What Is The Right Way To Breathe In Archery? (This Is How)

by | Mar 5, 2023

With archery being a sport of consistency and discipline where even the slightest movement can have a disastrous effect on your accuracy, it makes perfect sense that there should be a right way to breathe in archery.

So how do you breathe without causing any disruption to your aim, your posture and your potential for missing the target?

In general, it is recommended that archers begin to inhale during the set-up of the shot cycle. Then just before the bowstring is drawn back, the abdominal muscles are braced. The archer then holds their breath as the bow is pulled back, and continues to hold until release, while slowly exhaling at the point of follow-through.

There are various ways in which archers can breathe while performing a shot, but in this article, we’ll look at the best way to breathe at every stage of the entire shot cycle.

How Do You Breathe In Archery?

Breathing techniques have long been linked and used for relaxation, meditation and the control of stress and anxiety.

Archery is a sport that incorporates some of these breathing techniques to improve accuracy and consistency.

While there is some conflict as to which breathing method is the best for archery, the one most target archers seem to prefer is the method outlined below which can easily be matched to the shot cycle.

The exact timings may differ slightly from archer to archer as everybody will adopt what works best for them.

The most optimal breathing pattern that target archers prefer is one that keeps the blood oxygenated at all times but also allows the archer enough time to control extraneous body movement while aiming at the target.

The easiest way to learn how to breathe in archery correctly in archery is to mirror your breathing to your own shot cycle.

That way you will know exactly when to breathe, hold and exhale for every shot you take.

Changing your breathing patterns too much during the cycle gets way too complicated and can cause more anxiety!

The Archery Breathing Cycle

Before you shoot, and in between arrows, it’s recommended that you take deep breaths to keep your blood oxygenated at all times.

Try breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. This can help to regulate the heart rate and reduce cortisol, the stress hormone.

Archery Breathing Cycle

1. Set – Preparing to Shoot

With the bow resting on your foot, or your thigh, your focus is all on the target. Take a deep breath in, then breathe out slightly. You want your lungs to be at about 80% capacity as you move to the set-up.

2. Set Up

Just before you take your bow to the set position, tense your stomach. Think about this as if you’re trying to get getting your belly button to touch your spine.

While holding your breath, raise your bow to set up.

3. Anchor | Expansion | Release

Through the next 3 phases the anchor point, expansion and release, you’re still maintaining the same breath hold and tension within the belly.

4. Exhale at follow-through

Only on the completion of the entire shot cycle should you allow your body to relax. You can exhale slowly as you see the arrow hit the target.

Belly Breathing VS Chest Breathing In Archery

Most of us take our breathing for granted, but the way we breathe can have a big impact on our overall health and well-being.

Archers need a method of breathing that allows them to maintain stillness and stability across the shoulder girdle to reduce movement in their bow arm to a minimum.

The best way to achieve this is to breathe from your belly or diaphragm. The reason for this is that if you breathe into your chest, there’s a likelihood of expanding your chest up and out as well as overextending your upper back.

This will cause the head to move out of alignment with the target and rotate your shoulder and bow arm back, which could potentially lead to shoulder injuries.

The other major advantage of belly breathing over chest breathing is that belly breathing has a much greater efficiency for oxygen intake.

Other advantages of diaphragmatic breathing include:

  • Reduces heart rate
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Helps keep you calm, relaxed and focused

So rather than expanding the chest and extending the back, you want to breathe into your belly to push the abdomen forward.

This creates a brace which keeps the body still and the spine supported.

How Breathing Affects Performance In Archery

Any sport that requires precision and consistency of movement, breathing, along with heart rate, will significantly impact the results.

This study found that high levels of heart rate produced elevated levels of tremors and shaking when the test archers were aiming at the target.

Right way to breathe in archery

The study also showed that erratic breathing patterns had a negative impact on heart rate, and thus, performance and accuracy.

It was shown that experienced archers can, with practice, time the release of their arrows in sync with the pattern of their breathing and cardiac cycle.

Why You Should Hold Your Breath During Archery

If you’re a competitive archer, you’ll know that even the slightest movement in your bow arm can be the difference between hitting a 10 or a 9.

Holding your breath in those all-important few seconds as you go through the shot cycle can provide that essential stillness at the crucial release point.

The breath hold creates what’s called intra-abdominal pressure, similar to how weightlifters breathe in order to perform a heavy lift. It helps to stabilise the spine and provides a strong base from which every muscle involved in the movement can function optimally.

Essentially, a strong brace of the core muscles enables the archer to fully focus on the shot without having to worry that his breathing is affecting his posture or the ability to keep his bow arm still.

When you breathe in archery, the breath hold occurs just before you pull back to full draw. This helps to provide stability across the shoulder girdle and focuses the aim as you bring the bow up.

This allows all the other primary muscles of the shoulders and upper back to function more efficiently.

Holding the breath also minimises the chance of any arching through the lower back, or collapsing of the chest.

How Long Should You Hold Your Breath In Archery?

During the breathing cycle, the breath hold should last between 6-8 seconds from the moment you begin to lift the bow to set up.

While it may seem like a relatively short length of time to draw, aim and release, holding your breath for any longer than that is likely to produce a slight tremor in the muscles due to the lack of oxygen in the blood.

Common Breathing Mistakes In Archery

1. No Relevance

The biggest misconception when you breathe in archery is that it is of no real importance.

Oxygenated blood is one of the most important factors in managing your cardiac cycle as well as stress levels when performing any kind of sports activity.

Taking long, slow breaths in between bouts of movement can reduce recovery times, blood pressure and heart rate.

When done correctly, it can also provide more focus during the activity itself. Try spending a few minutes focusing on your breathing before and during shooting your next end to see how it affects your groupings!

2. Not Holding Your Breath

Not holding your breath during your shot cycle results in too much movement. You can try to stay still while you breathe, but you’ll be surprised at how much movement occurs through your bow arm even if you keep your breathing soft and shallow.

3. Exhaling Upon Release

Exhaling on release should feel like the most natural point in which to breathe out, but resist that temptation as this can lead to a collapsing of the chest and a loss of accuracy.

Try to maintain the breath hold until you see the arrow hit the target. That way you can be sure that you’ve done everything possible to maintain consistency in your breathing cycle every time.

4. Not Re-oxygenating

You should be taking deep slow breaths in-between arrows to help re-oxygenate your blood and regulate your heart rate before getting ready for the next breath/shot cycle.

5. Breathing Only Through The Mouth

Breathing only through the mouth instead of inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth in between arrows not only elevates the stress levels in your body but can be counterproductive when trying to focus on your next shot.


Finding a simple way to breathe in archery is an easy way to manage your heart rate and posture as you go through the shot cycle. It’ll help you to find consistency and rhythm in every aspect of your shooting.

It’s also a major component of keeping a strong brace through the belly to aid in perfect posture every time you shoot.