By Dan Staton MS, PES

It’s a hell of a lot easier to stay in shape then it is to get into shape!  Being ready for the season opener to me means you can hunt harder and longer, and with greater effectiveness.  You are resistant to fatigue and losing focus.  Not to mention, staying fit usually means enduring a longer hunting career, and that’s something we all want to do — hunt well into our senior years.

But how do you do it? The market is full of “proven-to-work” exercise routines and some are certainly worthwhile, while others are not. However, based on my experience, a hunter’s routine should focus on general physical preparedness (GPP) and not specialized training. Basically, the concept of GPP involves cross-training — a way of working out that involves nearly all your body’s muscles rather than isolating small muscles. This type of training improves strength, flexibility, and endurance — keys to becoming better at this sport.  However, just like any workout routine, it will take time and devotion, which means less couch time. With that in mind, let’s look at maximizing your workouts using this technique.

Eliminate The Weak Spots
Are you a decent runner but can’t seem to do a pull-up? Can you bench press your body weight, but can’t run a mile under 10 minutes? If so, you’re lacking balanced fitness and that’s the purpose behind cross-training — to get you strong for many things and not just one.  It’s all about eliminating those weak spots, so you can adapt well to a variety of hunting demands. And boy, don’t they seem to vary.  You may be thinking… yeah, this is all good and dandy, but this workout stuff applies mainly to the “western” guy who likes to hump the hills for elk, mulies or blacktails. This isn’t for the whitetail, treestand guy?  I couldn’t disagree more. Even the eastern hunter gains immensely from being in better shape. After all, hanging stands, shimming up and down trees, and walking in and out of treestand spots without sweating much is no walk in the park, especially when you got three-layers of clothes on and a pack loaded with deer goodies and maybe even a decoy in tow. Whitetail hunting is still a highly physical endeavor and those in better shape will hunt more effectively, period.

Exercises That Work
Western-type hunting can be challenging: you have to walk a lot and your pack gets heavier with each hunting day, and short-dragging game to your truck usually isn’t an option. Instead, you’ve got to haul it out on your back, and usually as fast as possible to avoid spoilage. Talk about serious work, strain and sweat. It really does take on a whole new meaning.  However, the more cross-train ready you are, the better you’ll be at handling these hunting chores. You could even excel at them given you train hard enough. But what does hard enough mean? Does it mean more gym time?  No, it does not. It means less time on machines and more time doing “real life” stuff like squatting, picking things up off the ground, pulling and dragging, hiking, jumping and throwing. These are the organic movements of life and, done with intensity, they prepare us for the demands of the outdoors. Exercise machines isolate muscles, nature doesn’t. Machines are man-made, mountains are not.

We all need a quick routine to prime us for our upcoming hunts.  Out East or West, the better shape we show up to hunting season, the better predator we become.  Here’s a quick workout for all of us to incorporate a couple times a week starting yesterday; don’t wait until August:

“The Assassin”
Perform 3 Rounds for time.
Time your workout and wear a 20-40 lb hunting pack.
Try to find a hill, but it’s not a must:
1 Round = Hike/walk 100 yards, and do 10 perfect push-ups

Push-up – A perfect push-up means you have zero sway in your back, abs tight, your chest touches the ground at the bottom and your hips/thighs stay off the ground, finish the push-up with full lock-out of the arms.

Bonus – If you want to make this workout a little sweeter, carry your bow and have a target set-up for you to shoot 10 arrows at the completion of the workout.  This mimics the environment of bowhunting and challenges you to maximize that hard-earned shot opportunity.

Things to Keep In Mind
Effective cross-training means shorter workouts but with greater concentrated effort. Basically, you get a bigger menu of exercises to choose from and you have to test your limits on each one.

The most important component is to focus on doing the mechanics of each exercise correctly and with the right amount of intensity and consistency. If not, you won’t benefit from the workout like you should. Every workout should be treated as potent medicine; too much too soon and you can severely hurt yourself. Luckily, the body adapts relatively fast, and before you know it, you’ll be hitting each workout with maximum intensity and receiving maximum return.

If you love to hunt, don’t ruin your chances for success by being in less than great shape. By incorporating some basic cross-training in your off-season plans, I have no doubt you’ll hunt better than ever before. There’s no money involved with this stuff — only time and willingness. Do it and watch your abilities soar.

Also, be sure to visit my site, where you’ll find all kinds of workout routines and advice geared with hunters in mind. You can also watch us perform some workouts and exercises as well.
Editor’s Note: Dan is an avid bowhunter who owns and operates CrossFit Spokane Valley near his home in Spokane, WA. Dan has his Master’s degree in exercise physiology and his undergraduate degree is in exercise science.