There is a phrase used a lot in the fitness world that translates perfectly that says, “If you don't use it you lose it.” From experience I think it's pretty safe to say that when hunting whitetails, you won't be shooting every day that you go out. Shooting your bow and getting to the gym to maintain your draw strength is a real game changer. Just like any other athlete, archery is strength based so continuing moderate strength training with a few heavy workouts are important for the strength of your shoulder to maintain proper shooting form.
As both a certified personal trainer and hunter I like to follow a simple rule: I keep my heavier lifting days towards the beginning of the week and taper to more moderate and even light intensity towards the weekend when I plan to hunt. When I'm in a tree stand the last thing that I want is for my body to be fatigued or overly sore. Not only can that hinder your accuracy, it can make getting into and out of a tree stand increasingly difficult. Using this tapered type of training, you will maintain your conditioning throughout the season. I suggest a strength routine that focuses on major muscle groups
with exercise selection that will mimic the movement patters you will use in the woods. This means a lot of pulling, pressing and squatting. Ideally, I would like you to get 15-20 total sets which should take you 35-40 minutes to complete. You will probably be getting most of your cardio hiking into and out of the woods but if you want to add in some extra work, 20 minutes of interval training will keep your aerobic conditioning on point and will help blast away body fat. Perform this routine two days per week.
What can you expect if you focus solely on hunting and skip out on practice and your
workouts? Take it from a guy who has done it before. You start to get that burning feeling in your shoulder a bit sooner and will have more difficulty holding you bow steady (especially at that downward angle in a tree stand). Drawing and holding your bow, even with 80% let off will be harder than usual. The focus then becomes the fatigue in your arm and not the pin on your sight. Finally, you snap shoot a shot just because you can't hold any longer and you either miss or put a bad shot on the buck you've been hunting all season. If that doesn't sound good to you, it is imperative to maintain at least two training days per week throughout the season. These will most likely be shorter versions of your pre-season workouts but that is okay. You trained to hunt and now season is here. We just want you to maintain the conditioning you worked so hard to achieve since January.
One last word of advice that I can give hunters is to shoot on days that you hunt. I'm not talking about taking 20-30 shots at a target; I'm talking about getting your arm warmed up. Take 5 shots on a 3D target focusing on arrow placement before you hit the field (it’s like batting practice or groundballs for a baseball player). It's always good to imagine each shot is the one and only shot to take down a stud whitetail. Long sits in the stand or blind can make a shoulder stiff. Get your workouts in, keep practicing and make sure that you are just as prepared In Season as you were in the Pre-Season.
What do you do during hunting season to stay sharp and Fit To Hunt?
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