The Anatomy Of The Olympic Archery Bow

Olympic Archery Bow

The bow is the single most significant component of a modern Asian-style archery set-up. Archery bows are traditionally made from one piece of wood or bamboo, wrapped with different kinds of materials. The process required to make what we now know as an Olympic bow has changed very little over thousands of years and can be divided into three main stages:

  • Tree Selection
  • Bow Formation
  • Bow Decoration

Tree Selection

In some cultures, archers have been known to select their own trees for bows – selecting those that exhibit the greatest potential for power and durability. In some cases, this has led to abuses as some vendors began marking low-quality timbers as fine yew wood in order to increase their profits. There are no specific rules in modern competitions that specify the type of wood that can be used, but it is practically universal for yew to be used because of qualities such as straight grain and the natural preservative oleoresin inside the wood.

Bow Formation

The outer layer of bark is always removed by heating in an open fire before shaping begins. The heat causes the sap inside to expand, thus separating layers of wood without splitting or cracking them. More than one piece may be required to create a single bow, depending on its final dimensions. Modern Asian-style bows are often made with bamboo cores wrapped with strips of sinew (usually water buffalo) soaked in glue, but there has been research suggesting that other substances such as plant fibers may provide a

IRQ Traditional Longbow Set

Bow Formation

Modern Asian-style bows are often made with bamboo cores wrapped with strips of sinew (usually water buffalo) soaked in glue, but there has been research suggesting that other substances such as plant fibers may provide a are often made with bamboo cores wrapped with strips of sinew (usually water buffalo) soaked in glue, but there has been research suggesting that other substances such as plant fibers may provide a suitable alternative. The core is then covered with layers of different materials – most commonly bamboo, sinew, and horn – before the outermost layer of bark is added. This reduces the risk of splitting if accidentally bent under too much strain or during inclement weather.

Bow Decoration

The final stage involves decoration – often with symbols to identify the archer who made it and/or those who use it – which can include everything from simple patterning on the handle to elaborate, life-like carvings on highly prized collector’s pieces. Bowstrings are traditionally made out of hemp but modern alternatives include fast flight string material (a synthetic material developed in the 1970s USA) or nylon fishing line (which was introduced in the East in the 1950s).


The Olympic bow is traditionally shot from a wooden two-wheeled stand called a yagu or yazza , which provides stability during competition. It has been used since the first modern Asian Games in 1951 although its design was altered slightly in Beijing 2008 to make it less susceptible to damaging winds. The archer wears special finger tab ( thumb cap) protectors on all but her drawing hand, an armed guard to protect her forearm from string slap when shooting, and chest guards known as Siri.


A common accessory worn by Korean female competitors is bows made of jade – believed to give them better luck. Also popular are protective cloth bands for their wrists, which are said to prevent fatigue during competition. The arrow used today is made of carbon or aluminum alloy with a plastic or feather fletching and nock. The arrows are 30cm in length with a shaft diameter of 5mm, weighing between 40 – 50 grams.


They are designed to flex about 1 cm when they hit the target. Arrows can be purchased either pre-fletched or as bare shafts that must be cut to size and have their ends formed into points. A typical Olympic recurve bow can shoot an arrow at speeds of around 50 m/s (170 feet per second) which is roughly equivalent to 180 km/h (110 mph).


Experienced archers say that the arrow must always remain on the string after being shot, or “kissing” as it is called. Proper form requires that the arrow should hit the target slightly below the center and therefore Olympic targets have a circular black section with a 10 cm diameter just below the center which serves as a reference point for competitors.

Olympic Competition

Olympic-style competition is split into two categories: the individual, which is open to both men and women, and the team event. It consists of 72 arrows shot at 90 cm targets set 10 m away over a span of 3 or 4 days depending on whether elimination or ranking round format is used. The scores from both rounds are added together and the top 8 archers continue in the single-elimination tournament bracket until only one remains.


A total of 264 archers compete at each Olympics Games either as individuals (144) or as part of a 6-person national team (120). There are six medal events: Individual Women’s Recurve, Men’s Recurve, Mixed Team Recurve, Individual Men’s Compound, Individual Women’s Compound, and Mixed Team Compound.

Olympic Archers

The most successful individual in Olympics history is South Korea’s Kim Soo-Nyung, who won four straight women’s recurve gold medals between 1992 and 2000. She also holds the record for competing in the most competitions (7) and appearing in the most finals (6). Another notable archer is American Brady Ellison, currently ranked number one in the world has qualified for his fifth straight Olympics Games in 2012.


He has won three individual World Cup titles, two team World Cup golds, two silver medals at the World Championships, and one bronze medal at the World Indoor Championship On 23 November 2009 three archers were nominated to represent Team GB for the 2012 Summer Olympics. These include Amy Oliver aged 39, Naomi Folkard aged 24, and Alison Williamson aged 23. The oldest Olympic archer of all time is Hubert Van Innis from Belgium who was 72 years old when he competed in the Antwerp games in 1920. The youngest is Mariyana Markova from Bulgaria who was 14 years old when she took part in the Seoul games in 1988.

Modern Methods Of Training

How to Wax a Bow String

There is no standard training program but most elite coaches agree that competition experience and coaching at a young age will help to ensure success later in life. However it takes more than just technique and skill to reach the top, physical fitness and psychological strength play important roles too. “Look at the archers in the Olympic Games,” says BowTech’s [The Archery Supplier] Gail Martin, “They are all strong and fit. They have to be in order to shoot great scores.”


Training is essentially divided into two parts: physical training such as weight training or cardiovascular conditioning and practicing technique. Most elite coaches recommend that before spending time perfecting form, an Olympic archer should practice at least 120 arrows per day for two years. This ensures that the body adapts well to shooting and that muscle memory will take over when competition pressures rise.

What are the parts of an Olympic archery bow?

There are 3 parts to an Olympic archery bow.

  • The top of the bow is called the riser, this is where you place your hand and arm and it’s usually made from aluminum or carbon fiber.
  • The middle of the bow is called the limb and these can be made from either wood, fiberglass, or carbon fiber depending on which type of arrow they’re using. Fiberglass is used for normal arrows because it’s cheaper than carbon fiber limbs, but if you use a heavier arrow such as a 400-grain weight then you need to use carbon fibers because they will be able to take more tension upon release. The higher the number of grains (i.e 420), the stronger and lighter each limb has to be.
  • Finally, we have the bottom of the bow which is called the cable guard. This component stops the string from slipping off the limb when you’re pulling it back, it’s usually made out of aluminum or carbon fiber with an ergonomic design that fits perfectly in your hand.

Olympic archery bow in details

The riser is a metal hub that holds the limbs and absorbs shock while an archer draws his bow. It also supports the grip, arrow rest, sight window, and other add-ons. The riser consists of two parts:

The macho – bottom half that includes the grip, typically made from wood or plastic, sometimes metal or carbon fiber.

The siso – a top half that contains pockets for the limbs to slide into and joins with the macho to form a single structure. This part is usually made from highly durable lightweight aluminum alloy.

There are three types of risers:

1. Reverse limb risers have a curved surface on the inside edge where it meets the macho, to which cables and cables serve as a bowstring to attach the siso.

2. Through-the-handle risers, which are macho at a 90-degree angle and may have notches or knobs on the handle for fingers.

3. Split limb risers – the two halves of macho are attached with a hinge that separates into two parts when shooting. This type is very popular among competitive archers because it offers a clean release without any vibration from torque.

The limbs consist of fibers to produce elasticity and rigidity. They must be lightweight enough for an archer to hold at full draw but strong enough to withstand compression upon release. In most cases, they are made from special carbon fibers such as fiberglass, Kevlar, or carbon graphite. The limb pockets in the riser determine how many cuts are needed to separate them into two parts.


Modern limbs may contain a number of different high-tech materials and systems that affect their performance and durability:

1. Sialoid – a pocket for the screws holding the limbs together is usually filled with shock-absorbing material such as rubber, polyurethane, foam, or sialoid (a flexible yet strong compound made from polypropylene fibers). Sialoid allows an archer to shoot without too much noise or vibration.

2. Vibration Dampening System – this component reduces creaks and rattles by inserting soft elastomeric bushes between major components such as the macho and siso, or between the limbs themselves.

3. Split Limbs – some bows are equipped with split limbs that have twistable ends that can be locked into place using screws, usually resulting in greater accuracy.

4. Profiler Grip – this grip is mounted directly to the bow frame with no risers between them. It requires less energy for an archer to hold at full draw since there’s no riser material between him and the string. A profiler grip also reduces torque by up to 35% which results in better arrow flight consistency.

5.Torque Reduction System – this system includes a cable rod attached perpendicularly near the top of each limb called “string suppressors.” They reduce the amount of torque on the limbs when the string is released by up to 30%, resulting in better arrow flight accuracy.

There are four main components to an Olympic Archery bow

1. Riser – The riser is where you hold the rest of your bow with your hand. It’s made from many different materials but mostly lightweight aluminum alloy.

2. Cable Guard – This component stops the string from slipping off of your limb when you’re pulling it back, it’s usually made out of Aluminum or Carbon Fiber with an ergonomic design that fits perfectly into your hand.

3. Limbs – A lot of different material goes into making a bow arm including fiberglass, Kevlar, or carbon-graphite.

4. Bowstring – The bowstring is the part of your bow that propels your arrow forward. There are different types of materials that can be used to make a bowstring including Fast Flight, Dacron, and Kevlar.

What weight bow do Olympic archers use?

The International Archery Federation (FITA) outlines the following rules for Olympic Recurve Bow weight ranges:

1. For women, a bow weighing at least 15 kg and not more than 19 kilograms before any permitted attachments are made.

2. For men, a bow weighing at least 18 kg and not more than 22 kilograms before any permitted attachments are made.

No Olympic archer would EVER use these bows, they’re far too heavy to hold up in real-life situations! These weights are only used to protect the equipment from damage during competition. The bows that actually get used by Olympic archers weigh between 4-5 pounds (or 1.8 – 2.3 kg).

Who makes the best recurve bows?

The best Olympic archery bows come from either Hoyt, Win & Win, or Fred Bear Archery. These company’s produce some of the finest and most high-tech recurve bows in the world and supply top Olympic archers with equipment that allows them to perform at their best. What is a finger tab?


A finger tab is a small piece of material that goes over your fingers that you use to draw the bowstring back. It protects your fingers from getting cut or bruised during competition and allows you to practice for hours on end without pain.

What’s the difference between Olympic Recurve Bows and Traditional bows?

First, let’s make it clear there is no such thing as an “Olympic recurve bow”, despite what any online retailer may say. There IS, however, an Olympic recurve discipline in Archery, but that has nothing to do with the equipment (bow & arrows) used by archers.

The main differences between traditional bows and Olympic Recurves are:

1. Traditional bows usually have longer limbs.

2. Traditional bow strings are made from materials like Dacron or Fast Flight which helps reduce string vibration for better arrow flight consistency.

3. Traditional bows have a shelf to hold the arrow that’s about an inch higher than the rest of the bow, this allows archers to shoot at full draw without hurting themselves (or their equipment).

4. There is no upper limb on traditional bows, the riser and limbs are one solid piece of material (usually wood). This results in less energy stored within the bow but also makes it weaker since there’s only one layer of material holding everything together.

Why don’t Olympic Recurve Archers use stabilizers?

Olympic Archery rules prevent archers from adding additional weight to the front of their bows (known as “let-off” or a “rest”). This means that Olympic Recurve Archers don’t use stabilizers, which add about 3 pounds (1.3 kg) of weight to the front of a bow and help reduce vibration and wobbling during shooting.

What kind of sight does an Olympic archer use?

Most modern-day recurves come with a shelf for holding your arrow but if it doesn’t, you can always add one to your bow. High-quality shelves are built into all Olympic Archery Rests and New Archery Products offers great arrow rests at reasonable prices.

Olympic Recurve Bows also tend not to have sights on them since most shooters use a “spot-sight” instead. A spot sight is basically a large dot, which you attach to the bowstring, about 12 – 18 inches in front of your arrow rest. You can buy these from Win & Win, Hoyt Archery, or Fred Bear Archery for around $10.

What’s the best size arrow to shoot?

Shooting a bigger-sized shaft will give you a longer arrow trajectory and speed but it’ll also be harder to hold in your hand when aiming at your target. Smaller arrows tend to be faster and easier to aim but don’t travel quite as far before falling off target due to wind resistance and gravity. This makes Olympic Recurve Archers prefer to use 2313-sized shafts which travel just under 80 meters per second and usually weigh in at 18 – 20 grams.

Olympic Archery Equipment

From hunting in a forest to the final shot taken at the Olympics, every archer must balance their skills with their selection of equipment, whose purpose is to improve their overall performance.

The Olympics have strict regulations in place that determine what assistive aids can be used, unlike when you hunt recreationally. Find the most essential pieces of equipment used by Olympic archers in order to help improve their accuracy.

How much does Olympic Archery Bow Price

The best Olympic Recurves can cost $1000 or more for a top-of-the-line professional model such as the Hoyt Maxxis Carbon, The Win & Win Black Knight II, or the Fred Bear Instinct. That being said, if you’re on a budget it’s perfectly possible to shoot competitively using a less expensive ($300 – 400) older model that’s been refurbished by a reputable archery store. Whatever you decide to buy, make sure to get written proof of the warranty included with your purchase!

How to compete in Olympic archery?

For you to be an archer in the Olympic games, you must be no less than 16 years old. To earn a qualification, there are many competitions you will need to ace. 

These include the World Archery Championships and some continental qualification tournaments.  The qualification slots are allocated to your country’s National Olympic Committees, you can’t get a slot by yourself. 

You can earn a position to compete as a team or individually. Only twelve-team qualification positions are available for each team category. In the independent competitions, you will be vying for one of 28 qualification spots.

That’s 28 in the men’s competition and 24 in the women’s section. So all in all, you get 64 individuals competing.

For the first round at the Olympics:

  1. You will have 12 ends of 6 arrows ( that makes 72 arrows).
  2. You will have to shoot at a target placed at the Olympic archery distance of 70 meters. 
  3. You will have to score very high when you hit the butt( the maximum score you can get is 720).

When all 64 participants are done shooting, the total for each participant is added up. 

Next is the elimination stage.

Here two athletes face-off. The one who gets the highest points proceeds to the next stage, while the losing party bows out of the competition. This elimination goes on until they get a winner.

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