Follow our easyfitness plan to get into hunting shape in just 8 weeks
Ask outfitters to identify the leading cause of injury or failure in the field, and they’ll usually tell you it’s a general lack of fitness among the hunters they guide. Most can tell stories of out-of-shape clients who lasted only a day or two before succumbing to injuries or exhaustion. Mike Murgatroy, an avid bird hunter and manager of the Main Street Gym in Bozeman, Mont., and Liz Ann Kudrna, who runs Body in Balance (a Bozeman Pilates studio), have put together a simple program hunters can follow to get in shape for the upcoming season. It requires only $30 in equipment and will take 30 to 60 minutes a day.
Do these exercises every other day, and take walks on your days off. You’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll feel this fall.
1 SUPINE LIFT
THE EXERCISE: Lie flat on your back with your feet and palms flat on the floor and knees raised. On a count of two, press down on your palms and lift your hips 5 inches off the floor while keeping your feet stationary. Hold for a count of four, then drop slowly back to the start position. Do two sets of 10 to begin and work your way up to three sets. As you get stronger, try the supine lift with your feet on an exercise ball. You’ll have to grip the ball with your toes to hold it steady as you raise your hips.
MUSCLES WORKED: This lift stretches your lower back and works your abdominal muscles, usually the weakest part of the body. The stabilization phase of the exercise strengthens the upper back and neck.
HUNT BENEFIT: Strengthens muscles used when hauling gear all day.
2 TABLE LIFT
THE EXERCISE: Sit on an exercise ball, spine straight, head high, and walk your feet forward, lowering your back onto the ball. Get your knees square to your feet. On a two-count, lift your pelvis and buttocks to create a flat surface along your stomach and back. Hold for a count of four and then lower. Do three sets of 10.
MUSCLES WORKED: The table lift increases general strength in your lower back, upper thighs and abdomen.
HUNT BENEFIT: Increases general strength, stamina and ability to carry loads, like a full frame pack.
3 SITTING LEG LIFT
THE EXERCISE: Sit on the ball with your spine straight and shoulders back. Tighten your abdominals, point your toes and, on a count of two, lift your right leg parallel to the floor. Hold for two, then lower. Repeat with left leg. Alternate for three sets of 20.
MUSCLES WORKED: Builds deep muscles of the abdomen and smaller muscles of the back; also stretches and strengthens the quadriceps and hamstrings.
HUNT BENEFIT: Helps you climb into tree stands or chase elk.
4 SEATED ROWING
THE EXERCISE: Attach an exercise band to a stable object. Sit facing the band’s anchor with your knees slightly bent and back straight. Hold straps in either hand. Draw handles toward you in a rowing motion to either side of your hips, hold for a count of two and release on a count of four. Repeat for three sets of 10. For variation, try upright rows as well, where you stand on the band with both feet and pull both handles toward your chin.
MUSCLES WORKED: Seated rows build up the core as well as the shoulders, biceps, triceps and upper back. Upright rows work strands of the same muscles with an emphasis on your wrists.
HUNT BENEFIT: This is perfect if you row a boat to your duck or goose blind.
5 HAND WALK
THE EXERCISE: With the exercise ball in front of you, roll across it onto your abdomen. Tighten your abdomen against the ball. Walk forward on your hands until your knees are balanced on the ball. Hold for two seconds, then retreat. Repeat 10 times for two sets. As you get stronger, walk all the way out and balance on your ankles or toes.
MUSCLES WORKED: The hand walk will strengthen your entire core as well as your triceps and lats.
HUNT BENEFIT: If you’re a sheep hunter, do push-ups while you’re extended. This will provide the upper-body strength you’ll need.
6 DEAD BUG
THE EXERCISE: Lie flat on your back, legs straight, arms to your sides and palms down. On a count of two, raise your arms above you, shoulder width apart, and lift your legs into a seated position. Hold for a count of two and lower on a count of four. Repeat 10 to 15 times for three sets.
MUSCLES WORKED: Stretches the lower back and works the abdominals. It also strengthens the hips, buttocks, shoulders and arms.
HUNT BENEFIT: Builds muscles used to carry heavy packs up hills.
THE EXERCISE: Get on all fours with your hands flat and your toes pointed behind you. Raise your right arm and point it straight ahead. Tighten your abdomen and raise your left leg on a count of two. Hold for a count of two, then lower your right arm and left leg while raising your left arm and right leg. Stabilize for a count of two, then switch. Alternate left and right lifts for two sets of 10. As you get stronger, work to three sets. This can also be done resting on an exercise ball.
MUSCLES WORKED: Works muscles diagonally through your torso and strengthens the entire core of your body as well as the upper back, neck, glutes and hamstrings.
HUNT BENEFIT: Improves balance and agility needed to climb over rocks and ford rushing streams.
8 BALL SQUATS
THE EXERCISE: Stand with your back pressing an exercise ball against a wall. Lower yourself into a sitting position. The ball should roll with you, supporting your lower spine all the way down. Hold for a count of four, and then drive up, again keeping the ball behind you. Repeat for three sets of 10.
MUSCLES WORKED: Improves leg power, especially glutes and quadriceps.
HUNT BENEFIT: If you’re planning a strenuous hunt, such as a goat hunt, repeat for five sets of 20. This will build the muscles involved in climbing up or down steep hills.
9 CLASSIC PUSH-UP
THE EXERCISE: Lie face down on the floor. Bring your hands beneath your shoulders, palms down. Breathe in. Get up on your toes, tighten your abdomen and glutes and on a count of two, exhale and push up. Hold for a count of two. Lower during a count of four. Start with three sets of 10, then work up to three sets of 25.
MUSCLES WORKED: A classic exercise, push-ups are great for building core strength, biceps and triceps.
HUNT BENEFIT: Push-ups increase upper-body strength needed for lifting and moving large game.
10 CHAIR DIP
THE EXERCISE: With your back to a chair or bench, put both hands on edge of seat. Straighten your arms, tighten your abs and stretch your legs out. With your chin up, lower your body as deep as you comfortably can, hold for two seconds, then press yourself back up. Repeat for three sets of 12.
MUSCLES WORKED: Builds back, triceps, shoulders and lats.
HUNT BENEFIT: Strengthens muscles needed for toting heavy packs or dragging that trophy deer out of the woods.
11 SUPERMAN LIFT
THE EXERCISE: Lie on an exercise ball. Tighten your stomach and raise your head and arms into a Superman flying position. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and draw back your elbows so your arms form right angles to your shoulders. On a count of two, raise your entire upper body 2 to 4 inches. Hold for two seconds, then lower and extend your arms. Repeat for three sets of 10.
MUSCLES WORKED: Builds arms, upper back, lower back, abdominals, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and toes.
HUNT BENEFIT: Improves muscles used when you’re hunting rough terrain.
12 SLOW LUNGES
THE EXERCISE: Stand with your spine straight, shoulders back and feet in line with your hips. Keeping your left foot in place, take a step with your right leg and sink into the lunge. Watch the toes of your right foot: Be careful not to drive your knee so far forward that you lose sight of them. Hold the lunge for a count of two, then step forward with your left leg and repeat, alternating for a set of 10 for each side. Repeat for three sets on each side. Increase the number of lunges per set as you get stronger.
MUSCLES WORKED: Strengthens hips, glutes, quads, torso and helps balance.
HUNT BENEFIT: Builds muscles needed for strenuous hikes and dragging large game, such as deer or antelope.
Take A Hike
The best starting point for any fitness program is simply to do what the first hunters did: stand upright and walk.
Why it works: “Walking is the perfect exercise for hunters over forty,” says Mike Murgatroy, a gym manager and avid bird hunter. “It’s low-impact, so it saves your joints, and it brings your heart rate up and keeps it there, which is key for cardiovascular health. Walking will also help you toughen your feet, shed pounds quickly and raise your mood. And other than sitting on a stand, walking and hiking are really the foundation of the sport.”
How far is best?: Even if you don’t do anything else, walk for at least 30 minutes three times a week. Slowly build your endurance to the point where you’re walking at least two miles in that time frame. As you feel more fit, alter your route to include hills. You should also consider wearing ankle weights (as shown above) or throwing some weight in a pack to carry as you’re walking. This will build lung capacity and increase your heart rate toward the upper limit of your target range, as well as get your body adjusted to toting the additional weight hunters commonly carry.
Two weeks before the season begins, take longer walks similar to the hikes you’ll be doing when you actually start hunting.
Hit Your Target (Heart Rate)
To make the most of walking or other cardiovascular exercise, you should reach and sustain your ideal target heart rate (THR). To determine your THR, first calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) by subtracting your age from 220 (226 for women). For instance, if you are a 35-year-old male, your MHR is 185 beats per minute (bpm).
When you exercise, your target heart rate should be between 60 and 80 percent of this number. Multiply your MHR by 0.6 and by 0.8 to find your THR exertion range. In the example of the 35-year-old male, this calculates to 111–148 bpm.
Begin your regimen by walking one mile in 25 minutes for five days. After walking 10 minutes, count your pulse and adjust your speed until you hit your THR. Add distance each week and increase speed until, by week four, you’re covering two miles in 30 minutes within the target range. For the next four weeks maintain that aerobic workout.