It’s here. The season is upon us. Months if not years of planning and preparation have been dedicated to NOW. This is when it all comes together. We can talk about it, read about it, write about it, listen to podcasts, relive old trips and adventures but ALL of that is secondary to actually hunting.
This is also the time of year when time is at a premium. Between work, family, and hunting it can be tough to stick to a program. Schedules get thrown out the window, and consistency is a luxury many can’t afford. The good news is this the perfect time of year to change up your routine. To take a break from whatever program you’ve been following. To keep the proverbial wheels greased so that you’re ready for anything a hunt may throw at you while at the same time keeping the legs, lungs and rest of the body fresh for the unpredictable and potentially extreme demands of chasing prey in the mountains or backcountry.
If you’ve put in the “hard yards” over the past few months, the foundation has been laid and gains in strength and endurance can and should take a backseat to staying primed and ready for your next hunt. Unless your plans are focused on the late season, now is not the time to be attempting max effort lifts or endurance sessions.
If you’ve been a long time follower of the JOMH, the podcast or at least this column you’ll know we’ve been pretty outspoken about training methodologies. That we’re not very big believers in the supposed “magic pill” effect of high intensity interval training, especially when it comes to preparing for multiday backcountry pursuits. But as we noted in Horsepower back in the July 2015 Issue, there is a time and a place in your training schedule for high-intensity circuit training. And that time is NOW.
If you’ve been following a “pure” strength focused gym program combined with long duration, loaded hiking for the past 4 – 6 months this is the perfect point in the year to return to shorter duration, higher intensity work, especially circuits based on bodyweight exercises. This approach will maintain the bulk of the gains you’ve made, while allowing your neuromuscular and metabolic system to stay relatively rested and primed for the “shock” of a tough hunt. A solid dose of circuit training will also add to your overall fitness toolbox and as much as we’re proponents of getting “strong first” we’re even bigger proponents of building dynamic strength and endurance for the dynamic environments encountered in the backcountry.
As we noted in the Horsepower article:
“The dedicated mountain hunter should initially focus on two things: building a solid base of oxidative capacity (aka low-gear, steady state endurance) and building true whole body strength through whole body or multi-joint movements like deadlifts, weighted carries, Turkish Get-Ups and other similar exercises. Once these fundamentals are in place, shorter, intense training sessions can and should be introduced on a regular basis. These specific sessions build power, elevate your endurance threshold and help train the body to recover and process the metabolic byproducts of exertion incredibly well.”
But why do we emphasize bodyweight exercises? Fist and foremost, there are NO excuses for not getting a training session in. Whether you’re at home and crunched for time, on the road, or stuck in basecamp because of bad weather a bodyweight routine can be completed. This is the time of year when even the most committed and disciplined struggle to stay consistent, often simply because they don’t have their training equipment readily available. Two, going “equipment-free” is a phenomenal opportunity to get creative, identify and fill your training gaps, and build a strong “chassis” for future strength training.
Using only your body and taking advantage of your environment, you can easily put together a hell of a training session. Rafters, branches and piping are perfect pull-up bars. Logs, boulders, or stairs replace plyo-boxes for jumping purposes. Small hills, or stairs can be used for wind sprints. Coffee tables, park benches and playground equipment, railings or even chairs can be used for dips. The timeless push-up can be carved into so many variations that we could write an entire article on that topic alone. And let’s not forget about the handstand push-up. That is if you’re feeling brave.
Long story long, use your imagination and have fun with it. If you can fit 2-3 of these types of sessions in per week (assuming you’ve built a solid foundation to this point of course) and back that up with some light endurance sessions another 2-3 times per week, you’ll be rested but ready for that hunt you’ve been planning for all year. If you’re lucky enough to have a few multiday hunts on your calendar over the course of the fall these bodyweight circuits are an excellent way to fill the short periods between hunts as well.
Below is a sample bodyweight circuit that can literally be completed anywhere assuming you can find a branch or some rafters or piping to do your pull-ups on. The key is to be creative and play around with the movements until you find a specific exercise variation or number of reps or sets that give you the workout you’re looking for. As always…stay alpha.
RFA (Ready for Anything) Bodyweight Circuit
*Complete unbroken for 3 – 4 sets
Burpee Broadjump x 10
- Drop into standard burpee position but instead of a jump straight up explode into a broad jump at the top
Pull-Ups x 10 – 12
- Alternate grip and/or use hard to grip ledges and surfaces
Push-up to Side Bridge x 10 – 12
- Perform standard push-up and at the top rotate into a side bridge with your arm extended above you (alternate sides)
Box Jump x 20 – 30
- Use a log/rock/bench/deck that is 14” – 24” high
Hiking Pole Pistol (semi-supported) x 8 – 10
- Perform a pistol but use a hiking pole for balance (if necessary) but ONLY enough to challenge you in the movement; only go as deep as your balance and strength allows
60 Yard (flat) or 40 Yard (hill) Sprint at Max Effort x 8 – 10