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April 14, 2020

Developing Strength and Endurance with SPTs

While we are home, and many do not have access to a range, this is a great time to build strength, endurance and control as we prepare for the outdoor season.

Specific Physical Training (SPT) is a great way to develop specific strength and endurance for an archer using a bow, light weight bow, stretch band, or training aid. SPT can be used for any archer of any skill level and can be adapted to develop strength of a particular part of the shot process. USA Archery’s National Head Coaches, KiSik Lee and Chris Webster are big proponents of using SPTs during specific times of the year to develop strength and endurance.

Coach Lee, who introduced the idea of SPTs to many U.S. archers and coaches, has also reported having a lot of success using SPTs with younger archers who were still attending school. Notable examples include David Barnes and Tim Cudihy who were World and Olympic medalists respectively while under the age of 18. The resident archers who reside at the Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, CA do rigorous SPT training at the end of every day.

The are several different types of SPT exercises that archers can do, and we encourage coaches to help their archers determine when and which SPT exercises best suit their skill level, strength level and specific training needs. Careful consideration should be made in determining appropriate training activities for each archer. SPTs should be used during specific 4-8 week training periods and are not necessarily used year round. For archers under the age of 11, we recommend doing this with just a stretch band. For most archers ages 12 to 15 and older beginner archers, we recommend using a light weight bow. Most experienced archers age 16+ can use the bow they normally shoot.

SPTs can benefit compound archers also; however special considerations should be taken to ensure the archer’s safety. It is not recommended to repeatedly let down with a compound bow as this can increase the probability the archer injures their shoulder. It is also not recommended to draw a compound bow back without an arrow loaded as an accidental dry fire could damage the bow or injure the archer. For compound archers SPT exercises should be performed with compound training aids, recurve bows, stretch bands or string loops.

Holding SPT

Holding SPT allows the archer to develop strength and endurance bracing the bow. Without an arrow loaded, the archer will simply follow the steps of the shot process using a bow or stretch band until they reach the holding position. They will brace the bow for 10 to 30 seconds. The archer will rest for 40-60 seconds and repeat the process again. It is important that the archer is reminded not to dry fire the bow during this drill. Compound archers can practice this exercise with a stretch band, string loop, or training aid.

Power SPT

Power SPT allows the archer to develop strength and power in drawing the bow from the Set-Up position to the Loading position. Without an arrow loaded, the archer will simply follow the shot process to the Set-Up position. The coach will give the archer the command to pull and the archer will draw the bow back to loading, anchor, transfer and hold. After holding for about 2 seconds the coach will give the command to let down to the Set-Up position by saying “down”. The archer will do 5-10 reps. The archer will rest for 2 minutes between sets and do a total of 5 to 12 sets. It is important that the archer is reminded not to dry fire the bow during this drill. This drill should not be performed for archers with a compound bow. 

Flexibility SPT

Flexibility SPT is similar to a drill that historically been called “clicker drills”. This exercise helps the archer build expansion strength. The archer will be on the shooting line with a target mat at 5 meters and will have a small target face to aim at. The archer will have an arrow loaded and will go through the shot process through holding. During the expand/aim step, the archer will continue to expand for up to 10 seconds after the “click” of the clicker. The archer will then set down, rest for 1 minute and then repeat the drill for up to 15 times. It is important to note that aiming is an essential part of this drill. Once the archer can maintain a smooth expansion for the 10 seconds past the click, the archer should maintain their eye focus on the aiming spot/small target. Compound archers can practice this exercise with a training aid such as a Saunders Firing Line or Morin Trainer band. This drill should not be performed for compound archers or with a compound bow.

Bow Raise SPT

Bow Raise SPT is a good drill for beginner/intermediate archers to perform especially when adding on stabilizers and sights to bows that increase the mass weight of the bow. Without knocking an arrow, the archer will simply set their stance. Then, without setting the hook on the string, the archer will raise the bow up to the height of the Set-Up position. The archer will hold this position for up to 60 seconds depending on age, strength, and skill level. The archer should rest for 1-2 minutes and then repeat up to 3 times. This exercise can also be done by using a stretch band and would require the archer to firmly step on one end of the stretch band and hold the other end of the stretch band at a length that would create the appropriate amount of resistance while they raise up to the Set-Up height.


Specific Physical Training Exercises can be modified and adjusted to benefit archers of any skill level and can be used to improve the archer’s overall technique, strength, endurance, and overall shooting control. SPTs can be great at reinforcing the shot process and can benefit barebow, compound, or recurve archers. SPTs are great examples of training activities that can improve the archer’s skill without actually shooting an arrow. Finally, it is important to take all necessary physical precautions and safety precautions into mind when incorporating SPTs into training.

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