From “Selling Back Tension Release Aids,” by Larry Wise, ArrowTrade Magazine, March 2004
Begin learning the release with a training aid, not a bow.
Set the release timing to heavy so your shooter has to work hard to activate the release.
Use a rope loop with them to be sure they have back tension that launches the loop several feet out of their hand.
Check for wrist or finger movement, there should be none with back tension. The rhomboid muscles in your back are the workers in this exercise.
All fingers should be held with equal tightness on the release and not relaxed.
Their wrist should be relaxed and straight.
Two weeks on the training aid is not too long.
Switch to the bow but do not use a sight or a target face. Stand close to the target butt.
Shoot 15 to 20 shots each session. Two weeks is not too long to do this either.
Begin every practice with 15 - 20 blank bale shots before shooting any score on a target face.
End every practice with 8 - 10 blank bale shots. Never aim during the blank bale shooting, think about how it feels only.
Six months is not too long to follow this routine.
I called Jim Bath of Kansas to get his thoughts on release shooting. He feels this way, “Too many shooters using the back tension release are twisting their wrist or their fingers to set it off and they’re not getting the results they want because of that.” I agree, that’s why it’s important to get started properly. I also liked what Jim had to say about switching to the back tension style, “You don’t ‘try’ a back tension release to see if you like it, you commit to it for the long term. “ In other words, you can’t get this technique at the McDonald’s drive-thru window. You really have to work at it.
Learning to Shoot a Back Tension Release Aid
Using a six foot piece of 1/8 th inch nylon rope, tie the two ends together to form a loop
equal in length to your bow’s draw length.
Place one end of the loop around your bow hand as shown while hooking your back tension release to the other end as you would hook it to your bowstring. Now the loop acts as your bow and you can reproduce your full draw body position without drawing the bow and any threat of bodily harm. Adjust the length of the rope to match your bow’s draw length so that your feel comfortable. In other words, adjust it to match your full draw body position. That means your shoulders must be level, your dominant-side scapula in position to begin back tension, drawing elbow slightly raised above level and your bow arm extended to allow the force of your tension to be carried by bone structure.
Body position is all-important to form, so even with this rope, practice it right.
Once you’re in proper position you need to relax your drawing-side arm muscles.
Remember that this is easiest when your draw-wrist is kept straight and forearm muscles are relaxed. Also, consistent archery form minimizes muscle and maximizes skeleton.
Now is the time to start tightening your draw-side rhomboids. As they tighten, you will feel your arm, elbow, release hand and back tension release move, too. Eventually, the back tension release will release the rope loop and the bowstring.
Figure 1: Use the rope loop to simulate your bow. Adjust it to the right draw length, set the release-timing medium to heavy and practice back tension.
BE PATIENT: DO NOT RUSH THIS PROCESS!
If your back tension release goes off too quickly set it heavier. Learn to use it set heavy so you have to expend lots of energy and time to get it to go off. Working hard at this stage will get you accustomed to waiting for the release to do its magic. Even if your personality is such that you can’t stand waiting, train yourself to wait. Waiting is a habit you can learn. When you are executing with back tension properly the rope loop will launch four or five feet outward. If, when released, it just hangs around your bow hand then you’re not using any tension and simply turning the release handle with your wrist or fingers. When you get it right, the cord will launch outward several yards. Learn how it’s done and how it feels in your back. Keep doing it until it is transferred to your subconscious.
This rope and the back tension release can be used anywhere, anytime. Practice with it in your office, living room, and basement, on business trips or anywhere you are. Use it for maybe 20 shots at a time. More shots are not necessary but more practice sessions are. Practice four or five times a day because frequent review promotes long-term retention of the skill being practiced. These frequent sessions will also help with muscle conditioning and mental control. Be sure to review body position with each practice session.
Selecting a Release
The back tension release has been around since the early 1970’s when Mel Stanislawski invented it. I started using one in 1977 and haven’t been able to put it down since. On the urging of a friend I borrowed his “Stan” for a test run; he never got it back.
From the first shot I knew I was a better archer. With my Stanislawski the arrow groups were good and got better and better until I was shooting well from all distances. My first indoor scores that winter were over 590 on the 40cm FITA target and I was impressed with how this release aid had changed me. I’ve used other releases but I keep going back to the back tension release. With it I can maintain my form. Without it I quickly fall into a lazy mode with my back tension and the groups in the target get bigger.
Many back tension releases are available from several manufacturers. Models for two, three, and four fingers are shown. I know all the manufacturers personally and have tried all of these products and urge you to try them in an effort to find the one that best fits your hand and improves your consistency.
Over the years I’ve had the most success with a two-finger model but a three or four finger model may better serve you.
If you’re concerned about your release going off on the draw stroke then try a release with a safety of some kind. The safety prevents the release from discharging during the draw stroke. At full draw you can press a button to disconnect the safety and from that point on you can use your back tension to activate the release. These releases really take the worry out of drawing a back tension release. No matter what model you choose keep hand position in mind. You must be able to hold the release while keeping your large knuckles and wrist straight. This is the best way to ensure that your forearm muscles are relaxed during the shot.
Using the Back Tension Release with a Bow
When you’re ready to use your back tension release with your bow, begin at close range, say 5 yards, no target and no sight. Your goal is to get the bow to full draw position, then aim and reproduce the shot form that you’ve been practicing with the rope loop. Don’t set the release light, heavy is better for training. You know when you’re cheating so don’t. Only perfect practice makes perfect.
Frequent short practice sessions each day are, again, the best way to train. Do this for 20 days; it takes 20 days to build a habit. The goal of each session is to shoot ten to fifteen shots with perfect form and execution.
In time, maybe two weeks, you’ll be ready for a sight and a target. Don’t rush to get to them, remain patient and focus on the feel of your body as it sets off the release. Add the sight and a target and shoot at close range. Practice often during the day and only for 10 to 15 shots.
Once again your goal with this practice is to get to full draw position in order to begin aiming and tightening your rhomboid muscles. Following that you must remain immersed in aiming while your subconscious controls the rhomboid tightening. No other thought is necessary since the release will eventually go off. Your task, and it’s a big one, is to just let it work.
Once you’ve begun shooting at targets you must continue practice with the rope loop and with your sightless bow and no target.
1. Use the loop anytime you can for a few shots.
2. Warm up with it re shooting.
3. Use blank-bale practice re and after each target practice session. Eight or ten shots at the start of practice and eight or ten at the end reinforces body position, body feel and, most all, the mental focus and control that need to shoot properly with back tension.
I know the rope loop works, as do other training aids. As we speak I know an airline pilot flying all over Europe for fifteen days at a time. He takes release and rope with him so he can practice in his hotel room (I’m sure he doesn’t practice on the plane but it could done.) He’s already beaten his panic problem and by fall he’ll be hunting and enjoying it for the first time in years; he won’t have to worry if he’ll be able to take the shot when he gets one.
I like what I’m hearing about the tension style releases. I’ve always believed at shooting with one was the right way to learn. For me, it’s the right way to shoot I the time. For others, learning to shoot with back tension gets them set up to shoot other release styles and with them they can win or hunt successfully.
I also like hearing that tension release sales are up. The word is getting out that to shoot well for a long period of me you must use your back muscles. If ore people are using them then more people are shooting properly and that makes it more fun. People keep doing fun things and that’s good for archery.