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 email@example.com
Contributions made by Fit2Hunt Staff!