Fit to Hunt: Training Secrets

by Dan Staton MS, PES


Training for general physical preparedness (GPP) is the best approach for a bowhunter or archer. We have a variety of fitness needs and our specialty should be not specializing at all. In fact, this sort of cross training with constant variation fosters a durable, injury resistant, and fit body ready to tackle the demands of any hunt and any adventure.  

There are numerous approaches to pursing fitness and there must be some sort of consensus that there’s no one magic bullet. With that being said, I’d like to throw a few more training methods that you may implement into your fitness program whenever it seems to be reaching a dull standstill.

If you examine the average workout, there’s an untold truth that I’ll address briefly in this piece. It’s probably just human nature, but we all tend to gravitate toward exercises that suite our fancy and cater to our strengths – and we often avoid the areas of weakness that challenge us the most.  

For example, many leg exercises take a backseat to the least functional muscles groups, such as biceps and chest. These beach muscles are great, but they won’t help an ounce in a quarter-mile deer drag, a backpack bowhunt, or an extended draw on an alert quarry. My point is simple: Find your weakness and make it your strength. Are you great at sprinting, but lack endurance? Are you great at push-ups, but lack the strength to do one pull-up? Maybe you can hike for miles, but cannot even back squat your own body weight.  

These are just some common examples, but the message is simple: Constantly vary your program and minimize your weaknesses. Here are a few more training secrets that you might find useful in your next go-around:

Core Stability Exercises: It’s becoming widely accepted among trainers that exercises that make the abs stabilize the body are the ultimate ab builders, preventing injury to the lower back while activating enough muscle to make your 6-pack abs stick out. I recommend the ab wheel rollout (I bet you’ve seen it on TV.), cable rotational exercises, and planks. The latter is a great beginner core exercise that will go along way in strengthening key muscles of the trunk. Get into a push-up position, put your weight on your forearms and keep your hips from sagging towards the floor. Vary the duration and the hold, and make sure your abs are drawn-in tightly.

Unconventional Equipment: It isn’t enough to just use free weights and machines; these moves are too patterned and will not prepare you for unpredictable movements in the field. To work the greatest amount of muscle, constantly shake up your routine. Here are a few more “outside-the-box” exercises that will keep you strong. Try clean and pressing sandbags, pressing kettlebells overhead, and maybe flipping a small tractor tire. Use sound judgment when selecting loads and ensure proper form is utilized when executing – and you’ll see improvement in strength.

Band Training: Use Flex Bands (www.elitefts.com). These bands improve power and strength by adding resistance to the particular parts of a range of motion. For example, I attach two strong jump stretch bands to the bottom of a squat rack and loop the opposite ends over both ends of a barbell that I’ve set-up to squat. Then simply perform reps as normal. Make sure there’s no slack at any point in the range of motion, and you’ll feel the additional resistance returning from the bottom of the squat. Band training is definitely utilized extensively by athletes of all calibers.

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