Developed by the Head Coach of USA Archery, Kisik Lee, the NTS is a philosophy for how to shoot archery in a biomechanically efficient manner which minimizes the potential for injury and maximizes the potential for accuracy and peak performance. This is the philosophy and technique used by America’s Olympic archers and it is now mirrored by high level archers all over the world due to the rapid ascension of athletes coached by Lee in the sport.
Despite the simple nature of the sport (grab bow, load arrow, pull back, aim, release arrow) there are a lot of ways to shoot arrows and they are not all created equally. If you are moving through the steps of shooting out of sequence or using the wrong muscles to generate and hold tension, you will ultimately create a point of failure in your shot process. You will shoot high scores at 10 yards, but fail to score well at 20 or beyond. You will wonder why your shoulders or biceps hurt every time you shoot. You will wonder why you still slap your arm with the string after years of shooting. You will potentially struggle to shoot well or consistently in competition.
The NTS can help solve all of these problems and more whether you want to become an Olympic archer or simply have fun a couple times per week. The best part is these techniques apply to recurve and compound shooters alike with minimal variation.
Each month I will publish a blog post focused on one step within the system and how you can utilize it to your advantage. You do not have to adopt every aspect of the NTS to become a good archer, but every good archer does use these steps to their advantage. If you overlook the importance of any one of these steps, you will limit your potential as an archer.
Let’s take a look at the steps:
3. Hook and Grip
6. Draw to Load
8. Transfer to Hold
9. Expand and Aim
10. Release and Follow-through
This month, we’re going to dig into Step #1: Stance.
The stance is the foundation of the shot. Your foundation must be stable and consistent if you want to hit your target with any regularity and precision, therefore, your biomechanical efficiency starts right here.
The NTS prescribes an open stance rather than the square or closed stance taught to most beginners. This means that if we draw a line from where you are shooting to the target, rather than placing your feet parallel to that line, the toes of the front foot are slightly behind the line while the rear foot’s toes are right on it.
This is a more stable position, especially when shooting on uneven ground or in wind. The feet should be about shoulder width apart with your weight evenly distributed on both feet. Most archers don’t realize that they shoot with their weight planted on their heels as if they are standing at attention. If you’ve ever played another sport, it would be unfathomable to consider yourself as standing in an athletic position with your weight on your heels. The same goes for archery: you should have 60-70% of your weight on the balls of the feet. Just like if you were about to shoot a free-throw in basketball, this places your center of gravity approximately between the insteps of your feet. Placing your weight on your heels will cause you to sway back and forth during the aiming process. How are you supposed to hit the bullseye when your sight pin or arrow tip is swaying back and forth with you?
In addition to foot position, Stance addressees posture. You may have noticed that high performing archers do not stand straight up with the curved spine/chest forward stance you see in a person standing at attention. Instead we stand with a flat spine and the chest turned down slightly.
This position is acquired by tilting your hips back slightly. Tighten your lower abdomen and squeeze your butt muscles. You’ll notice your hips tilt back causing your lower spine to flatten out as shown in the diagram above. This position lowers your center of gravity, further improving balance, and reduces the load on lower back muscles, reducing soreness or potential for injury. This posture also has the benefit of making it easier to generate power in your draw/transfer/hold. You want to shoot the highest draw weight possible to reduce the potential for external factors to impact the flight of your arrow. You don’t do that by simply getting stronger – proper posture is a major factor.
This chest down stance is different than leaning forward during the shot. Again, refer to the pictures above. You’ll notice the archer is not leaning forward from the hips. Her spine is on a vertical line top to bottom. I cannot discourage you enough from leaning forward during your shot. A lot of new archers make this mistake and if you think you are not doing it, go grab your bow and stand in front of a mirror. You may have a slight lean that you are not aware of. This posture cancels the benefits of proper spine shape and places a lot of unnecessary stress on your lower back muscles. You are not generating any more power or balance while leaning forward, so let’s get rid of it!
Remember, trying something new is always difficult. You are going to get confused, feel sore in new places, and have to change your aiming point or sight alignment. These are all good signs because they mean that you are challenging yourself mentally and physically. If you get lost or have questions, feel free to send me questions or talk to Nico and myself at the range. We love to help. Healthy and accurate archers are happy archers!