How To Use Back Tension With a Trigger Release (Try this)

I know for my first while in shooting, I definitely struggled with back tension. It can be frustrating but know your persistence and patience will pay off big-time.

So how do you use back tension with a trigger release? Successful execution of trigger release back tension will require adjustment and mastering of the following elements.

  1. Tension
  2. Thumb barrel
  3. Angle of fingers
  4. Angle of the barrel
  5. Target panic

By the end of this post, you’ll understand all the main factors you’ll need to master before executing back tension like a pro.

Back Tension

This is also referred to as your trigger, hot or cold, light or heavy. I’ll explain what tension means when using back tension. Back tension is putting your thumb on your barrel/peg (without hitting off it) and squeezing your shoulder blades together.

At the end of the day, it’s down to the archer to decide what they want. I have tried both heavy and light, so I can’t say one is better than the other. If it’s too light and you’re finding yourself trying to settle on it and then end up punching it, you should turn the tension up.

If you feel like you are expanding through your shot for too long and your bow arm starts shaking, then you need to turn the tension down.

Every archer will be different, and there’s no one correct setting for it. But to be sure, if something is good, change not just with the tension on your release but anything in archery.

I put about 80-100 arrows in, with the new change to see how it performs.

Barrel Position

The thumb barrel or peg, as some people call it, is what you place your thumb on and then expand to make your shot go off. In archery, we need repetition to succeed and get a grouping, so where you place your thumb on the barrel/peg is very important.

You need to decide where it is you are going to put your thumb along the barrel.

You can put your thumb right in the middle or on either side of the barrel. Another technique that some archers use is they put their thumb onto their release past where the peg is. Then expand through that way.

There are many different thumb pegs out there. Your release aid probably has one of these next two examples—either a skinny peg or a fat peg. I’ve shot with both and personally prefer the skinny peg. I feel I have more room to play with and to get comfortable, and that’s the main thing.

You’ll find a wide range of different thumb pegs. Try as many as you can. That way, you’ll eventually find what you like.

The last thing we’ll talk about in this section is your thumb position. The rule is: The further on your thumb is, the quicker the shot is going to go off with expansion. This means the less amount of thumb you have on the peg, the longer the shot is going to be.

Angle of Fingers

The angle in which your fingers are may not have even crossed your mind as being a factor. It’s not the most vital, but it can certainly play a part. Usually, people will start and continue shooting in what’s known as a natural position, where there is no stress to one angle. It’s also how I shoot.

However, there are two very different ways you can handle your release aid just by the angle of your fingers. So you might be putting a lot more pressure on your index finger than the rest of your fingers, meaning the barrel/peg is very close to your thumb. In turn, it allows you to wrap your thumb around it.

This may sound good for settling your thumb but depending on how you feel about the angle. You may be more prone to hitting the peg rather than focusing on expansion.

The opposite to that is, you guessed it, putting more pressure on your ring and pinky finger. This is going to cause your barrel to be much further away from your thumb.

The upside to this is that you are less prone to hitting your release, but you could also struggle to settle your thumb on the barrel fully. If I were you, I would take the approach on both to see which one is more comfortable for you.

But remember, that also doesn’t mean you can’t use the natural way of doing it.

Angle of The Barrel

So with this, the sky is basically the limit. You’ve got lots of room to play with. How I run my barrel angle is I kick it out to the side but rest my thumb on the inside corner of the peg.

When changing the angle of the barrel, you are pretty much changing how you want to rest your thumb. You can change the way it feels by putting your thumb either right in the middle of the peg or on either corner of the peg.

Keep that in mind because if one angle on your release aid doesn’t work for you, then try your thumb in the middle or on either corner of the peg with the same angle. It’s amazing to feel how different it can be just by moving your thumb slightly.

Obviously, the best place to start is with no angle in the barrel at all, and by all means, if you try some of the following angles. If you think you shoot the best without any angle, then go with that. But it’s, as I keep saying, so long as you are comfortable resting your thumb on the peg.

You can have the peg running inwards, so your thumb is close to the housing on the release aid.
I like this setup. It gives you thumb two reference points for even more consistency.

Target Panic

Target panic in its simplest form is anticipation of your shot. It’s got a lot to do with your release, sight, and mental game. When I say the anticipation of your shot, I mean your body thinks the shot is ready to go off way before it is actually ready.

Meaning, more than likely, you are drawing up, anchoring, then letting your sight float in the gold for half to one second, and then you punch it. Beating target panic is one of the hardest things to do in archery, but it is very beatable and trust me.

When you do beat it, doing back tension will just become the norm. What you can do to beat it is to practice everything we have talked about so far. Make sure you’re comfortable with the shot.

I used this tip, and it helped my confidence. You can teach yourself to shoot back tension. Use a mirror. It will help you visualize yourself doing back tension in your own head.

Stand in front of a mirror and follow the procedure: putting your thumb on the peg and relax it, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and then the shot will break. Then walk up really close to the target. We are doing this because now, you are going to use back tension to shoot your bow with your eyes closed.

This allows your body to realize good shots based on how they feel, not on where they land on the target.

Once you are satisfied with your technique, move back to your set distance with a target. You need to remember the good shots are the good feeling shots, i.e., back tension.

If you feel that your sight is still a bit jumpy because of anticipation, you can always go back to the blank boss with your eyes closed. The payout for beating target panic is enormous. You will be able to make clean shots for all your shots.

Related Questions

Archery bow arm position? Most coaches will likely prefer a straight bow arm since a straight arm is more stable than a bent. What is more important is that the archer is comfortable and can replicate the stance consistently.

Arrows shooting left? Most aiming issues are caused by the archer’s technique, but if all your arrows are shooting left, adjust your sight to the left to correct it.

You may find the following posts helpful:

How to adjust your bow release

How to grip compound bow

Short vs long D-loop

Rogan Cunningham

Rogan Cunningham is an archer and writer for He's a proud member of the National Archery Squad. He writes about his archery training, shooting, and traveling with the national archery team, and he also reviews all kinds of archery kit. He only writes about archery, what can I tell you?..... He's an Archer!

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