Training for life, not the Strong Man Competition.
Many years ago, I had an epiphany: I do not move refrigerators often. It would be a fair assumption unless you just happen to be an appliance repairman, that you don’t either. So why do so many men (and women to some level) judge their fitness by raw strength? Maybe because it was driven into our psyche by our high-school football coaches and/or for those of us that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, by what we saw on TV. But let’s face it, benching 405 is cool, but how often will we use that skill? Probably never.
That is why I love functional fitness. Functional fitness is a relatively new manner of working out that trains your muscles to work together and prepare for daily tasks by simulating common movements. While using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time, functional fitness exercises also emphasize core stability. So how does that apply to you–the hunter?
Let’s think about it. Climbing up and down the feeder with 40 pounds of corn on your shoulder, trudging a 60-quart cooler full of beer and ice across the campsite, hiking up a steep hill to get to your tree stand, dragging out a massive whitetail, loading that whitetail into the truck…. Those are all things that we do more often than move refrigerators. So, let’s train for the things we love and start to cut weight before we get to the holidays. It’s a win-win: get strong for the season and increase our metabolisms before we inhale three dozen Christmas cookies and four pounds of fried turkey.
First, let’s get the gear. Here is what I use: a 50-pound and 100-pound 5.11 PT-R Weight Kit (that’s tactical talk for sandbags); my iPhone for two reasons—a timer and iTunes; a cooler full of cold ones (waters!); and my Demer Box to play music.
Start off every workout with a good stretch. Last thing we want to do is injure ourselves trying to better ourselves. Stretch your calves, hams, quads, do arm circles, forearm stretches, etc. Get loose.
If you are new to functional fitness, start out without the weight to get the movements right. It’s all about form. Without it, you hurt yourself, or at the very least, cheat yourself out of the full potential of your efforts.
Now let’s get moving. I do everything for time. What that means is I do each exercise for a set period rather than counting out reps. This has a few benefits: it causes us to push ourselves and pace ourselves, as well as keeps our cardio levels up to help burn calories. A good baseline is 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest. I then repeat the circuit multiple times. In this case, repeat it 5 times. It should be a solid 30-minute workout that will help you shed weight, become a stronger hunter, and get you in shape outside of that boring gym.
This is a workout I do regularly. I will apologize in advance, it will smoke your legs, but here’s a secret, legs build strong metabolisms and promote overall growth. Ever see those guys in the gym with chicken legs and big upper bodies? Ask them to carry feed up the hill and see how fast they wither. Just saying… that was once me.
Stand with feet hip-width apart and the sandbag racked behind your neck, holding it by the side handles. Step your right foot back and lower into a lunge. Press through your left heel to rise back up to the starting position. Alternate sides for time.
Single Leg Dead Lift
Stand tall with feet together, holding the sandbag by the handles. Keeping your hips square and back flat, slightly bend your left knee, then hinge at hips keeping your right leg straight while lowering your chest towards the floor. Keep your arms extended straight down and return to the starting position. Repeat for time.
Bent Over Row
Form is all important with the bent-over row, and the best way to ensure you don’t get sloppy is to pick the right amount of weight. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and lean forward from the waist. Your knees should be bent, but your back stays straight, with your neck in line with your spine. Grab the sandbag handles and let it hang with your arms straight. Brace your core and squeeze your shoulders together to row the weight up until it touches your chest, then slowly lower it back down again. Repeat for the full 40 seconds.
Front squats are like back squats; however, the weight is placed across the front side of your shoulders. This shifts the center of mass forward, which allows for a more upright posture. Keeping your chest up and core tight, bend at your hips and knees to lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Straighten your hips and knees to drive up to the starting position. Slowly repeat for time.
This plyometric exercise will get your heart pumping and improve your explosiveness in the field. I choose to have a little fun with it and use a cooler instead of a box. Stand with the cooler one short step in front of you and your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and drop down, bringing your arms out behind you. Jump up and forward driving on to the box. Land softly on both feet with a slight bend in the knees. Be careful and step back and down. Do as many reps as you safely can in the 40 seconds. *Do not use weight.
No workout is complete without this quintessential exercise. I like to use it to break up longer leg days. The version I do is on an incline using the cooler. Place your hands on the outside front edge of the cooler and lower your chest fully. Push through your arms returning to a fully extended position. As an alternative or addition, flip around and place your feet on the cooler and hands on the ground, making it a decline movement. Repeat for time.
That’s it! Now do this circuit four more times with 20-second breaks in between each exercise, and you will have completed a full 30-minute functional fitness routine that will have you stronger than ever in the woods.