Arrow Training: Stephen Amell’s Workout and How to Increase Accuracy

By on October 19, 2017

CW’s Arrow is a rare case where the actor portraying a superhero is almost as awesome as the superhero themselves. Stephen Amell not only got into great shape for this show, but also developed a crazy strength-to-weight ratio for some amazing displays of dynamic strength. From the salmon ladder, to upside-down sit ups, to tons of martial arts, the guy does it all and brings much more realism to the show.

Which of course leaves many people wondering how he trains and how they can develop a similar physicality. In this post, we’ll examine how Stephen Amell trains, as well as how Arrow might train in real life.


Stephen Amell trains using a lot of calisthenics and a lot of other functional movements. He says:

“The most impressive things I do on the show are when I can manipulate my own bodyweight. And that really is the true test of strength. I’m much more impressed if someone can do 30 pullups than can bench 300 pounds. Because one has an actual application in the real world theoretically. The other is just for show.”

Training Gloves

In other words, if Arrow wants to jump across rooftops, then he’s going to need to be able to lift his own bodyweight easily. This is a clear case of SAID: Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. In other words, train at the thing you want to get better at and over time you will get better at that thing.

Check out my videos on explosive training for more.

In an interview with Men’s Fitness, he listed some types of exercise he uses regularly:

  • Running
  • Chin ups
  • Pull ups
  • Abdominal work
  • Push ups
  • Headstand push ups
  • Planking
  • Tricep push ups
  • Balancing exercises

The key when it comes to calisthenics like this, is to focus on progressions. You’re not going to be able to do the salmon ladder on day one, so first focus on pulls ups, then progress to more explosive pulls ups or clapping pull ups and then progress to the salmon ladder. Likewise, if you can’t do a chin up yet, try doing reverse push ups first.

I would also highly recommend rock climbing (or bouldering more specifically) as a way to develop the grip strength, back strength and explosiveness that Amell displays.


Stephen also suggests that Oliver Queen likely wouldn’t have had much access to bench presses and dumbbells while stranded on an island. In fact, Oliver’s strength and fitness would probably really have developed naturally from his need to traverse the landscape, hunt for his own food etc.

And if this sounds familiar, that might be because it’s a lot like ‘MovNat’. This is a form of training that involves running through woods, swimming in cold water, climbing trees and throwing rocks. This is a brilliant way to build functional dynamic strength, because when you are doing pull ups from a tree, or lifting a log, you will always be forced to adapt to changes in angle, terrain, surface texture and more. No two pull ups from a tree branch are the same and the thickness of the branch, its angle and hits height will all subtly alter the challenge. This kind of calisthenics is perhaps the most functional form of training and from the perspective of the character, swimming in cold water, hunting food and being constantly on the move would have made him incredibly hardy, while sharpening his reflexes and his alertness. But more on that in a moment!

Functional Weight Lifting

You don’t need to go and strand yourself on an island for months to achieve the same effect though fortunately. You just need to be a bit more creative in the way you train and keep mixing it up. When Amell does use weights, it’s generally in a very functional manner too: kettlebell swings, presses while balancing on a bosu ball and the like. Along with the inventive calisthenics, this will also strengthen his core as he will be forced to constantly balance his weight and support more unusual movements. This explains why he is so lean and ripped looking around the mid-section. Throw in running, CV and lots of martial arts and you have a recipe for lean.

And this is combined with a diet free from gluten (including beer) and dairy and low in processed sugar. This wasn’t motivated by perceived evils of gluten and dairy but rather by the structure that this affords as a way to normalize blood sugar and lower calories.

These functional, compound kinds of exercises are also more useful for translating to martial arts and combat prowess, as fighting also involves using your entire body as a single functional unit. And it yet again mimics how Arrow might have trained on that island. Even though he’s using weights, he’s still using them in a way that uses the entire body and that does away with straight lines and smooth handles.

Becoming Arrow

The great thing about Amell’s training is that it’s informed by the character. He trains the way that Arrow would train and that gives him his training philosophy. Developing your own training philosophy is an important way to know what to prioritize and how to train yourself. Perhaps the training helps the actor to get into the mindset of the character too, just as Hugh Jackman would reportedly stand in a freezing cold shower yelling to get into the mind of Wolverine.

But of course, Amell is just an actor and Arrow is a superhero. He can’t train exactly like the guy. So, what’s missing?

Well, Amell points out that if he were really training to become an archer, he would use fewer explosive pull ups and would instead use a slow, drawn out cadence. Doing that would allow him to develop the kind of powerful lats and control that an archer needs. He suggests doing lat pull downs while on a bosu ball to add in more stability. As mentioned, rock climbing is also a great way to build this strength.

As for the aim itself, again it comes down to practice. Want to be a better archer? Then practice archery! But actually, any activity that involves having a steady aim will improve your accuracy. In fact, even VR may help.

VR Arrow Training

Studies show that computer games that challenge kids to use lightguns actually improve accuracy in real-world settings. VR would surely take that one step further, while giving you a very convenient way to play these games from home, any time. I’ve been playing a table tennis game called ‘Eleven’ and many people claim that improves their real-life table tennis skill!

I’ve talked in the past about VR’s potential for brain training, but how about real-world training! VR has the potential to put a real-world ‘War Room’ in our homes. This is a topic I’ll be covering in a future video.

Of course, there are other specific drills you can devise – like bouncing tennis balls off a wall and catching them or juggling. Or you can train your aim during the day by turning normal tasks into an opportunity to develop yourself – throwing tea bags into the mug from across the kitchen for example.

Aim is largely about hand-eye coordination, so developing your coordination, your awareness and your proprioception also helps. More complex, functional exercises will help this to some extent. This is especially true if you use contralateral movements that involve moving the left and right sides of your body out of sync – Spider-Man crawls are ideal for this.

Also beneficial is to be more conscious as you train your aim. In other words: think about what you’re doing as you do it. In one study (1), it was found that basketball players could improve their aim by 22% by using something known as the ‘quiet eye’ technique. In short: they would focus on the hoop’s front rim for at least a second before shooting.

And you can likewise use mindfulness to be more aware of your body and relative position in space as you move around normally. Just be more conscious as you reach for that mug, or as you open the door.

Stephen Amell Pull Ups

The role of the body is particularly important for your mindfulness. If you’ve ever played golf, then you’ll know how important it is to line your body up correctly and to use the correct swinging technique as you throw. The same goes for bowling. It only takes for your wrist to be twisted so that it’s facing slightly outward and you’ll miss. So, concentrate on yourself, as well as the objects you’re trying to throw and hit.

Another component influencing aim is vision and more precisely our ability to track and focus on a moving target. There are drills you can do for your eyes, which include tracking objects that are moving quickly (try a fly) or switching your focus between near and far objects. The near-far drill involves having one object about 18 inches from you and another about 10 feet. Then just switch your focus between them. Practice a few minutes daily.

In an upcoming video, I’ll be discussing peripheral vision, which also has a role here.


So, the TLDR version is this:

  • Use calisthenics and functional training
  • Rock climb
  • Train outdoors if possible
  • Train your aim

The big question of course is where you’re supposed to find time for rock climbing and near-far drills around all the rest of your training. I addressed this issue in my video on Batman training by suggesting you use a ‘skills day’ in your workout. This is a single workout devoted to developing cool skills that don’t fit into a regular split: that means things like aim, reflexes, flexibility, hand balancing and more.

Hanging Sit Ups

This fits my personal training philosophy, which is effectively GPD or ‘General Preparedness Training’. If you train to make yourself generally prepared for action, then you might want to do something similar. Do all this and you should stay right on target.


About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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