Is Archery good exercise? Does it Build Muscle?

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The short answer is yes it’s great exercise, and yes it will build muscle. But I know the short answer doesn’t satisfy most people so I’ll embellish for you.

First, know that there are a variety of ways to enjoy archery and each will give you a different amount of physical activity. Some people will hunt, attend 3d archery events, and spend endless hours practicing. Others will be content plinking arrows in their backyard on occasion. There’s nothing wrong with either, or anything in between, but they will deliver differing amounts of exercise.

Why is Archery Good Exercise?

Let’s first talk about exercise in broad terms. What I mean by that is simply things that get you moving, make you get your butt off the couch. Even if all you ever do is shoot arrows in your back yard, you’re going to get some exercise. Most home targets are set around 20 yards away, so every time you have to retrieve your arrows, you’ll be walking 40 yards. Let’s say you do that 44 times, you just walked a mile.

Now that covers just the walking part of target shooting. There’s much more going on than that. The act of drawing your bow puts tension on a number of muscles and this of course will require energy expenditure. Pulling the arrows out of the target will also require strength and energy to some degree (how much depends on your target and arrows).

If you decide to hunt or try 3d archery then your exercise potential just got a whole lot bigger. These “in the woods” activities will get you moving and walking in a way that burns more calories and uses more muscles. Not to mention both 3d archery and hunting can be loads of fun.

Does Archery Build Muscle?

Of course it does, anything that puts tension on a muscle will help you gain strength and build muscle. To what degree and which muscles you build is a different story. Fair warning though, shooting a bow alone won’t get you a spot as Mr. Olympia.

The Muscles used when shooting a bow

From a broad perspective you’ll be primarily using muscles in your back, shoulders, and arms to draw a bow. You’ll also be engaging your core muscles for stability. Here’s some of the most prominent muscles being used:

Back Muscles

  • Rhomboid
  • Levator Scapulae
  • Trapezius
  • Latissimus Dorsi


  • Deltoid
  • Supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres Minor


  • Biceps Brachii
  • Triceps Brachii

In addition to those listed above you’ll be using various muscles throughout your core and legs to stabilize you as well as muscles that provide grip strength such as those in your forearm.

As you can see archery uses a wide range of muscles and is one of the reasons why it’s a great form of exercise.

How much muscle can you build?

That my friend is a very loaded question. But let me try to give you some broad information here that will help you. You will not look like a bodybuilder simply from shooting a bow, so let’s put that to rest right out of the gate.

However, that doesn’t mean you won’t build any muscle size or strength. Shooting a bow consistently over a period of time will make you stronger and as part of the process your muscles will grow. In order to grow muscle you need to make use of progressive overload, which simply means that over time you are working the muscle harder. However, at some point you will reach a pull weight that you won’t progress beyond. So this in theory limits your muscle growing potential unless you continue to have longer and longer shooting sessions.

This doesn’t mean that archery isn’t a good muscle builder, just that you shouldn’t expect to grow yourself large and wide by firing arrows. It’s great exercise and works a wide range of muscles, and it’s tons of fun too!

How to strengthen Archery Muscles

So maybe you’re struggling to pull back the draw weight you desire, or maybe you just want to be able to shoot longer with less fatigue. Whatever your goal, there are some easy exercises you can do to help strengthen your archery muscles. Here are some great muscle building moves to get you started.

Bent over Rows

These are a really good exercise for Archery because they somewhat mimic the action of drawing a bow. These are easily performed with any kind of weight such as dumbbells, a kettlebell, or even a gallon of milk. Start out light and work your way to heavier sets over time.

How to Perform Bent over Dumbbell Rows

Dumbbell Lateral Raises

This is a good exercise to help strengthen muscles in your shoulder, you can also combine them with front raises which are performed similarly except that you raise your hands in front of you rather than to the side. This won’t build your bow pulling muscles really, but it’s great for stabilizing strength and will help with fatigue.

How to Perform Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Core Exercises for Stability and Overall Strength

Adding some core exercises to your routine is a great idea whether you’re into archery or not. Our core muscles help us with stability and posture and are used for almost all basic human movements. Check out these core exercises for some ideas.

Great Core Exercises

Sets, Reps, Frequency?

How often you do these exercises will largely depend on your schedule and level of commitment. If you can hit these 3 times a week then you’ll be doing pretty good. As for sets and reps I would generally recommend 3 sets of 8-12 reps on the weight lifting movements and 2-3 sets on the core movements. So get to work!

If you’re new to archery and need some help getting started, be sure to check out our article on learning archery at home.

Jason Brooks

I've been involved with archery for over 25 years off and on and am always interested in learning as much as I can. I've taken part in local tournaments and even 3D course setup.