Are Compound Bows Hard to Pull Back?

an archer drawing his bow

As you might be aware, compound bows are a popular choice for target practice enthusiasts as well as hunters.

And if you interact with them, each compound bow owner has his/her reasons.

Some praise their precision.

Others wax lyrical about their minimal recoil and vibration (when releasing an arrow).

Another group will rave that compound bows are way easier to learn for beginners.

Now, all these are wonderful advantages. But the question on the lips of every starter is whether compound bows are hard to pull back.

And it’s a sensible question since can’t shoot even a fly if your bow is difficult to draw.

So, are compound bows hard to pull back compared to longbows and recurve bows?

Well, when rated against longbows and recurve bows, compound bows are at the start as hard to pull back.

Having said that, their levering system means that you only need to pull against their full weight briefly. Then, because of its innovative levering mechanism, the weight gradually lightens as you pull it further back.

This allows you to relax and hold it for longer as you try to aim for the bull’s eye.

Let’s catch up with how compound bows are created to better understand their magical operation..

Compound bow’s unique construction and how it impacts your pulling effort

A compound bow uses a pulley/cables levering system to bend its limbs.

And it’s this innovative system that largely contributes to making it easier for you to draw your bow.

So, exactly what happens?

First, the riser of your compound bow is the nerve center of the drawing operation and it’s deliberately designed to be extremely rigid-some manufacturers even make risers out of the toughest aircraft-grade aluminum alloy!

The limbs are similarly made stiffer.

Now, since the bow’s energy is usually stored in these limbs, this rigidity means minimal energy is lost when limbs move (as you draw it).

This makes compound bows more energy-efficient than the competition.

Also important to this discussion is the fact that besides maximizing the energy the bow stores throughout the drawing cycle, the system also provide a ‘let-off’ at full draw.

This can baffle you so let me explain…

As you pull the string back, the cams and cables create a leverage which reduces the draw weight as you pull further and further back.

Eventually, at full draw, the bow cams roll over.

Due to this, the draw weight hence drops (You have reached let-off), so you’ll now be holding significantly less weight than peak weight.

In fact, many compound bows brands offer can offer a whopping 85% let off (maximum) once you pull them to full draw.

This allows you to relax and concentrate on hitting the gold.

In summary, a compound’s unique engineering and operation make it generally easier to pull back and shoot.

At least, if you consider the mechanical advantage and reduced holding weights.

But, there’s a big BUT as you will discover next…

Compound bows ease of pulling back depends on several factors.

You see, you may not necessarily find your compound easier to draw.

That’s because a whole bunch of issues comes into play.

Let’s look at a few of these.

1. Your draw length

If your compound is within your draw length, it’s going to be undoubtedly easier to pull back and shoot.

You can always double-check with a pro just to be sure of your draw length.

The good thing is that he/she can help you correct the situation by making a slight draw length change to your bow.

2. The draw weight

The bow’s draw weight is nothing else but the strength it will take you to draw it (pull it back).

The idea is to avoid being overbowed.

For starters, you’re overbowed if your compound bow proves too heavy to pull back. This means that you struggle and hence get tired pretty fast when in the range.

Do you know how to get your ideal draw weight?

Just take your maximum strength and multiply it by 75%  (best draw height = 75% X your maximum strength)

For the most part, this will be comfortable to pull and satisfactory in performance.

The following draw weight table might also give you an idea of the draw weight that will work for you when buying.

Body Type Typical Archer’s
Draw Weight
Small children40-70 lbs.10-15 lbs.
Regular Children70-100 lbs.15-20 lbs.
Large-framed boys, majority of women100-140 lbs.30-40 lbs.
Youth boys, Women with bigger frames140-160 lbs.40-50 lbs.
Most males160-190 lbs.55-65 lbs.
Males with bigger frames190+ lbs.60-70 lbs.

In extreme cases, you can choose to train on lighter bows and upgrade once you improve your drawing form.

For example, you might find pulling 80 lbs. easier after spending some time with a 60 lbs. bow because of the improved technique.

Telltale signs that your draw weight is too much

What are the most obvious signs that you’re struggling with an ambitious draw weight?

  • You can’t draw it (at all).
  • Yes, you somehow draw but the string doesn’t get back unless you do strange things like pointing the compound bow skywards.
  • If you have to collapse your bow arm shoulder inward to get extra leverage, then the weight is too high.
  • You’re shaking like a leaf at full draw.
  • Your shot accuracy has suddenly gone south after upgrading.


Your bow will also be exceedingly difficult to pull back if the tension is overwhelming.

Fortunately, you can adjust the tension using an Allen wrench.

You just look for the screw located where each limb attaches to the riser and turn each screw left, one full turn.

Check and readjust until you achieve satisfactory limb tension.

It’s normal to feel that such adjustments are a step too much for you.

Don’t fret; your local archery shop can tweak the limb tension for you.

Other considerations

You want it easier?

Then be prepared to check out your whole bow..

You see, while many of us are aware of the importance of having the compound perfectly tuned, we often forget other determinants and end up making drawing an uphill task.

Take a look at:

1. Your grip

You should strive to optimize your grip before pulling back.

Here is how:

When pulling, your hands should be about the nose height.  Always check this.

Next, you should always confirm that your grip hand (one propping the bow), as well as the release hand (one hooking to the D-loop) are extending in front of your torso (in line with the target).

By now you’re to start pulling.

At this stage, it’s important to ensure that your grip hand remains firmly extended at the nose height just before you pull.

If everything is okay, you can start to pull the string back using your release hand.

Something else:

While progressively pulling it back towards your face, ensure that your release hand follows a moderately downward path.

In the meantime, your rear shoulder ought to be rotating into your back the further the bowstring pulls.

This way, you will be enjoying a relaxed hold to help you effortless reach full draw.

2. How well have you been caring for the bow string?

If you want your bow to function like a well-oiled German machine (including being easy to draw), you need to care for it.

Having hunted with compound bows for over a decade, I actually sometimes feel that our bows follow the principle of scratch my back I scratch yours.

Or what do you make of their tendency to misfire when ignored and to shoot like snipers when pampered?

The good news is that caring for your bowstring doesn’t need any special skills. As a matter of fact, the basics are enough to make it happy and painless to pull.

This is what to do at the very least:

  • Wax your bow string using high caliber wax regularly. We suggest weekly during busy hunting seasons.
  • Always clean the string using appropriate cleaning agents.
  • Restring if you notice it’s worn or ragged. On average, bow strings can remain in good condition even for over 3 years though some manufacturers recommend a change every 12-18 months. Remember that a stretched string pushes the poundage up and elongates the draw length and will be hard to pull back.

Compound bow pulling mechanism Vs Recurve & Long Bow

How does the rest compare to our compound bow pull?

I have shot a long bow, recurve, and compounds and yes, all are very different in their own ways.

But all said and done, only a compound bow provides the leverage that we spoke about earlier.

But is it really the easiest to pull?

Well, at the beginning of the draw you will be exerting the same energy in all bows but like I had indicated, a compound bow’s system manipulates the weight and ‘eases’ it as you advance.

This means you don’t need to apply maximum energy throughout and may make it a bit undemanding for people with less muscle.

Why you should never attempt to pull back a bow that you can’t handle

You might be risking a serious injury when overtaxing your muscles attempting to pull back a bow that is unyielding.

And I can assure you it’s not fun at all.

You see, you will be fine for many seasons then, out of nowhere, a mild pain emerges for example, in the shoulders.

And before you know it, your doctor recommends surgery meaning you will be out of the sport for a very long time.

To be on the safe side, you can plan on how you’ll be regularly exercising your shoulders and back especially if you frequently hunt with a compound bow.

Compound Bow Pull: FAQs

Q: What muscles do you use to pull a bow back?

A: Several muscle groups have a role:

For the holding, you use deltoids (shoulders), pectorals (chest), brachiordialis and triceps (both arms) muscles.

On the other hand, for drawing the string, your body uses the infraspinatus (shoulders), latissimus dorsi, trapezius, teres major/minor, and rhomboids (back) alongside the bicep and brachialis(both arms) muscles.

Q: Is recurve harder than compound?

A: I have shot recurves and compound bows and I am of the opinion that it all comes down to your preferences.

That said, a compound bow is generally more accurate and powerful compared to a recurve. Again, the longer strings in compound bows give you an opportunity to pull further back to obtain more power.

A recurve, however, tends to be lighter (they don’t have as many complex parts as compounds) and thus easier to carry.

Their major downside is that the lack of advanced mechanisms (cams and pullies) like in compound bows means they rely wholly on your strength to pull.

They might, therefore, require extra force to draw and could be more challenging if your upper body strength is wanting.

Perhaps the easiest way of deciding is for you to visit a neighborhood archery shop and shoot both.


Are compound bows hard to pull back? Well, we have seen that at the start, compound bows are as hard as anyone else.

But their elliptical wheels or cams gradually lighten the force you need as you progress through the draw cycle.

And finally, at full draw, you will be enjoying a let-off (and far reduced holding weight) than crossbows and practically every other bow type.

For this reason, you can hold a compound for extended periods of time as you close in on your target.

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