Learning to use the lower back muscles utilizing the Biomechanically
Efficient Shooting Technique.
"One Archer's Approach"
By Thomas Tenerowicz, NAA Level II Instructor
I would like to preface this article with the following:
"Reading is an excellent way to begin to learn about any subject.
However you need to seek out a certified coach to help you correctly
learn the B.E.S.T. method. It is the coach that will understand the
students' development. Where they are in the process and what is needed
to get the desired result. It is the coach that understands the many
ways to get a point across to the student. It is the responsibility of
the coach to assure that the technique is taught is a safe manor that
reduces the possibility of injury."
Please understand that I am in no way, shape or form an expert in the
B.E.S.T. method. My goal is to convey one archer's travails within the
B.E.S.T. method, to relate the benefits I gained by adopting this new
method and how I have approached the learning process.. There are many
parts to the B.E.S.T. method so for this article I choose to focus on
developing the use of the lower back muscles because of the issues I
have due to a previous shoulder injury.
When reading on the web about the "Korean Method", "Australian Method"
or the "B.E.S.T." system whatever you may call it, I was intrigued by
the idea of being able to shoot without any pain. I suffer from a rotor
cuff tear in my draw shoulder. An old softball injury that did not
plague me when shooting a compound. However when transitioning to a
recurve (I love shooting with my fingers) I was faced with having to
shoot a limited amount of arrows, perhaps 60 maximum followed by a
couple days of shoulder soreness and downtime. So to me, the idea of not
using your shoulders and upper back muscles to draw a bow seemed too
good to be true.
As my interest increased I did what most archers will do: I bought the
bible on this new method; "Total Archery" by Kisik Lee and Robert
DeBondt. I eagerly read the book and tried to apply what I thought I'd
read. Draw the bow and then initially take 1-3 seconds to load the back.
Sounds simple enough. Using a lighter 28# pound limb I drew the bow as
I'd been taught in the past years and when I got to my anchor I tried to
get my lower back muscles to work.
NOPE, NADA, NO WAY. At full draw regardless how light of a draw-weight I
used down to about 20# on my fingers, I could not get my lower back
muscles to fire and transfer the load. I went back to read the bible
again and see what I had missed. Obviously I had misread or
misinterpreted something. Four, five and six time I would read the
bible, retry this new draw method ending up without success. Not failing
but finding ways that did not work. Then in a phone conversation with an
instructor who would end up being my NAA Level II Course instructor I
learned that everything you needed to know is not itemized in the bible.
There were components not clearly in the book that would be covered
during my NAA Level II certification course that would clear it up.
Attending an NAA Level II certification course, I was taught what I
needed to learn in order to teach myself the technique. The excellent
training was given by two coaches, one a NAA Level IV and the other a
NAA Level III. coach.
There are a few keys to using the lower back muscles to draw the bow. It
is these lower back muscles that you need to use to transfer the bow
The first key I was taught is "the shoulders." It is imperative that
both shoulders be kept "low" before, during/after the draw and during
the transfer of the bow load onto to lower back muscles. I accomplish
this by shrugging my shoulders. I shrug my shoulders during the
"pre-draw" part of the shot sequence. What this means is that I raise
and deliberately lower the shoulder when I am at the pre-draw position.
The second key is what I was taught as "folding the wing." This is the
movement of the draw arm shoulder, repositioning of the draw-arm
scapula, firing the lower back muscles and lats. In my eyes this is what
is referred to in the bible as "transferring the load".
The third key is "rotation of the torso towards the target." This allows
for the correct PRE-DRAW set-up without having to raise your shoulders.
The final key for me was watching other archers on video who use this
technique. What I learned was that initially while learning the
technique I could not try and emulate their movements. They have been
working on the technique for months or years. They have the required
muscle memory to perform the technique correctly as outlined in the
bible. Myself, not having the muscle memory, I needed to learn how to
***** As I understand the B.E.S.T. system as it relates to using your
back muscles, it is completely differed than what I was originally
taught 30 years ago.
I was originally taught to use my shoulder muscles and my upper back
muscles to draw the bow and then create "back tension". You draw the bow
back to an anchor point on your face or jaw. In this old method the
anchor point on the jaw determined your draw length. In 30 years using
this technique I was never able to feel my back muscles working.
The B.E.S.T system teaches that your draw length is not a function of
where you place your hand on your face. Your draw length is a function
of the movement of your draw-shoulder scapula. Once the draw-shoulder
scapula is fully repositioned during the "folding of the wing", you have
reached your draw length. At this draw length you then need to find what
is referred to as touch points to assure that you have a consistent rear
aim. Using the B.E.S.T. method I feel my back in every shot. If I do not
feel my back, I have done something wrong. Usually, it relates to my
shoulders being too high. ******
Getting started required that I understood the shot sequence. That being
The STANCE, NOCKING THE ARROW, SET, PRE-DRAW, DRAW, TRANSFER THE LOAD,
HOLDING POINT, AIM/RELEASE/FOLLOW-THROUGH, FEEDBACK
The STANCE, the foundation and the roots of the shot
The NOCKING, affixing the arrow onto the bowstring
The SET, positioning the bow hand correctly on the riser, positioning
the draw hand fingers correctly on the bowstring. Adding a bit of
tension on the bowstring. Making sure that the bow arm is oriented
The PRE-DRAW, raising of the bow arm and the draw arm, rotation of the
upper body torso towards the target in preparation for the draw.
Assuring that the shoulders are kept low.
The DRAW, the reverse rotation of the upper body torso straightening out
the alignment between the bow arm and the bow shoulder.
The TRANSFER, the movement of the draw arm shoulder scapula, by
activating the lower back muscles.
The HOLDING, raising of the draw-arm and the draw-arm hand in order to
position the string at the archers touch points.
In order to understand how to use the lower back muscles I also needed
to understand how each piece of the shot sequence was setting me up to
use the correct muscles.
To begin, if you do not keep your shoulders low, you will activate the
wrong back muscles. If the shoulders are up at all you will activate the
upper back muscles. Once you activate the upper back muscles you cannot
activate the lower back muscles.
I needed to learn how to keep my shoulders low during the PRE-DRAW, DRAW
and the TRANSFER parts of the shot sequence. Here is how I did this.
Using a 6-foot piece of rope I would hold both ends of the rope in my
bow-arm hand. I then could regulate the length of the loop of rope that
was formed until I could get the rope loop to I thought would be my
correct draw-length. I could then pull on the rope as it were a
bowstring and try and activate the lower back muscles to move the
draw-shoulder and scapula into the correct position. I was unsuccessful.
What was I doing wrong? What I found was that I was not keeping my
shoulders low. Trying to draw the rope with my bow hand up above my bow
shoulder as detailed in the bible, I could not keep my shoulders low.
Lack of muscle memory was allowing my shoulder to rise up.
Remember when I wrote that I found I could not emulate those archers
on video who were doing the technique! This is when I found this out. So
what to do? I found that if I lowered my shoulders in the PRE-DRAW and
kept my bow-arm and my draw-arm low, below the level of my shoulders and
then drew the rope across my chest, I could activate the lower back
muscles. I ended up drawing the rope to a position app. 8 to 10 inches
below my chin. I could then raise my bow-arm, my draw-arm and my
draw-arm hand all in one unit to get to my holding points. I really
needed to FOCUS on the lower back muscles keeping them fired while I
raised my bow-arm, draw-arm and draw-arm hand.
As I worked with the rope in this manner I began to learn enough
muscle memory keeping my shoulders down while drawing the rope so that I
was able to start the draw sequence of the shot higher and higher in
relation to my shoulders. Until I was able to hold my bow-arm at the
correct height as needed in the pre-draw and then draw the rope rearward
on a slight downward angle so that when I had folded my wing, my
draw-arm hand was positioned approximately 2 inches below my jawbone. At
this point in the shot sequence I then raised the draw-arm hand and the
draw-arm up in one motion to get to my holding points.
Being able to perform the motions as required, I switched to a bow. I
attempted to draw my bow. NOPE, NADA, IT WAS NOT HAPPENING. I used a
lighter bow of 20#. NOPE, NADA, IT WAS NOT HAPPENING. What was wrong?
What I found was that although I could perform the motion, I had no
strength in these lower back muscles to carry any load. How was I going
to develop these muscles? I knew I needed to use as light a weight as
possible. I went back to my rope. By holding the rope in my draw-arm
hand so that a loop of rope approximately 16 inches long was left
hanging adjacent to my thumb, I could loop this rope around the bow
string of the 20# bow and place my draw-arm fingers through the loop.
This effectively shortened the draw length by about eight inches and the
draw-weight down to approximately 15 pounds. At 15 # I was then able to
draw the bow using this technique and was able to fire the lower back
muscles. Repeating the motion a number of times each day I was able to
gradually shorten the rope, adding draw-length and draw-weight. Over the
course of a couple of weeks I drew the bow for 20 repetitions two to
three times daily. This strengthened the lower back muscles gaining
muscle memory until I was able to draw the 20# bow with my fingers on
I then switch to drawing my tournament bow with the shortened
draw-length continuing to gain strength. It took me 14 weeks to get to
the point where I could draw my tournament bow with my fingers on the
bowstring using my lower back muscles.
Two subtle points of the "SET, PRE-DRAW, DRAW and TRANSFER" sequence of
the shot are the rotation of the body, specifically the rotation of the
torso during the PRE-DRAW and the reverse rotation of the torso during
When performing the "SET" you will add pressure on the string. This
effectively will increase the distance between the string and the riser
to about twelve inches. In order to keep your shoulders low during the
PRE-DRAW and keep the distance between the riser and the string the same
as it is in the "SET", you need to turn the torso of your body towards
the target. If you do not rotate your torso, you will do one of the
1) Raise your draw-arm shoulder in order to reach the bowstring
resulting in activating the upper back muscles.
2) Increase the distance between the bowstring and the riser effectively
not doing the pre-draw and moving right into the draw. Most times this
will also activate the upper back muscles.
You can go back to the rope to help learn the correct PRE-DRAW. Hold the
ends of the rope in your bow-arm hand with a loop of about 12-16 inches
that you can hold in your draw-arm hand. Holding the rope you then raise
your arms up in the PRE-DRAW position.
I look at the shot sequence of the PRE-DRAW, DRAW and the TRANSFER in
the following manner. This is how I personally break down the sequence
The PRE-DRAW maintains the distance between the bowstring and the riser
as determined during the SET. The PRE-DRAW is attained by raising the
bow-arm and draw-arm into position. To keep the shoulders low as you
raise your arms, you have to rotate your torso towards the target. This
forward rotation creates a "V" between the bow-arm and the torso.
The DRAW is the reverse rotation of the torso so that the "V" between
the torso and the bow-arm is eliminated.. As I learned this sequence my
draw-arm did not move. The DRAW is completed when the relationship
between the bow-arm and the torso is straightened. This effectively
positions the bowstring approximately 4-6 inches in front of the archers
The TRANSFER is the activation of the lower back muscles, repositioning
the draw shoulder scapula out, down and towards the spine. Once the load
of the bow poundage is transferred to the lower back muscles you can
raise the draw-arm and the draw-arm hand into the hold position. You
continue to focus on these lower back muscles during the AIM/RELEASE &
FOLLOW-THROUGH of the shot sequence. The position of the draw elbow is
also very important. Keeping the draw elbow even or just slightly above
the arrow line helps you feel the lower back muscles at work. I found
that for me, raising the draw elbow to high eliminated me being able to
feel the lower back muscles working. Feeling these muscles work is
As you develop the correct muscle memory, the DRAW and TRANSFER will
eventually become one continuous motion. At this point you will find
that you can raise the bow in the PRE-DRAW, DRAW the bow, TRANSFER the
load and come to your touch points in a similar manner as can be seen
watching videos of the worlds top archers. You've arrived at a new
plateau in your shooting experience. CONGRATULATIONS!!
I hope this article sheds some light into my journey into the B.E.S.T
system. Remember to seek out a certified NAA coach that has been through
specific training in the B.E.S.T method. I have and could not have
traveled as far as I currently have without their assistance.
Many thanks to the NAA LEVEL IV & LEVEL III coaches that taught my