String slap - Why am I hitting my forearm?

String slap: main causes (and simple solutions)

Hitting your forearm with the bowstring when you release, commonly called string slap, is frequent among beginner archers (and, sometimes, on some experienced archers, too). There are several reasons, mostly related to a form problem, but sometimes it can be due to bow tuning. Luckily, this can be easily fixed.

First of all, if you still don’t have it, I recommend you to get an arm guard. This will protect your arm in case of an occasional string slap. In addition to this, it’s essential that you correct your form by a simple proper gripping, elbow rotation, and, sometimes, opening your stance may help. Also, it’s important to check your brace height. Below you’ll find the main reasons this happens and how to fix each one of them in a couple of easy steps.

Is string slap common, or is it just me?

Contrary to popular thought, archery is known to be one of the safest sports. There are nearly no archery injuries that we can count. Moreover, a string slap is one few that are on the list of the most common archery injuries

It’s not excruciating pain, but it can hurt, though. It may even leave you a bruise. Some people have tender flesh than others, and the bruise left may be quite impressive. However, don’t worry, it will disappear with the passing days as all bruises do. 

Beginner archers, on their first days, are prone to suffer several consecutive slaps until they learn how to avoid it. And some of them, after consecutive sustained string slaps, are discouraged and just stop doing archery. I don’t want this to happen to you, so pay attention to these tips and you’ll fix it in no time.

Why the string is hitting my forearm?

As I mentioned earlier, there is more than one reason for this. Some are caused by the archer and others by the equipment. Here we will review the most usual causes for string slap, which cover nearly all the situations.

Tight gripping

At the beginning of this journey, most people tend to grip the bow riser (if you still don’t know, it’s the main handle in the middle of the bow) too tight, like if they need to strangle it so it won’t fly away after you release. I remember myself in my first shots death gripping the riser, ending with knuckles-sore.

When gripping the riser too tight you may exert a torque over it, rotating it (usually inwards), making the string to hit the forearm.

Do this to fix it

When we grip the riser correctly, the knuckles should form a 45-degree angle with it.

Tight gripping is easily fixed by learning the proper grip. You can follow this summarized steps guide for proper gripping.

  1. Rest the handle of the riser on the fleshy, tender pad below the thumb. This way the contact point of the riser aligns with your arm’s bone structure, giving it stronger support. 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 to fly forward when you do the release. If you don’t use a bow sling, then you should loosely grip your bow with those both fingers. Please, pay attention 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.
  2. The knuckles line should be at a 45-degree angle with the vertical line of the riser. This way makes the gripping easier and helps also to rotate the elbow, which is another cause for string slap.

Check your elbow and your shoulder

When you rotate our elbow outwards, the string stops touching the string, reducing the chance to slapping our forearm.

Another common issue that may favor string slaps is the elbow rotation and the shoulder’s position. This one is as frequent as the tight grip.

Usually, you may inadvertently rotate your elbow inwards. This moves your forearm inwards, too, in the rope’s way. Sometimes, if you are nervous or tense, you may also raise your shoulder. This automatically leads your elbow to turn inwards, aggravating the problem. 

Arm fatigue or lack of concentration on the shot may make you forget this and slap your forearm. So, for fixing this you’ll have to work on it.

A simple drill for correcting your forearm and your shoulder

At first, you’ll have to consciously lower your shoulder and rotate your elbow. With time and practice, you’ll learn to do it unconsciously. 

When you are a beginner and are trying to correct this issue, the best practice is to check this in one of the shooting instances. There’s a post where we explain the 2-2-3 rule to tidy up your shot. If you don’t know what this is, I recommend you to go to the post and take a look. It’s really simple.  The second time you count two seconds, take that time to check your shoulder and elbow position. Doing this, you will help to automatize the checking process.

We found when it is best to check the shoulder and the elbow, now we’ll see the how. The easiest way is to perform a slow rotation of your elbow. In the case you are right-eye dominant, the rotation should be clockwise. On the contrary, if you are left-eye dominant, the rotation should be counter-clockwise.

There’s an exercise you can do to master your elbow rotation. It’s really simple. 

  1. Step in front of a wall, at one step of distance. 
  2. Extend your bow arm (left if you are right-eye dominant, or right if you are left-eye dominant) and put your palm over the wall, slightly pushing it.
  3. Try to rotate the elbow in the direction we mentioned earlier but without rotating the shoulder nor detaching the arm from the wall. The pressure you do to the wall fixes the palm, so it doesn’t rotate when you try to rotate your elbow.

See? It’s not difficult at all, you can control it in no time. 

Opening your stance may help

When someone starts archery (especially if it’s target archery), the traditional standing position is a square stance, that is with both feet forming a line with the target, perpendicular to the shooting line. In this position, the bow arm is also in a straight line to the target, increasing the chances of you hitting your forearm. So, to avoid this, most instructors suggest opening the stance a bit. 

What’s the suggested stance to avoid string slap?

To do this, you just have to move your front foot away from the target. If you are right-handed (or right-eye dominant), you’ll have to move your left foot to the left and, if you are left-handed (or left-eye dominant) you’ll move your right foot to the right.

Pay attention to only slightly open your stance, like one foot, no more. If you open too much, you’ll be facing the target too head-on, and it will be difficult to maintain the square T position of your upper chest to support the draw.

Brace height can make you slap your wrist

As we mentioned at the beginning, string slap is not always the archer’s fault. As you saw, most of the time it has to do with a poor form but, in some cases, it’s due to the equipment, particularly the brace height.

Shortly speaking, the brace height is the shortest distance from the front of the riser, right where you grab it, to the string. This distance is measured in the direction perpendicular to the string. If this distance is too short, the string will be closer to your wrist, and, in case you fail rotation your elbow, lowering your shoulder, and/or don’t perform a correct grip, the string will slap. The difference is that, although you may have an arm guard, as the string is closer to the wrist, it will slap your wrist, where you don’t have any protection. 

This is not one of the most common causes of string slap but, you have to take it into account.

The easiest way to set the optimal brace height

Brace height varies from bow to bow. For compound bows, the manufacturer usually sets the optimal brace height, and you should stick to it if you want to get peak performance from it.

In the case of recurve bows, it is strongly dependent on the bow’s length, ranging from about 7 ½ inches to 9 1/2  inches. It’s recommended to use the manufacturer’s specifications. However, for a quick setup, you can set it at about 8 ½ – 8 ¾ inches. 

Disclaimer: If you are unsure, before adjusting your bow’s brace height, please check its recommended specifications from the manufacturer.

To increase the brace height, you should detach one of the string’s ends and twist it a couple of turns. It will give more turns to the string, making it short, and pulling from the limbs, bending it. This will make the string to move farther from the riser.

Regardless of your form, protect your forearm from a string slap

It doesn’t matter if you can improve your bow grip and form and not hitting your forearm anymore, or if you have set the proper brace height. It is possible that, occasionally, you get distracted or something and bam! String slap. 

To prevent this, it’s always advisable to use an arm guard. This piece of gear is always included in every list of essential protective gear. It’s not expensive at all (it’s, probably, the cheapest accessory in archery). You can find really good ones for less than 10 dollars. So, my advice is to earn a couple of bucks and get an arm guard. If you don’t want to spend on this, you can do it yourself. It’s very simple (even I was able to make one).

An arm guard is a cheap accessory that can save your forearm from some bruises.


After reading this, you can now be more confident that anyone can suffer from a string slap, not only beginners. However, that’s not a reason to still let it happen. So, now you know the main causes of a string slap and how to prevent each one of them.

I hope that you find this article helpful. If you want to leave us a comment, you are more than welcome.

I also hope to see you around. 

Good arrows!





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