Each and every one of us was born to move.
For millennia our nomadic ancestors covered vast tracts of land in search of sustenance. Using our uniquely human physical abilities and intelligence we became the planet’s apex predator. It’s in our blood.
But in truth, we were born to hunt. It was on the hunt that we honed our endurance, agility, speed and power. It was on the hunt that we learned inference, deduction, creativity and teamwork.
One needs only recall that we used to hunt wooly mammoths with nothing more than our wits and some pathetic hand held weapons to appreciate just how capable we were physically, mentally and collectively as mobile and agile predators.
Those days however are long gone as the modern human is a far cry from our ancestral legacy. It doesn’t have to be that way.
In the 21st century most of us are stuck at desks or in vehicles on long commutes while our bodies degrade into an organism better adapted to posting Instagram and Facebook updates than running through the forest or climbing mountains in pursuit of our next meal. Worse, we peel ourselves out of these body-warping positions only to go sit on a machine, lie down on a bench or do our best hamster imitations at the gym while subjecting ourselves to the loads and forces of linear, non-functional movements.
There is a better way. One that builds field worthy strength and conditioning and prevents injuries. A basic concept that increases the chances you’ll be able to hunt well into your golden years. As the title of this article suggests it boils down to a simple mantra we follow here at the JOMH: train movements not muscles.
This is not new nor do we claim to have come up with this concept. But we do follow it to the absolute exclusion of other training methods. There are many exercises or training techniques that will build muscle, enhance your cardiovascular capabilities or help you shed unwanted fat. But as the old adage goes, you must start with the end in mind. If your end goal is to be as fit and strong as possible for the hunt it is imperative you apply this concept to your training plan.
This means getting off the machines, forgetting things like “leg days” and where possible training outside the confines of a gym. The human body is not a compilation of bits and pieces performing separate jobs. It is an intricate and complex system of bones, organs, tissues, blood vessels, nerves, and muscles that are constantly communicating with each other in order to enhance efficiency and adapt to the demands we place upon it.
We’ve made no secret of the fact we’re staunch proponents of the exercises, principles, methodologies and philosophies developed and encouraged by the people at Strong First and Gym Jones. There is no shortage of BS floating around the web by supposed experts. These two groups however, walk the walk. Read their respective materials thoroughly. It will forever open your eyes to what it means to be “fit” for the demands of the real world.
One of the most effective ways to begin exploring this idea of training movements versus isolated muscles is to train outdoors with minimal equipment. With nothing more than a kettlebell (KB), sandbag, pack, log or some stones you can put together a training session that will take you to new heights physically.
This is not to suggest you should never train indoors. We are after all massive proponents of including heavy deadlifts in your training regimen and these require a barbell and plates. But with regularity, the hunter athlete should incorporate minimal equipment, outdoor-based training into their regimen. This saves times, money and more importantly gets you outside where you’d likely rather be anyways.
The key is to keep things simple while being creative. In reality, the human body only needs to be challenged in seven fundamental movements:
- Loaded Carry
This list was compiled and proposed by a few of Strong First’s senior instructors in a blog post you can read here. We couldn’t agree more, and as noted above we encourage you to chip away at the other articles on their site. These people know their shit.
The options are virtually endless within each of these movements and this is where your creativity and your available equipment (or lack thereof) will guide your programming. We do not exaggerate when we say you can literally use nothing more than your pack loaded with sandbags, dry bags or rocks to go through each of the movements listed above to perform a killer training session.
Of particular emphasis for the hunter athlete should be rotation and counter-rotation as these movements are by far the most neglected in most programs yet the most important as it applies to a field or mountain context. Side-hilling for hours on end, climbing through loose scree or unstable boulder fields and descending in the dark through trail-less terrain, all with 60+ pounds on your back will stress your rotational fitness like nothing else.
As noted in the SF article one of the keys to reaping full benefit from a simplified training session is to combine a “grind” (aka slow) lift or exercise with a “ballistic” (aka fast) lift or exercise. Grind lifts include deadlifts, presses, squats and get-ups and these are normally completed at a weight that keeps you in the 3-5 rep range for 3-5 sets. Ballistic lifts or movements include swings, snatches, jumps, overhead stone throws or thrusters, etc. and can be performed for as many reps as you can handle before form degrades.
Here’s a short list of some examples of each movement:
Push: military/overhead presses with a pack/KB/log/stone, push-ups in all varieties
Pull: any row or pull-up, add pack for weight on pull-ups if necessary
Hinge: deadlifts, cleans, swings, snatches
Squat: goblet or front squats, pistols for those of you that are at an advanced level of training
Loaded Carry: farmer’s carry, racked carries, suitcase carries, HEAVY (60+ lbs) pack carries uphill (short intervals)
Rotation: Russian twists, drawing bow, chopping wood, sledgehammer on tire, pack/stone or medball tosses, uphill/downhill bear crawls
Counter-rotation: one-sided/suitcase deadlifts, racked carries while sidehilling, alternating side-to-side log presses, uphill/downhill bear crawls
These are far from the only exercises you can implement. Be CREATIVE with this training style. It’s fun as hell to train outdoors and the transferability to the mountains and field is unparalleled compared to training exclusively in the gym.
We’ve included a sample workout below, feel free to give it a try if you think you’re up for it, but as always be accountable for whether or not you can actually handle a given training session. Own your shit, and don’t blame us if you bite off more than you can chew.
THE HUNTER’S ULTIMATE NO-GYM WORKOUT
This training session is designed to be performed in a grind + ballistic superset with 30 seconds rest between each set for 3 rounds. The only equipment required is your pack loaded to 40+ pounds dependent on your individual capabilities.
Pack Sumo Deadlift x 5 + Uphill/Downhill Bear Crawl (20m uphill and back down all in bear crawl) x 1
Bear Hug (Pack) Front Squat x 5 + Log Jumps (think box jumps, but use a log 18” – 24” off the ground) x 10 – 20 (no pack)
Overhead Pack Press x 5 + Plyo Push-Up x 10 – 20 (lift one leg off the ground dependent on capability)
Pack-on Pull-up x 5 + Pack Toss for Distance (think hay bale toss, alternating sides) x 10 (jog to pack pick-up and toss again)
Suitcase (one-sided) Farmer Carry Uphill/Downhill (alternate hands on the uphill/downhill) x 3