In the past ten years hunters have become more and more aware of the benefits of training for the physical demands of hunting. These demands vary from one hunt to the next, but the common thread is that we all can benefit from being fit for the adventure. With that said, there is so much information out there regarding fitness that it can be confusing.
I am going to break it down into simple exercises that you can do that will transfer directly to the field on your next hunt. I know that there are other exercises that you can do that will prepare you, but I kept my list to my top 5 exercises that all hunters should absolutely be doing to get ready for their next hunt.
1. Tire drags
When it comes to tire drags the most important factor is that the tire is heavy enough to make you lean into it and work to move the tire along. It shouldn’t be so heavy that you can’t move it very far, but it needs to be heavy enough that you can’t run while dragging it for very far. This is going to simulate an uphill battle on flat ground while giving your shoulders a break. The set-up is everything. Investing in a harness is a good idea. Simply attaching it to your pack will put unnecessary wear on your pack and will not be as comfortable as having it attached to a chest harness.
You can also use the tire drag for interval training by lightening the load and doing short intense sprints which is a great way to get a quick workout that will increase stamina, strength and work capacity.
This is going to build strength and stamina in your thighs, hamstring calves and chassis, while building some much needed endurance for those uphill climbs in the fall.
Strength, stamina, endurance
1-3 times a week 30-60 minutes and as you get closer to the season you will want to increase the total amount of time you spend in the tire drag. Adding more days or just going for longer each bout.
Make Your Own
The tire sled is a very simple and inexpensive tool that you can construct in your yard using simple material that you can get at any hardware store.
Tire-15 inch is best so that you can stack plates or sandbags on it for added weight.
One eye bolt with one nut and one big washers
Locking C Clip
6 Foot of Chain
12 foot of 2” nylon strap
How To Build Your Own Tire Drag and Harness
2. Step ups
Doing high numbers of step ups can be boring, so I like using them in an interval format. Doing 50-150 step ups at a fast pace broken up with a round of shooting is the best way that I have found to get the most out of this particular exercise. It will simulate having to hustle up a grade to get into position and then force you to develop a “calm and shoot” shot routine. You can either step on the box and come down on the same side or you can step up and over the box. Whichever way you choose to attack this exercise you want to make sure to stand all the way up on top of the box so that you are training a full range of motion.
Quads, hamstrings, calves, chassis
Strength, stamina, endurance
Developing a “calm and shot” routine
1-3 times a week
2-5 sets with a 1-4 minute break between sets (shooting time included in your test period)
Increase the number of step ups as the season approaches by increasing sets or increasing number of step ups per set.
3. Scissor jumps
Walking downhill can be tough on an undeveloped quad and the eccentric motion is almost always under trained in athletes The eccentric motion is the lowering of your body weight in a controlled fashion and will help you develop the proper muscle groups and connective tissue necessary to make walking down hill much easier on your quads, knees and ankles. This exercise is great because it forces you to decelerate quickly before banging r your knee on the ground. I suggest pairing this exercise with a short run like 200-400m sprint. This will pre-exhaust your legs before you get into the “downhill” exercise simulating a common hunting scenario.
Quads, Hamstrings, Calves
Strength, stamina, endurance for downhill terrain
1-3 times a week
2-5 sets paired with a short run
10-20 reps in a set paired with a 200-400m run
0-3 minutes rest between sets
Deadlifting is something that may intimidate you but it is something that we all do every day. If you bend over and pick something up off the floor you are deadlifting. The important thing about the motion is knowing how to do it correctly. I recommend doing your homework and learning the proper form before throwing a couple plates on an Olympic bar and jerking it off the floor. The next step is to practice the technique with a weight that is easy to lift so that you can develop correct movement patterns and you are using the correct muscle groups to complete the movement.
So why is this an important movement for hunting? For several reasons. Walking and walking uphill with weight in particular is sponsored mainly by your posterior chain. That includes all the muscles that you don’t see in the mirror. Everything from you calves to your upper back and nothing works this chain of muscles like the deadlift. When done correctly the deadlift is going to increase strength in your calves, hamstrings, glutes, lower, mid and upper back as well as your shoulders. All muscles that you will use not only while hiking around with weight, but lifting that back from the ground to your back as well.
Calves, hamstrings, low, mid and upper back, shoulders
1-2 times a week
3-5 reps per set
5. Turkish or Sandbag Get-Up
The get up is one of the best training tools that most hunters have never done. The reason I put this movement as one of the most important is because it will make you strong and stable through a long range of motion and will help prevent injury. This movement when done with a dumbbell or kettlebell held over head will test your shoulder, back, hip, knee, and ankle and wrist mobility. Unlike any other movement this exercise has the ability to expose weaknesses you may not even know you have. The key is to start light and get a good grasp on the correct technique of getting to your back and returning to your feet.
If you have a shoulder injury that prevents you from holding weight above your head while doing a get up (Turkish get up) then throw a sandbag over your shoulder and perform the same movement. (Sandbag get up).
Mobility, stability, strength
3-6 times a week.
This movement can be used as part of a circuit or as a warm up. I like to use it as part of a warm up even if I plan to use it later in a circuit.
5-10 per side as a warm up
10 minutes as many as I can get alternating sides.
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