I have been training for backcountry hunting for several years now, and I have tried several different programs and approaches over that time. If there’s one thing I have learned over that time, it is that simply “working out” or “going to the gym” is not enough.
If you want to effectively train for backcountry hunting in mountainous terrain, you need to train specifically for the demands of that pursuit. You are not a runner training for a marathon. You are not a powerlifter training to raise your lift total. You are not a Crossfitter training for a score. You are not a bodybuilder training to sculpt an aesthetic physique.
You are a hunter, and you should be training to hunt more effectively.
You have to work hard and smart — investing your time and energy into specific movements that will result in better performance in the backcountry. Here are 5 of the best movements to train for backcountry hunting, with video demonstrations from Jake Saenz of Atomic Athlete.
Hiking in the Backcountry
Duh, right? Because our goal is to get better at performing outside in the mountains, and not simply to get better at exercising, part of our training can and should be to get outside and get after it.
The problem is, not all of us have the time, access, or ability to spend hours per week hiking in the type of terrain that we hunt in. And even if you do, specific exercises, like the ones listed below, can enhance your ability in the backcountry.
Step up, come down. Repeat. Simple, not easy. Besides the fact that they are incredibly effective and only require your weighted Exo pack and something to step on, the thing that I love about weighted step-up sessions is that you can easily scale the effort and see progress. You can go longer or heavier this week than you did last week. Then, next week, you can try to improve in duration or weight again.
No equipment necessary. You can do these anytime, anywhere. The Jump Lunge is unilateral, meaning that you use each leg independently, just as you do when hiking under load. Another reason the Jump Lunge is incredibly important is because it forces you to control the descent of the jump, which builds the legs for downhill movement under load, just as you are likely to experience when packing game out.
This movement is incredibly effective, especially for those of you that do not have access to train in mountainous terrain. Building a tire drag setup is cheap and easy. The resistance of the weighted tire is a great way to replicate the demands of long hikes in vertical terrain. Long tire drag efforts build fatigue in the legs and challenge the lungs, causing adaptation that translates directly to better performance in the mountains.
Many gyms have some sort of resistance bike available. Because of their heavy gearing and resistance, the Assault Bike is very effective at causing muscular fatigue in the lower body in a relatively short period of time. Bike-based movements are also excellent for larger individuals, older trainees, or those with a history of injury — who may find it difficult to endure or recover from higher-impact training.
Free Backcountry Training Program
We have partnered with Atomic Athlete to offer a FREE training program, developed specifically for the demands of backcountry hunting. Learn more and download the program here…