Breathing Cycle

The correct method of breathing is an essential part of the archer's system of control. Most archers know less about the proper method of breath control than any of the other fundamentals. Therefore, the archer who understands their breathing and its impact on performance and who can be aware of their own state of arousal is the archer who, everything being equal, is going to be the most successful.

Bear in mind that an anxious mind cannot exist in a relaxed body or a quiet mind can not exist in a tense body.

Also remember that thoughts associated with worry and anxiety, affect heart rate, muscle tension and breathing rate. This change in muscle tension and breathing rate will have a negative affect on an archer's fine motor coordination, focus, center of gravity and timing; all critical components in archery.

Therefore, breathing properly is not only relaxing; it also facilitates performance by increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, resulting in a drop of anxiety. Breathing properly also carries more energy to the muscles and facilitates the removal of waste products.

Consequently, proper breathing is an essential and fundamental factor of concentration. Ordinarily, when calm, we breathe 12 to 15 times a minute, but when anxious this can double. The majority of people only breathe superficially, using only the top part of their lungs or one-sixth of the capacity of their lungs. However, one can learn to breathe more deeply and slowly, about five to six deep calm breaths a minute. To this purpose the archer must learn diaphragmatic breathing, also known as Zen Breathing. This should be practiced every day, as a focus/relaxation exercise till it becomes second nature. This type of breathing has been described in detail in Total Archery and there are also many detailed references to it on the internet.

Breathing and breath control during the shot cycle.

There are various theories regarding this, but Coach Lee, from his twenty-five years of coaching, will discuss the two ways that he has found has given him the best results with his archers; refer diagram below.


These two ways are, Option 1 (white dotted line) mostly used by archers who have acquired the proper KSL Shot Cycle technique, whilst Option 2 (blue dotted line) is generally used by archers who have not as yet gained the proper KSL back tension technique.

Option 1
  1. A deep diaphragmatic settling breath should be taken prior to raising the bow.
  2. With the focus on the target a normal breath, using diaphragmatic breathing, is taken between Raising the Bow and Set-Up. This not only has a settling effect, but will also lower the center of gravity. Further, it will help the archer to increase their focus and aids in not rushing the draw.
  3. Whilst drawing from Set-Up inhale as part of the drawing rhythm, which will create a natural feeling of gaining strength.
  4. From the beginning of the Loading/Transfer to the Holding phase, when aiming should commence, approximately 30-50%the breath should be let out slowly and naturally, allowing the sight to naturally settle in the aiming area.
  5. From this point the breath must be held till after the release and let out naturally during the follow-through.

  1. A deep diaphragmatic settling breath should be taken and exhaled prior to raising the bow.
  2. Whilst raising the bow inhale deeply and naturally, employing the diaphragmatic breathing technique, which will create a natural feeling of gaining strength.
  3. When coming to full draw, but before anchoring, approximately 30-50% of the breath must be let out slowly and naturally and then held from this point onwards till after the release and let out naturally during the follow-through.

    After 30-50% of the air has been expelled from the lungs, the breath is then held (Valsalva manoeuvre*). This will create a much more stable trunk and therefore stronger body. Also refer to Ratio of Movement under KSL Shot Cycle Step 9 and Archery Technique, elsewhere on this website

Many of the world top archers, including some Koreans, use Option 2 or some varying form of it. However, Coach Lee feels that the Option 1 breathing cycle has many advantages even for international competitive archers. By employing this first initial breath whilst raising the bow, it will settle the archer more in a rhythm and increase focus. However, whatever method is used the valsalva manoeuvre (inflated/tightened abdomen) must be employed. Nonetheless, in the end each archer must work out what works best for them.

Valsalva Manoeuvre
The Valsalva Manouevre can also be described as creating an inflated feeling in the abdomen.

We all use the body's natural ability of increasing strength by sub-consciously performing the Valsalva manoeuvre. To explain the Valsalva manoeuvre I will use the analogy of using a spanner to undo a rather stubborn nut on a bolt. When you first try it, , and you can't get it undone by using reasonable force you will increase the intensity and pull harder with maximum effort.

Try it and you will notice that to generate more force you will, without thinking, hold your breath and tighten the abdomen for 3-4 seconds. This is the feeling you need to create when coming to anchor and continue to just after release.

The body increases blood pressure by additional 100 points very quickly with this natural action. Clearly, this is dangerous to older adults with potential for strokes and it can be dangerous to some young athletes.

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