1. Weapon Weight
Most hunters use larger weapons to take down prey – even smaller prey. Most rifles weigh an average of 12.5 pounds, which isn’t a bad workout if you end up holding that weapon up for six or eight hours (just ask Ben Greenfield, who had to carry a rifle replica for 52 hours last week). Oh yeah, then you have the mag and all the ammo (most hunters bring extra – you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right?), so call it 15 pounds. For those who choose to hunt with a bow and arrow, the heavier the pull tension, the more it the bow weighs, so in this case you need to steady an eighty-pound draw long enough to get a decent shot off, and that means some serious biceps and forearm muscular endurance.
2. Animal Weight
Ever done a sled pull or sled push, or perhaps dragged a tire in an obstacle race? It’s nothing compared to hauling a dead weight animal. In many states, it’s actually illegal to shoot a doe (female deer). When deer hunting, you need to instead go for the males, which have a tendency to be wider in the body and neck, in addition to having antlers. The older the buck, the bigger the antlers will be, and this adds extra weight. Hunting bucks involves strategy, which generally also involves covering long distances by foot. Once you take down a buck, you still need to transport it from where it lies back to your truck. There is simply no way to get around this. Unless you’re using an oversized ATV, you need to literally drag the animal, and if you’ve covered anything even close to a mile, you will get some intense metabolic conditioning unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.
3. Post-Hunt Preparation
Once you have your hunt back home, you need to prepare it. This involves rope, maneuvering the animal to ensure the proper incisions, bleeding the animal (sorry to be graphic, but it’s just reality), skinning it, butchering it and storing it. An alternative option is to bring the animal into a butcher, but this isn’t quite as self-reliant. The physical labor involved in this process can carry on for as long or longer than the hunt itself. While not quite as taxing when it comes to hauling a heavy load or moving for long distances, this post-hunting prep involves more light physical activity for a longer period of time, similar to gardening or farming.
Now that you know how hunting can get you ripped, here are some ways you can get ripped for hunting by working out:
1. Bear Crawls, 10-20x 25 yards
Get down on all fours, get your butt low so that your knees are just barely above the ground, and crawl as fast as you can with good form. Next try it uphill. Now downhill. Then try uphill backwards. Then downhill backwards. Then from side to side. If you can execute 10-20x 25 yard of bear crawling in all directions and grades like this, you’re going to be well equipped to crawl and sneak through thickets, brambles and anywhere else off the trail.
2. Boulder Carries, distance varies
Carrying awkward heavy objects trains your hands, grip strength, forearms, shoulders, back and core much better than picking up a symmetrical object like a barbell or dumbbell. So find a heavy rock (I’m a big fan of river rocks for this) and carry it up a hill, then down a hill. Carry it across a field. Put it in a good backpack and ruck with it. Make that rock your friend. When it comes time to carry a pack or carry a dead animal weight, you’ll thank that darn rock.
3. Log Clean And Jerk, 5×5
Hunting also often means camp preparation, moving objects like fallen trees and logs out of the way, and also as you’ve just learned, carrying awkwardly shaped objects. There’s an old log down by the river near my house, and one of my favorite workouts is to run to the river and do a 5×5 workout with the log: 5 sets of 5 reps of picking the log up off the ground to my shoulders (a clean), then splitting my legs apart explosively into a lunge stance and hoisting the log overhead (a jerk).
4. Tire Drags, distance varies
For the next three exercises, you’ll need an old tire. I got a used one for free from the tire store. Try to get something in the 200-250lb range. For a tire drag, you simply place both hands anywhere you can grip on the tire, get your butt low, and drag the tire backwards several feet at a time. You’ll find yourself dragging an animal if your hunt is successful, and this will get your hamstrings and low back ready for it.
5. Tire Flips, 5×10
Tire flips are perfect for developing butt, hamstring, calf, core and explosive strength – all crucial for hunting fitness. Get your butt low, grip the tire with an underhand grip, stand explosively as you get your hands underneath the tire and then flip it over. Then flip it back. Shoot for 5 sets of 10 reps for starters.
6. Tire Pulls, distance varies
Attach a rope to the tire in the same way you might attach rope to a tarp on which you’d be pulling an animal. Drag the tire in as many different ways as you can, including with the rope over your shoulder, seated on the ground rowing with both hands and pulling with the rope attached to your waist.
7. Weighted Step-Ups, 5×10 per leg
When hunting, you’ll find yourself stepping on and off rocks, logs, stumps and up and down hills with a weight on your back and in your arms. So toss a barbell on your back, or a weighted backpack, or hold your heavy rock and find a platform close to knee height that you can step up onto, and then down from, alternating legs as you go.
8. Elastic Tube Front & Side Raises, 5×20-25
The one body part that’s going to get most tired while carrying a bow or a rifle is going to be your shoulders, and an elastic tube with handles is a perfect way to build muscular endurance and lactic acid tolerance in those muscles. Simply stand on top of an elastic tube, hold the handles, and do as many reps as you can to the front, then repeat to the sides.
9. Trail Run With Burpees, 15-60 minutes
Trail running is a great way to simultaneously work all your muscles and your reaction time – from eyes and ears to legs, core, shoulders and arms. Try a fartlek style trail workout that mixes up easy jogging, tempo running and all-out sprints, and for the ultimate test of endurance, stop every 15 minutes or at every major turn, whichever happens more frequently, to stop and do 15 burpees.
10. Rucking, 1-4 hours
Put heavy stuff on your back, like a weighted backpack. Wear a weighted vest. For even more fitness, add an elevation training mask. Now start moving. Walk around your neighborhood. Go hiking. Climb stairs. Hit the treadmill. Move with weight. It’s a crucial hunting fitness skill that you’ll need to have, and you should try to get a multi-hour ruck in at least once every couple weeks.