What Draw Weight Should I Shoot? - Recurve Archery

Author: Alec Potts   Date Posted:27 March 2018 

Draw weight is something that is very commonly discussed among recurve archers, and especially in Australia, there is a tendency to want to shoot a higher poundage for the sake of ego, rather than an actual benefit in performance.

I really like the 30 second hold test, where an archer should draw and hold the bow for at least 30 seconds, and if they can manage this without too much trouble then the bow is a suitable weight, although really we should all be able to hold our bows at full draw for at least 45-60 seconds. The current women’s 70m 720 world record is 687/720 by Choi Misun, who was using between 41 and 43lb at the time. This alone proves that exceptional scores can be achieved without the need for a heavy weight bow.

The information below comes from some of the best archers in the world, it has been sourced directly from the archers, not from the World Archery website. I asked 20 recurve men and 20 recurve women, who are either ranked within the top 50 in the world and/or were participating athletes in the Rio Olympics. Notable archers include Brady Ellison, Sjef Van Den Berg, Ki Bo Bae and Lisa Unruh to name a few. The survey found that the average draw weight for a male recurve archer is 49.5lb and 40.7lb for women (measured on the fingers at full draw).

Among the men, draw weight ranged from 44.5-54lb and 35-45lb amongst the women. It is very important to keep in mind that this data is taken from athletes who either train full-time, or shoot enough that it enables them to remain highly competitive internationally.

When starting in archery, I believe that the bow used should be no more than 20lb for women and 25lb for men. As the muscles used for archery are likely to be undeveloped and so increasing the bow weight too rapidly can easily cause bad habits and even injury. In many cases of high performance archery, archers will actually start with a theraband, although in our western culture this can be a great way to rapidly destroy interest in the sport.

There are a number of ways to increase strength and shooting lots of arrows is only one of them. Two of the exercises I have had the most success with are drawing to full draw and holding, or drawing to full draw, letting down half way and drawing back to anchor. The first of these is where you come to full draw for a period of 20-30 seconds and then let down for double that time. So if I was to stay at full draw for 20 seconds, I would rest for 40 before drawing up again, then repeat this 3-5 times. You can hold for longer than 30 seconds or achieve as many reps as you like, as a general rule if its getting too easy, then make it harder!

I like to use the Astra Shot Trainer for these exercises to ensure that my drawing hand remains relaxed and that I’m using the appropriate muscles to draw the bow. It also means that I save my fingers from experiencing any unnecessary wear and tear. It’s pretty easy to use, you just put on the sleeve and clip the cord onto the bowstring. The second exercise is where you come to full draw for 3 seconds, then to half draw for 3 seconds and repeat this 6-8 times by 3. As with the first exercise, you can increase the holding time and repetitions as you see fit. You can also add a theraband around the riser or limbs of the bow for increased draw weight. It’s also useful to keep the stabilizers and other accessories on the bow for these exercises, so that you can build strength in the front shoulder at the same time. 

There is a common misconception that an archer must increase bow weight quickly in order to be able to shoot longer distances, whereas increases in weight are actually one of the hardest and least efficient ways to increase distance. There are many ways to increase the distance available on the sight, such as using lighter arrows, shorter arrows, taller finger tab shelf, lowering of brace height, lower strand count in bowstring, shorter limbs, moving the sight in towards the riser or even flipping it backwards, tiller/nocking point (as a last resort), change in tab material, change in limb material/quality, smaller sight pin to allow for more clearance, fletching with less drag and the list goes on…

The bottom line is, you should be able to shoot at least 72 arrows comfortably, and being able to control the weight of your bow is much more important than arrow speed.  

Comments (2)

Distance calculator

8 August 2022
Has anyone created a calculator to determine poundage required for X distance per mass of arrow? Hypothetically, a 250 grain arrow with a 1000 spine shot from a 28 pound draw weight bow at 28 inch draw would reach X distance. This could be used for low poundage recurve shooters shooting carbon lightweight arrows and still reaching required distance. How far would a 1400 spine 212 grain arrow travel shot from a 20 pound recurve at 28" draw?

Age for competition archery shooting

5 December 2021
I am almost 80, have shot the bow since a young boy, have considered competing as a master. Is there senior completions?

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