By Nick Lape
Just about 8 years ago, I was sitting in a dorm room trying to figure out what kind of weight lifting routine my buddy Eric and I were going to do in the gym that day. I'm pretty sure it went something like, “Bench Press, Incline Bench, Decline Bench, Chest Flies, and Crunches.” Just thinking about that series of exercises makes my chest hurt. Everyone wanted the big chest, six pack and gun show! And 8 years ago, that was the only thing I was worried about; how I looked when I went out on Thursday night.
But today, today I hunt and I hunt a lot. Our Fit To Hunt clients hunt a lot. And as a personal trainer in St. Louis, MO and an online personal trainer and coach for clients all across the country, I know for a fact, that training specific muscle groups on different days of the week will NOT get my clients Fit To Hunt.
As hunters we all have our own idea of what it may look like to get fit. Usually it answers these 3 questions:
1. Where they Hunt
2. What type of game they hunt
3. Their personal fitness goals
If their goals are to gain mass in body builder fashion, then yes, lift to your hearts content. There is no issue with having an "arms day", a "chest and back day", or a "legs day". If you're a whitetail hunter in the Midwest where a lot of time is spent in a tree stand or a blind that workout plan could work really well for you. You'd certainly be the person people looked to for help clearing paths around the farm (I do actually know this from experience).
But would this help in other areas of the country? I know for a fact at 6'3” 260, going up and down hills out west would not suit me personally because having extra muscle mass can hinder a hunt if not prepared properly.
If you plan on hunting in hilly terrain, maybe it's worth taking a break from the volume and isolation workouts (chest day, back day, leg day, etc.) and start looking at movement type workouts. Let's take a look at the way a Fit To Hunt program might look.
First off, let's talk about the blueprint for a successful hunting program. It should start with some sort of movement screen or assessment.
In the words of Gray Cook, “If you ain't assessin' you're just guessin'.” Once there is data concerning each person, their program can be written to not only what they 'want' but what they 'need'. We can correct weakness or immobility through corrective movement and readiness activities to increase flexibility and strength. Using these movements in succession can help greatly for the power/strength portion of the program. That format is as follows:
Power Production (MB Slams, KB Work, Cleans, etc.)
Hinge (Deadlift) Movement (I'm asked on a regular basis what the best exercise for hunting is, and to this day I will always say the Deadlift. Mobility needed to do it correctly can be taught without equipment. It may take time for some but once taught, the deadlift has it all. Isometric core stability, Upper back, glute and hamstring strength and when you get heavy with it, yes even some quad.)
Pushing Movement (Bench Press, Landmine, dumbbell press, push up)
Squat or Knee Dominant (Split Squat, lunge, etc.) Movement
Pulling Movement (Rows/ChinUps)
Now, our exercise selection may change but everything you see above will make its way into a program. Having a program set up this way allows us to maximize our neurological and physical energy potential. As you can see there is no part of the body left out. Upper, lower, front, back; they are all accounted for in our programming. Each exercise is placed for the specific movement needs based on a screen or assessment score or for building strength through multi-joint movements.
We break up these programs this way because if we aren't hitting every piece, then we are leaving some out. When we leave out movement patterns, we create weakness. For those that hunt all over the country and even the world, weakness isn't an option. In these situations, doing 4 pushing exercises (like my college self) and only 1 pulling exercise creates weakness. It creates dysfunction. And ultimately can create an unenjoyable hunt (or injury).
Which brings us to another question: Where are they hunting?
If we know where they are hunting we can tailor the sets and reps to do a few things. We can tailor them to first work on strength, teach proper movement patterns that strengthen the body properly and follow that up by teaching specific movement patterns the hunter will face in the field. We wrap up the programming by addressing muscular endurance needs (Do we need to incorporate high repetition or timed exercises to prepare for long treks?)
Every outdoors man or woman has their way of getting fit. Sometimes we don't stop to think of how our time in the gym is going to affect our hunting endeavors. Sometimes it's tough to remember the where and what of our next hunt. How does your program look? If you are still breaking down body parts it’s time we had a conversation. It's critical to train movement patterns over muscles, your hunting could very well depend on it.
Nick is has a degree in exercise and movement science from Missouri State university, is an ACSM exercise physiologist and has been a practicing exercise professional for six years. You can email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Jeremy Koerber, Certified Personal Trainer
“How is the hunt going?” That was the text I received from Michael Wardlaw, owner of UC Hunting Properties, around 6:15am. I replied, “We’re done.”
As turkey hunters, you know full well what I mean when I say “When it’s right it’s right.” The birds are responsive to the call, they come in just like the script called for and you are at the local diner sipping coffee and eating your celebratory breakfast before most hunters had a chance to get comfy in their blind. It’s a magical type of hunt that we have all experienced but if you read our last blog 'The Greatest Turkey Hunt of All Time (In which I did not get a turkey)' you already know this has been one of the most frustrating turkey seasons I have personally been through in several years. After I had time to reflect on it, I think I know why.
But first, let’s recap.
With few birds to keep my attention and a lot of time to think it through, I realized it had been 11 years since I failed to put a tag on a bird. This isn’t because I am a great hunter. I would say it is a healthy mix of knowing how the birds move on our properties and being stubborn; I just don’t quit. That being said, I haven’t hunted more than three days without a kill for 11 years.
This is also the first year we hunted our new Northern Missouri farm. A property billed as a turkey magnet. In fact, we saw turkeys in early February, heard gobbling in mid-March and had three or four birds within earshot during youth season. Come regular season, the birds all but vanished. In four hunts we heard a few far off gobbles, saw three hens and was finally rewarded by glassing two giant long beards but tortured at the fact they were 300 yards away. Despite next to no hunting pressure, the birds weren’t there.
On Tuesday of Week Two, I had a gobbler come to the call and as I was preparing to raise my gun he spooked and moved out of range. Moments later, a coyote came trotting through my decoy set.
Later that week Mother Nature had her turn with rains that caused flooding in much of Missouri taking away precious days in the field as a result.
I hosted a few friends over the first two weeks; Michael Wardlaw of UC Hunting Properties and Fit To Hunt personal trainer Nick Lape. Both hunts produced gobbles and one good chance but again, no tags were notched.
Work made it impossible to get back in the field mid-week the final week of season and I began to wonder if this year would be the first in a long time I would have tag soup?
My 82 year old grandfather, on the other hand, had already tagged a bird (in the same spot where the coyote had spooked that tom). We call him the turkey whisperer and while you and I have every call known to man, he operates with one or two box calls and kills turkeys every year.
I guess I need to mention as well that it has always been my dream to own a piece of dirt with him. I’ve worked many early mornings and late nights to get this accomplished before he gets to the point where hunting may not be an option. I don’t know if he really cared but to me, it would be a tragedy if we were unable to have a place of our own. In March, he and I made that dream reality.
After several poor outings on my part and no bird on the ground, he called and said he was driving north so we could hunt the new farm together the final weekend of Spring season. I would have two days to put a tag on a bird.
On my last solo hunt I had taken some extra time to scout some areas that I had previously glanced over. What I found made me laugh because while I had been going to the back side of the farm to where I believed the birds would gather and strut, there was a tremendous amount of sign on the south side of the farm which is, ironically, within 250 yards from where we park the truck. I moved a blind to where I had seen a hen poke out of a game trail a few days earlier and made plans to have the old man in it as the sun came up on Saturday morning.
Funny how the sun rises a little bit earlier in that last week of the season. As we sped up the gravel road I could see the hint of pink on the horizon. Luckily, we were dressed and our gear was packed so we quickly parked and I told him to take his time as I moved on ahead to set up the decoys.
I don’t think we were in the blind five minutes when the first gobble rang out; A mere 70 yards to our right and more than one bird. We never saw the fly down but within moments there were birds in the field. I could see multiple hens and at least two strutters. We’d call, they would answer and a few birds broke off and headed our way while the strutters remained behind with a few hens who had chosen to feed on that end of the field.
A hen fed right through our decoy set and less than three minutes later, two jakes walked up to the hen decoys and presented perfect shots. We contemplated waiting out the long beards. With only one day to go in the season, we made the call to double. The hunt was over at 6:02am.
Grandpa looked at me and said “That was too easy.” And as hard as this season had been, I had to agree but as I sat there looking at a field of turkeys who failed to spook when the shotguns ran out, I began to see the signs.
Now I am not a believer that God does things for personal gain.
For example, I do not believe God:
Helps you hit a fastball
Gets you a promotion at work
Cares enough about your sports team to help them win the championship
Provides you the numbers to the winning lottery ticket
Bends the will of a turkey to walk within range of a shotgun
I do however believe He really good at messaging.
There are moments in our lives that will define us. Moments that we will remember until the day we die; Moments that we will look back on and smile simply because it was shared with someone special.
As I sat there taking in the morning I heard the message loud and clear. It went something like this: “Son, I made this hard on you and not just the killing the turkey part. I made you work for this dirt you are standing on. You had to sacrifice. You had to give. You had to have faith. Therefore there was no better person to have a successful harvest with than the man who taught you how to hunt and for whom you worked so hard to get this farm. This moment you just experienced with your grandfather? I gave you this moment. It just seemed….fitting that you two should be the first to harvest together. I thought you would probably agree.”
It might not have gone exactly like this, but I am certain it was pretty close.
Do you ever listen to people talk about signs? They will often say if you look hard enough you will see the signs. In this case, I didn’t have to look very hard at all. The message came in loud and clear that I am not in control. Not at all but if you are willing to work hard, sacrifice and give more than you get, the results and life itself can be pretty darn spectacular.
Contributions made by Fit2Hunt Staff!