow grip:

  • Anchor Point: A point on the archer's face touched by the bow's string or the archer's hand when drawn to shoot.
  • Arm Guard: A sheath that's worn on the forearm for protection from the bowstring.

  • Bow Grip:  How one holds the grip of a bow.

  • Bow Hand: The hand that holds the bow.

  • Bow Stabilizer: A weight on a bow to give it balance.

  • Drawing: Pulling the bowstring back just before shooting.

  • Draw Weight: The amount of force needed to draw a bow to its optimum shooting position.

  • Finger Sling: A piece of string or leather designed to fit around the archer's index finger and thumb while shooting. It lets the archer keep a relaxed grip and prevents the bow from slipping to the ground when shot.

  •  Finger Tab: a pad made to protect the archer's fingers.

  • Pivot Point: The deepest part of a bow's grip where the bow typically pivots and rests against your bow hand.

Photo credit: bowhunting.com

  • Pressure Point: A singular point on your grip where it feels as if you are pushing the bow.

  • Release Aid: A trigger for releasing the bow's string, customarily used on compound bows.

  • Riser: A bow's handle.

  • Shooting Glove: A glove worn to protect an archer's fingers.

  • Stance: One's placement and control of his/her lower limbs, from the hips down.

  • Thenar Eminence: A group of three fleshy muscles located at the base of the thumb.

  • Torque: Bow torque happens when your hand is improperly placed on the bow's grip. The force applied while drawing a bow turns it and then springs it back to suit your hand's position once the string is released.

How Bow Grip Affects Accuracy

We start this section off by clarifying that "bow grip" refers to the manner of holding the grip (or riser) of the bow.

How one holds one's hand influences numerous factors in how a bow reacts to a shot, and it forms the basis of proper shooting. The improper grip of your bow leads to unwanted torque during your shot.

Where to Grip the Bow

First, you need to place your hand on the bow in a relaxed way that can be done repeatedly. 

That’s because that hand will always be the first—and last—thing to touch the bow throughout the shot sequence. As archers, we need to be as consistent as possible.

When you place your bow alongside the lifeline of your hand, you will notice that your knuckles and fingers will be facing off to the side at an angle to the riser. Ordinarily, the optimum angle is about 45 degrees from the bow riser. 

You should try out different degrees of angle on the pad of your thumb to find the best way for the bow to rest and, accordingly, the sweet spot that works best for you.

Bear in mind that the thenar eminence should be as relaxed as possible throughout the draw and shot execution and that your thumb should point towards the target.

Relax Your Hand

A relaxed hand and fingers are vital for a successful grip point on your thumb pad. If you are fearful that relaxing too much will cause you to drop the bow when you shoot, you will need to install a wrist or finger sling on your bow.

As already mentioned, the tension in your hand creates a torque that leads to an inconsistent arrow flight. At full draw, the knuckles of your bow hand should be at a 45-degree angle to the riser, leaving only the thumb pad resting on the grip itself.

You can practice this method by a forward extension of your hand—as you would signal a stop—and then relax your fingers. You can go a step further by doing this in front of a mirror where you can identify the right place for the bow to be on your hand.

How to Properly Grip a Bow

There are various techniques you can use to grip a bow properly. We’ll share a few recommendations here below.

Rest on Thumb Pad

For the most efficient grip, the bow must rest on the pad of your thumb. This is the area to the left of the lifeline if you look at your left hand. See the picture on the top-left of this illustration.

Photo credit: bowhunting360.com

Utilizing this hand area as the contact point of your grip allows the bow grip to be fixed in the same position each time.

Hand Lifeline

The bow grip should not traverse your hand's lifeline. Having too much hand on the grip or holding the bow tightly with your hand can place your forearm in the way of the bowstring, which is why people frequently hit their arm.

Bone to Bone

Using this hand position on the riser will further enhance what archers call "bone to bone" form, meaning that you are using the least amount of muscles possible. This video will also assist you with proper bow grip.

The Impact of Muscles

The reason for needing to use as few muscles as possible is that you bring various muscle groups into play when you grasp the bow fully. This adds needless tension to your grip that brings disparities in form and unwanted torque—something that we repeatedly emphasize in this article, given its importance.

Additionally, when you add more muscles to your form, you ask for unwelcome fatigue during long days of hunting or shooting in an archery tournament. Also, remember that repetition brings consistency.

Insulation Tape

A final tip for this section is that a small piece of insulation tape stuck on the vital part of your hand can help you learn the correct position of how to place your bow's grip when pulling it back.

Common Beginner Bow Grip Mistakes

There are some common mistakes beginners make when approaching bow grip. Here are a few of them.

Over-gripping the Bow

The over-gripping of a bow is very prevalent among new archers. It's instinctive to grip a bow tightly because you fear that it's going to fall or veer off target when you take a shot. Just remember that so much science has gone into the manufacture of bows that their risers will fit snugly into a user's hand.

Not Relaxing Enough

As with many sporting or leisure activities, one achieves the best results when archery is approached with a calm and relaxed attitude.

We are aware that this can be difficult to do when it comes to competition, but you must train your mind to do this. An example would be taking simple golf putts—the more relaxed your grip is on the putter, the more control you will have. 

Not Practicing Enough

"Practice makes perfect" or "the more you practice, the luckier you get" are some good quotes to keep in mind and follow. We are saying that you need to practice the "art" of relaxing whenever you can. Think about it when doing small things like brushing your teeth, for example. A light grip on your toothbrush is all that's needed.

High vs Low Grip

Typically, today's compound bows are designed for archers to use a low wrist grip, while for long or recurve shooters, the high grip is most common.

The Consistency of the Low Grip

In the past, archers used a high grip when holding a bow, however, should the grip on your bow allow it, you should use a low wrist grip. High wrist grips were thought to be better because they culminated in less hand contact with the bow. It was assumed that there would be less torque with reduced hand contact.

While this thinking line has its merits, a low grip brings a lot more consistency than a high grip. It's far easier to feel that your hand is on the bow the same way every time with the former grip. 

When you use the low grip in combination with a tilted hand, the riser becomes aligned with the cavity created by your palm. Once you have the riser in this cavity, you will be holding the bow in a relaxed way, thus eliminating torque.

Photo credit: bowsite.com

The Inconsistency of the High Grip

High grips require that you place your hand at a particular angle on the grip each time without the benefit of 'feeling' your hand on the bottom half of the grip. Duplicating this angle in repetition is complex, and if you cannot keep repeating it, your consistency in the vertical plane will be 'out of the window.' 

Do I Need a Finger or Wrist Sling For a Proper Grip?

Since you now know where and how to place your hand on the bow, you probably wonder what to do with your hand and fingers once the bow is drawn. As you apply pressure to your hand while drawing the bow back, relax your fingers, allowing them to rest naturally.

With a good hand position, you should have your index and middle fingertips on the front side of the riser, maybe resting lightly on it—depending on your hand size. Your middle and pinky finger should be off to the side.

The preceding is not automatic and takes much practice before you start to feel comfortable. It's common for rookies to be scared of relaxing the bow hand for fear of dropping the bow during shooting. However, if your alignment is good, the bow will rest firmly in your hand.

Photo credit: archery360.com

Many coaches will teach new archers to have only the index fingertip on the front of the riser while shooting, which helps remove the anxiety of completely relaxing the hand. If dropping your bow remains a concern, a finger or wrist sling is an excellent addition that will allow you to focus on refining your grip without the worry of dropping your bow.

Conclusion 

Just think for a moment that you are playing a game of pool using a cue to strike a ball. All good players hold their cues with a loose grip, giving a lot more control to their shots. We provide this analogy because the same concept applies to how you should grip your bow—loose and relaxed.

People Also Ask

We hope that our endeavors in putting this article together have assisted you in becoming a better and more consistent archer—in mind at least. We now close with some answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions.

In What Hand Should I Hold My Bow?

Your dominant hand will be the hand that draws the bow. If you are right-handed, you should hold your bow in your left hand and vice versa. In other words, you should choose your bow's orientation based on the hand that draws the bow—not the one that grips the bow.

What Muscles Does Pulling a Bow Back Work?

The muscles of the shoulder and upper back are often the most used. These are the deltoid muscles of the shoulder and the latissimus dorsi muscle of the back. Also used are the biceps and the triceps groups.

After an archery session or two, you will notice muscles that you never knew you had.

Photo credit: missionarchery.com

Why Does My Bow Arm Shake?

The most common cause of a shaky bow arm is using a bow with a draw weight that's too heavy. Also, when your muscles tire, you will lose control which leads to shaking.

Other causes are related to your technique, such as a tight grip, misaligned shoulders, or a bent bow arm.

How Do I Stop Torquing My Bow?

The main reason for torque is your grip. If you grip the bow tightly with your whole hand, you use numerous muscle groups that add tension to your grip. This tension leads to disparity in shooting and unwanted torque. The simple answer to achieving consistency is to relax.

How Tight Should a Bow Wrist Sling Be?

A sling aims to attach the bow to your hand, so there is no need to grip the riser. You can then keep your bow hand relaxed before and during the shot.

The sling must be tight enough, so you know it will keep the bow in your hand. Remember that you are teaching your mind that you must not grab the bow.

Jeff

My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.