Ask the experts – stiff vs damped and other questions

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Question: My son shoots competitive compound target archery. He currently shoots a 30″ front bar of a larger diameter and my thought is to upgrade to a much smaller diameter bar to decrease the wind effect. I am wondering about the vibration dampening materials being added to stabilizers by most of the major manufacturers, such as Bee Stinger (Countervail), Axcel (Carboflax), Conquest (Smacwrap fiber), etc.

My question is, with very small diameter bars do the added dampening materials detract from the stiffness of the high modulus carbon bar to an extent that it isn’t worth the vibration dampening?

In other words on the basis of mechanics am I better off concentrating on the stiffest small diameter quality rod and not being concerned about dampening? My son does not currently shoot with a large amount of weight on his front bar (approx. 5 oz); however, that might increase with time.

DR JAMES PARK says: The mass distribution and stiffness of a stabiliser determine its flexing frequency and the damping the rate at which vibrations die out. It is the same as a car suspension where the unsprung mass and spring stiffness determine the frequency and the shock absorbers the nature of the vibrations. The damping does not change the stated stiffness, just the nature of the vibrations.

Axcel are one of several major stabiliser manufacturers using proprietary dampening materials in their rods

An important consideration for stabilisers is that the resonant frequency must not be close to the archer’s muscle tremor frequency or the rate at which the archer makes aiming corrections. Otherwise the bow will be very terrible to use – it will not ‘aim well’.

The easiest approach is to make the stabiliser resonant frequency much higher than that, and that is done (for a given mass) by making the rod stiffer. If the mass is less the frequency will also be higher. A shorter rod will also have a higher resonant frequency.

The length and mass also determine the stabiliser’s rotational inertia – longer and more mass give a higher inertia and make it more difficult to twist the bow, so it is a compromise.

Damping is achieved by having some lossy mechanism that absorbs the energy of the vibration. It is a good thing and helps hold the bow steadier and makes it feel nicer after the shot. Some of that loss can be built into the rod itself or it can be added using a rubber coupler just prior to the mass on the end (not next to the bow). 

Another consideration is that the stabiliser system, and particularly the long rod is pushed around by wind. In that respect a small diameter rod is a very good thing, especially for the long rod.

However, some of these things can be a bit challenging to guess prior to using the system. Hence, it is always best to try one beforehand if you can – what might work very nicely for one archer might not for another. My preference is certainly a small diameter rod to reduce movement in wind – I have tried many and selected the one that let me aim most steadily.

Thanks to Dennis DiPasquo for the question

Question: Can you recommend a personal training programme for veteran archers? 

ROY ROSE says: Our sport is not necessarily about strength, nor do we usually witness heavily muscled archers achieving international status. Indeed, large amounts of upper-body muscle mass is usually considered a hindrance to the fine control required for good archery. 

Nevertheless, I have always advocated a weight training program to augment any shooting training, and archery aside, maintaining a healthy bodyweight and a solid degree of fitness is of course a positive for your general well-being. 

I’m very much in my latter years, but I still train regularly as I’ve always done since I was a teenager. Now my program has been adapted to maintain continuous injury-free progress.

The principal difference is a compromise between keeping up my sets of exercise for the various body parts, but utilising less poundage and higher repetition.  Athletes wanting to build strength and muscle push as heavy a weight as they can for a low number of repetitions. 

Weight training can bring benefits at all ages

Because of my advancing years and because archery does not focus on building huge muscle – and because I don’t want to risk injury – I work on a much higher rep range, around 20 to 30. Training should be an ongoing positive, and pushing big weights for low reps is simply a recipe for possible injury. Higher rep ranges keep the muscles in tune as well as adding an aerobic factor. 

I train shoulders on Monday, back on Tuesday, arms on Thursday, chest on Friday, legs on Saturday and take a rest on Sunday. I work on an uptempo method performing three sets of each of four exercises, with just a minute of rest between sets. This only takes me around 30 minutes with stretching between sets. I ride the exercise bike each evening for 30 minutes, 5 days a week, and do some abdominal work on my rest days. 

This program has allowed me as an eighty year old to wicket keep at cricket at state level, as well as to continue to maintain very positive scoring in archery, which has deteriorated very little in the past decade.

My veteran cricket involvement, my archery and my training program, obviously keeps me in both good physical and mental shape. My diet is sensible but not rigid, and hopefully the rocking chair will not be a necessary option in the near future.

All this may seem somewhat over the top at my age, but it is largely a habit which has simply rolled on with rational adjustments. I just get up each day and do what I did yesterday. So far, so good! 

Question: I had been training really hard for this season in an attempt to finally get my GMB classification and win a competition or two, and now it’s looking like I might not get the opportunity. I know it wasn’t wasted time but the point of archery is to compete and I feel like hanging it up for good, because I’m not sure I’ll have the same impetus next year.

DUNCAN BUSBY says: Wherever you look there is another story on how the recent global pandemic is affecting the way we live; from work, to sports and even the way we shop, our lives have been turned upside-down. A year ago no one would have believed you if you’d told them just how much freedom we’d lose but now we find ourselves having to adjust to ‘the new normal’.

Like most other sports archery has been badly affected by the pandemic and the measures brought in to control it. In March when the UK went into lockdown the outdoor season was just beginning and archers across the country were getting ready for the upcoming months of competitions.

The news of tournament cancelations and the immediate closure of all clubs for the foreseeable future was a disappointing blow to the entire archery community. But this has not just been felt in the UK; archers from across the globe have all had to come to terms with the changes that have been implemented, changes that affect every level of our sport.

2020 was due to be an Olympic and Paralympic year and teams around the world were finalising their preparations to compete at these huge events, the news of their postponement till 2021 will have been an emotional and difficult set back to their lives. Indeed for the many professionals across the archery industry who rely on the sport for their income, the disruption to the tournament circuit has been a difficult fact to come to terms with.

At the time of writing the majority of international and domestic tournaments around the world have been cancelled or postponed. But as the phased return to normality begins some countries and organisations are starting to talk of possible dates to begin opening up for entries, although as its early days and any changes are conditional on the development of the pandemic it’s difficult to say whether we will get to compete outdoors at all this year.

Here in the UK there is some positive news; several governing bodies have recently announced a staged return to shooting starting with a conditional opening of archery clubs, so for some of us the welcome prospect of a return to training is now possible. This may only be a small first step but with a bit of luck it will be the start of things returning to normal.

In the meantime and following our increasing reliance on digital technology, several archery groups and organisations have turned to social media in order to keep people connected with the sport. Instructional videos, team question and answer sessions and even online archery competitions have been set up to give us all something to focus and work on while we await the next step towards competing again. 

World Archery’s weekly target face competition has become extremely popular; played as part of the ‘Beat The Outbreak Online Archery League’ on Facebook, archers get to download and shoot at a fun new target face each week while competing with other archers from around the world.

Currently in its 8th week it’s now turned into archery battleships, shooting has never been more fun!  Will these changes be the way we compete in the future? Will online archery competitions be the key to supporting our environment and cutting down on travel?

These are questions no doubt every governing body are asking themselves as they work out how to get the sport moving again, but without a crystal ball there is no way of saying how things will change as we progress through this crisis and for now we must sit tight and wait, however frustrating that may be.

As someone who works exclusively in the archery industry I feel your frustration at the current situation, the countless hours of preparation put in for a season that may not happen is demoralising to say the least. But as you said, I know this time hasn’t been wasted, the situation is changing daily and it’s important we use this break in the tournament calendar to our advantage.

Although we can’t compete as we used to there are still things we can be working on; shooting form, equipment tune, strength and fitness and even our mental game are all things to perfect during practice, so now is the ideal time to start making any changes you may have put off while concentrating on competitions.

Pay extra attention to your mental health in the current crisis

Set some new goals and keep challenging yourself, this drive to improve will keep you motivated and will ensure you are shooting your best when the time comes to compete together again.     

We are living in complicated times and although things look bleak now, there are signs that life is slowly returning to normal. No one knows for certain when this will be, but one thing we can be sure of is that the archery community will find a way to come through together. Until then keep safe and stay positive. 

Question: Why do I see so many top Olympic recurve archers using Beiter in/out nocks?

REBEKAH TIPPING says: In order to answer this question, the first step is to understand Beiter nock terminology. An In/Out nock has a plastic insert that fits inside the arrow shaft, and has an outer diameter large enough to fit around the outside of the arrow to cover the back few mm of carbon at the end of the shaft.

This is different to the Beiter Out nock, probably the most commonly seen nock on the international circuit among recurve archers, which fits entirely over the back of the arrow shaft, covering around 10mm of the back of the shaft. Beiter pin nocks require a metal pin that is to be inserted into the arrow, with the nock fitting over the pin.

Choosing the right nock means finding the nock that gives the best grouping for your set up, using a nock system that is easy to maintain, and, to a certain extent, something that will protect your arrows if struck by another arrow in the target.

Beiter In/Out nocks spotted at the Antalya World Cup

The best nock for protecting an arrow is undoubtedly the pin nock: the pin will take the damage and may be destroyed, but will preserve the arrow shaft from cracks (in most scenarios, no arrow can be completely protected).

However, a lot of top archers I have spoken to in my research regard the pin as “just an extra piece of kit to worry about”. A pin may carry flaws after an impact that may not necessarily be seen by eye, and could damage the inside of the nock, leading to an arrow that may not perform as well.

It is for this reason a lot of archers choose to shoot a nock that contacts directly to the back of the arrow, such as an Out nock or an In/Out nock. The Out nock has a reputation among intermediate level archers who do not consider arrows as mere consumables, which is understandable given how expensive they are to replace.

I shot out nocks for a few weeks one season and broke two arrows, and, despite finding that I loved how they performed, I couldn’t afford to buy a new set of arrows every few months, so went back to pin nocks.

The In/Out nock has a plastic insert that acts much like a pin does, to provide some protection to the back of the shaft, and archers seem to find them a compromise between out nocks and pin nocks.

The absence of a pin means there is less weight at the back of the shaft, resulting in both an increased arrow speed, and a change in dynamic spine of the arrow, allowing them to act weaker, potentially creating a more forgiving shot.

However, when impacted by another arrow in the target, they can protect the arrow just as a pin would. The plastic insert may break off inside the shaft, but I am assured that they are easy to remove with a tool available from Beiter.

Essentially, nock choice is a balancing act between finding the set up that performs best, while being confident in your ability to maintain the set up. For a lot of archers, the In/Out nocks fit the bill.

Thanks to Hawk Granville for the question

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