How to hold your bow the right way

A couple of days ago, a reader of this blog (I do not know if I can call him/her a follower yet) triggered me to answer the question of how to grab your bow (thanks to Aleksandar!)

To properly hold your bow, you should rest it on the tender part of your palm between your thumb and your lifeline, only gripping it with your index finger and your thumb. The knuckles should align, forming a 45-degree angle with the bow.

Not holding your bow the correct way may result in several problems, from a deficient form to some injuries, like string slap or thumb dislocation.

Pay attention to this when holding your bow

Some people grab their bow as if their life depends on it. Archers call this grip a death grip. Intuitively, it is understandable to think that you have to hold it tight so you can control it and do not fly away when you release the string. However, what happens is the opposite. You’ll see later what can happen if you don’t hold your bow the proper way.

Now, let’s see how to hold your bow.

Team up with your bow

Holding your bow is not a difficult task at all. It may sound odd at first, but after you catch it, you will feel it natural and start doing it unconsciously.

The most important thing to understand is that archery is a “team” sport. No, you will shoot alone, but you must form a team with your bow. What I mean is that you do a part of the job by drawing, aiming, and so on, and you should let the bow do the other part.

The bow’s job is to use the string to push the arrow forward through the target. If you “death grip” it, you will be affecting it, and the bow won’t be able to push the string as it should, worsening your shot.

So, step 2 of the following 3-steps guide will help you hold your bow in a way you don’t interfere with it, and let it push the string as intended.

How you hold your bow

At last, here is a quick 3-steps guide to hold your bow correctly in just a few seconds.

  1. Rest your riser’s handle on the fleshy, tender pad below the thumb, between the latter and the so-called lifeline. This way, the contact point of the riser aligns with your arm’s bone structure, giving it more robust support.
  2. If you don’t have one yet, I recommend you to use a bow sling
  • If so, then place your thumb and index finger in an open and relaxed V position. The bow sling will prevent the bow from flying forward when you do the release.
  • If you don’t use a bow sling, then you should loosely grip your bow with those two fingers. Please, pay attention to the grip is loose enough, so we don’t exert a torque on the riser, but tighter enough to the bow don’t thrust forward.
  1. The knuckles line should form a 45-degree angle with the vertical line of the riser. This way makes the gripping easier and helps to rotate the elbow, helping to avoid string slap.

Note: Remember to hold the bow loosely. Don’t death grip it. To avoid this, it’s best to use a bow sling, as in Step 2.

Three steps to hold your bow the correct way

That’s it. It is as simple as those three steps. By just doing this, you are two steps beyond other beginner self-taught archers and are able to fix some of the most common beginners’ issues, as you will see below.

How poor bow holding influences your performance

If you hold your bow too tight, we are prone to imprint some torque on it with a wrist rotation when we release. This rotation will translate into a sideways shift of the bow. As a consequence, this rotation can cause two main problems: 

The first one is quite obvious. If you move your bow to the left (or right) with your wrist when you release the string, the arrow will hit the target a bit left (or right) due to the rotation (assuming that, initially, your aim was correct).

This aiming problem is quite common in beginner archers and, sometimes, in not-so beginners.

If you manage to correct this, then you have one less factor that hinders your aim.

The easiest way to correct this and, thus, improve your aim, is by holding your bow correctly, as explained below.

Which injuries can be caused by handling your bow the incorrect way

Besides a bad aim, there are other issues induced by not holding your bow correctly, which are far more relevant than that. These issues are injuries. There aren’t many injuries in archery, as you can see in this article. However, if you don’t properly hold your bow, two injuries type arise. One of them is the infamous string slap. The other is thumb dislocation.

String slap

Bruise due to string slap (Credit to my friend Raquel)

In my time as an archer and archery-web surfer, I’ve seen that string slap is more common than we think (lucky for me, I felt pretty dumb when I slapped myself). 

Among different causes of this, a death grip on the riser may lead to a string slap. Moreover, this grip is the main cause of string slap.

If you are frequently slapped by your string, in this article, you will find the main causes and solutions for it, in case it’s not due to how you hold your bow.

Thumb dislocation

The other most frequent consequence for a poor bow holding is a thumb dislocation. You think that you won’t dislocate your thumb if you grip your bow tight. Well, yes … but no.

Thumb dislocation is a combination of two factors. On the one hand, if you don’t hold your bow correctly, you may inadvertently rest it a bit shifted from the correct position, near to your thumb joint. When you draw your bow, you will be extra forcing the joint and, if the riser moves a quarter of an inch towards your thumb instead of moving to the palm, bam! You will be doing a lot of force on your thumb, probably dislocating it.

On the other hand, a high draw weight will surely help in dislocating your thumb. A 50# recurve bow will do much more force over your thumb than a 25-30# one.

Luckily, a proper holding will help you prevent this. 

A small tip in case you suffered from thumb dislocation

If you dislocated your thumb shooting (or by any other means), here are some tips you can follow to going back to the track like new. 

Disclosure: These are just recommendations as a friend. By no means, you should take these tips as a medical treatment of the injury. Every injury should be treated by a medical professional.

  • Bandage your hand and your thumb, so you don’t move it.
  • Get an appointment with a physician. A professional should see the injury and give you proper treatment to heal it properly.
  • Suspend the shooting for 15-20 days (if you can wait a month, much better).
  • When you return, if you have a heavy bow (45+#) and your budget allows it, try to get a lighter one, about 10-15 lbs lighter. That way, you will gain practice again with less stress in the recently healed injury. 
  • If you can’t get one, don’t worry. Just try to shoot fewer arrows per day than the recommended for a couple of weeks, until you feel comfortable with it.
  • Although you may feel ok, try not to push it. It may seem a silly injury, but if not healed properly, it may become chronic.
  • Lastly, please, do get an appointment with a physician. Remember that this is not a medical treatment. These tips are just some advice given from personal experience.


As you saw throughout this article, something as elementary as holding your bow may bring more problems that what one can think of, from bad aiming due to a bow’s torque to injuries like string slap or thumb dislocation.

Did you hold wrong your bow in the beginning? Have you encountered any other problem or injury doing so? Please, comment us below. 

If you want to know more tips for beginners, you can check these most common mistakes from beginners, and how to fix them, or these tips list that everyone would love to know before they begin.

In case you are willing to start, please go to our quick beginner’s guide. It will guide you through the first steps, so you can move from new to initiate in this amazing world of archery.

Lastly, if you liked this post and want to know when new content is released, please subscribe to our newsletter at the top of the browser. It will take only a couple of seconds. And I promise you won’t be filled with hundreds of spam e-mails.

Keep safe and good arrows!!!!!!!






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