The painful sting of a bowstring hitting your inner forearm is enough to deter beginner archers from ever picking up a bow again. But luckily, there’s good news.
While string slap is painful, it is usually not serious and can easily be prevented, even without a bulky arm guard.
To prevent string slap, adopt a firm, but loose grip, with the line of your knuckles at a 45 degree to the riser. Rotate the crease of your elbow so that it faces inward and relax your shoulders. Open your stance and consider investing in an arm guard.
What causes string slap?
String slap is caused when the string repeatedly hits your arm, usually resulting in bruising and pain. This is the most common archery injury, experienced by both beginner and advanced archers alike.
String slap is most commonly due to the incorrect form of the hands, shoulders, and elbows. However, it can also be due to improper equipment, such as using a bow with a draw length that is too long or a brace height that is too short.
It may seem overwhelming, but don’t worry, I’ll break down everything that you need to know below.
Does string slap affect accuracy?
String slap affects accuracy. When the string contacts your skin, the arrow is nocked. Therefore, when the string hits you, it will also affect the arrow.
This is enough deflection to push your arrow to swerve it’s flight to the left or right.
Is string slap common, or is it just me?
Archery is one of the safest sports with a very minimal amount of injuries. String slap is one of those few injuries on the list of most common archery injuries. And most archers experience it at least once or another. So don’t worry, you’re not alone.
How to treat bow string slap
String slap will usually go away on its own within a few days. Luckily, there are some things that you can do to speed up the process.
Immediately after the injury, apply ice to the injury. This will reduce the amount of blood flow around the area, as well as reducing the appearance of bruising and swelling. You can use an ice pack or a pack of frozen vegetables.
Once the bruise has formed, apply heat to boost circulation and relieve pain. I recommend a heating pad or a hot water bottle.
Aloe vera has also been found to reduce pain and inflammation, so you may also apply it topically to speed up the healing process.
Why is my bowstring hitting my arm?
The most common causes of string slap are:
- incorrect grip
- improper elbow rotation
- long draw length
- low brace height
- closed stance
Luckily, this is all fixable. I will explain everything you need to know in the next section.
How to prevent string slap
String slap can easily be prevented. I’ll teach you how to identify what you’re doing wrong and how to correct it.
1. Adopt a loose, but firm grip
The ideal grip is loose, but firm enough so that the bow doesn’t slip while shooting. Your knuckles should form a line that is 45 degree angle to the vertical of the riser, or the main part of the bow.
2. Rotate your elbow
Elbow rotation is the most common reason why people experience string slap.
Many beginner archers make the mistake of shooting with the crease of their elbow facing up. Unfortunately, this creates more surface area for the bowstring to slap and can be a discouraging experience for many first-time archers.
In order to avoid string slap, you must keep your inner elbow and forearm out of the bowstring’s path.
In order to fix this, simply hold your arm out, as if you were about to shoot. The crease of your elbow should be vertical, instead of facing up. If you’re new to archery, make sure you’re using the right form whenever you shoot, at least until it becomes habit.
3. Use a shorter draw length
Many archers make the mistake of using a draw length that is too long. This causes you to overextend your back and shoulders every time you shoot. Not only does this cause back pain, but it can also lead to string slap.
If you feel like your constantly reaching forward every time you shoot, a shorter draw length is the solution for you.
4. Adjust your brace height
String slap isn’t always the archer’s fault. Sometimes, it’s due to poor form, but other times it’s because of equipment. Most notably, the brace height.
Brace height is the distance from the riser of the bow — where you grab it when you shoot — to the string, when it’s in resting position.
If this distance is too short, your wrist is closer to the string. To compensate, you’ll rotate your elbow and lower your shoulder. The string will slap your wrist, where you don’t have an protection.
This is one of the least common causes of string slap, but it’s easy to identify. If the string is hitting your wrist, your brace height is too low.
On a compound bow, this is an easy fix. Add more twists to the tip of the string. This will make the bow more “flexed”, pulling the limbs away from the riser and increasing brace height.
On a recurve bow, the optimal brace height is strongly dependent on the bow’s length. It typically ranges from 7 ½ inches to 9 ½ inches. However, be sure to check your manufacturer’s specifications, as this may vary from bow to bow.
5. Adopt an open stance
Most beginner archers use the traditional standing position, otherwise known as the square stance.
In this stance, both feet form a line with the target and only one side of the archer’s body faces what they’re shooting at. This position increases the chances of string slap because it puts your bow arm in the direct trajectory of the bowstring.
To avoid this, you must open your stance.
If you’re right-landed, move your left foot to the left when you shoot. If you’re left-handed, move your right foot to the right.
Only move your foot slightly, about a foot to the left or right. If you open too much, you’ll face the target too head-on. As a result, it’ll be hard to maintain the square T position of your upper chest that you’ll need to support the draw.
6. Invest in an arm guard
Though it’s perfectly acceptable to shoot without an arm guard, I recommend them for archers of all experience levels.
Let’s face it, we all make mistakes. The string IS going to slap every once in a while. Maybe you’ll grip the bow too hard or maybe you’ll accidentally rotate your elbow too far. The string will hit. It’ll hurt. It happens to even the most experienced archers. But if I can do something to prevent that painful slap, I will.
That’s why I always use an arm guard.
An arm guard is a panel, usually made of plastic or leather, that can be tied or velcroed around an archer’s arm. It functions as a mini shield. Instead of the bowstring hitting your arm, it hits the guard instead. No pain.
I personally use this one from Amazon. But, feel free to check around to see if there’s any you prefer.
After reading this, I hope that you can be more self-assured that anyone can suffer from string slap, not just beginners. However, it’s still something that you should avoid. After all, it’s pretty painful.
Regardless, now you know the main causes of string slap. You’re armed with the knowledge on how to prevent every one of them.
If you need any more help, please feel free to check out my other articles!