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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

mtn tough fitness

The Montana-based MTNTOUGH fitness program gives us tips and tricks to stay hunting fit during the holiday season.

Whitetail hunting season is finally here. Are you fit enough to take on the rigors of shooting, tracking, lifting, and cleaning your trophy deer?

Sarah Maschino, athletic director of MTNTOUGH, our favorite hunting fitness program, has created programs developed and tested by Army Rangers, Navy SEALS, and top physical trainers to give hunters the tools to thrive during hunting season and beyond.

We sat down with Sarah to discuss why fitness is important to hunting, get nutrition advice for the upcoming holiday season, and learn more about one of their most beloved programs, the Minimal Gear Daily.

Minimal Gear Daily Necessities

Minimal Gear Dailies, or MGDs, are workouts that last for a day and need only a step up (or a Yeti cooler), a pull up bar, and a decent sized kettlebell. For the kettlebells, Maschino recommends 30 to 40 pounds for men, and 20 to 30 pounds for women.

The biggest advantage of these workouts is that they can be done nearly anywhere, and most are under an hour and give you the most bang for your buck in a small amount of time.

Constant Movement

“Make sure you’re recovering properly but consistently moving your body so hunting isn’t the hardest thing you’re doing that week,” says Maschino. Working out throughout the week gives you a chance to address any weaknesses in your body. If you’re packing out whitetail or other game meat, you need to be prepared for carrying “awkward, asymmetrical loads.” This involves your knees, shoulders, ankles, core, basically your whole body.

The reason you need to be in good shape for hunting is “If packing out miles, any weakness in the kinetic chain will show itself sooner or later,” she says. If you’re identifying that weakness on hunting days, it’s much easier to add in functional workouts in pieces than starting all movement from scratch.

Nutrition

Nutrition doesn’t need to be complicated. This article is primarily about exercises you can do, but there are a few things to remember. Maschino’s biggest tip is “don’t be 100 percent or 0 percent during the holidays.” She emphasizes that many of her clients are hobbled by an all-or-nothing mentality during the holiday season.

Whether it’s flag football, going for walks, working out for 15 minutes, anything helps. She also emphasizes to MANAGE your alcohol intake. A few drinks are already empty calories and cause you to eat to more than usual. Still, it’s the holidays. You’re going to drink some, and that’s ok. Be mindful, but still enjoy time with your family.

Sarah Maschino’s Minimal Gear Movements

1. Single Arm Front Rack Reverse Lunge 

Iso-lateral movements like a reverse lunge not only challenge single-leg strength and stability, but they help build mobility in the hips. Adding an asymmetrical load will amp up the load on the core and get the upper back firing. Be sure to keep the dumbbell high and racked in the front of your body—not letting elbows flare out to the side. 

2. Dumbbell Step Ups

As we age, our ability to balance on one foot decreases. Step Ups help train our kinetic chain to work together to balance and control several levers working at once. The knee drive keeps us from cheating and facilitates full hip and knee extension in the working leg. Be sure to control your descent and land softly. 

3. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

Our posterior chain is the powerhouse of the body – made up of our calves, hamstrings, glutes, and back. Keeping this chain operating properly by conquering a strong hip hinge pattern will prevent injury and keep that lower back feeling great! Be sure to maintain a neutral spine and soft knees through your entire range of motion. 

4. Bent Over Row

The Bent Over Rowplaces asymmetrical stress on your core, forcing it to protect the spine from rotation. It specifically challenges shoulder stability as it translates through the hips. Be sure to keep your hips square to the floor (no twisting) and even with shoulders. Maintain control and balance the entire movement.

5. Russian Chopper

This rotational exercise lights up the core even more than a traditional Russian Twist. You want to think of “throwing the weight over your shoulder’ before bringing it back to your opposite hip. Try to keep your heels off the floor, but if you need to, you can rest them lightly on the ground. Make sure to perform this movement under control and not too fast! 

6. Single Leg Suitcase Crunch

The Suitcase Crunch is a great core exercise to challenge our Rectus Abdominis (our six-pack muscles). These can be performed with weight or no weight and with your feet suspended or resting on the floor. Initiate your situp, and then drive one knee into your chest, making sure to get your lower back off the floor. Then fully extend and repeat with the other leg. These will get your abs rockin’. 

7. Dumbbell Lateral Lunge 

Working in the frontal plane of motion is not only beneficial for developing the glutes, but it helps to mobilize our adductor complex (inner-thigh muscles) and create balance and control at a different angle. It is okay for the chest to drop but maintain a neutral spine, and do not let your knee travel outside your foot. Fluidly push back to center between each rep, alternating sides. 

Final Thoughts from MTNTOUGH’s Sarah Maschino

Remember that consistency is more important than trying to beat yourself up all at once. Sarah advocated for an 80/20 philosophy for nutrition generally, but especially for the holidays.

Focus on 80 percent good things and working towards your goals, and 20 percent is the most you should be deviating. Keep up the great work, and be sure to check out MTNTOUGH for other great workouts and advice!


Supercharged Hunting Fitness: Five Workouts from Matt Hewett
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