When you are in the middle of a hunt, there is seldom a time when most of your muscles are not being engaged. Hunting is strenuous work and your legs, arms, shoulders, back, etc. are constantly working. However, there is one muscle group that is almost never at rest. Whether you are hiking up a mountain and maintaining your balance, laying down in a duck blind and coming up to take that quick shot, swinging your shotgun from one dove to the other in an open field, or sitting on the side of a hill glassing the endless horizon, your core is always working and it needs to be conditioned accordingly.
Not only is a strong core crucial to your body functioning properly, it is also your main defense against injury. Lower back pain is often a result of a poorly conditioned and weak core. Training your core properly will help increase balance and core strength, which will help reduce the risk of injury in the field.
Anatomy of the Core
Knowing what muscles make up your core will help you be more prepared to train it properly. The core is made of the abdominals, obliques, lower back muscles, and glutes. Throughout the mid-section of your body, you have multiple stabilizer muscles that work in conjunction with the major core muscles to keep your body sturdy, balanced, and safe.
Exercises for your core
Here are some exercises you can do to engage and strengthen your core:
1. Any Exercise
Okay, this might seem a little too simple, but the reality is that any exercise is a core exercise. This is because whether you are performing a squat, running a mile, or doing push-ups, your core should always be engaged, meaning it should be tight, holding your mid-section in place. When you properly engage your core, you strengthen your core in the same manner that you will be using it while in the backcountry: engaging it while working your whole body.
2. Russian twist
With a swiss ball or dumbbell in your hands, hold your torso at a 45 degree angle while bending your knees. Lift your heels slightly off the ground so that you are balanced in a reclined seated position. Holding the swiss ball or dumbbell in your hand, slowly rotate your torso, reaching toward the ground next to your hip with the weight (Do not over-rotate!). Rotate to the other side and repeat this motion for 20-30 reps. This engages the entire core throughout the movement.
3. Walking Lunge with twist
Holding a light weight at chest level, step forward into a lunge position. Once at the bottom of the movement, twist your torso to one side. Return center and step up to bring your feet together. Repeat this motion, turning to the other side. Complete 10-12 reps. This move incorporates the glutes while also engaging the entire core, completing the core engagement.
4. Kettlebell Swings
A classic, full body move that is crucial for a strong core. Stand with legs just past shoulder-width apart and keep your knees slightly bent. Next, lower the weight so that it swings between your legs and slightly past them. Then use your core to raise your torso, keeping your knees slightly bent and your core tight, and raising the kettlebell perpendicular to your torso with your arms straight. Do 15-20 reps. This move is great for being able to feel when your core is tight vs. when it is not. Also, it is a great move for strengthening your lower back while also building strength and flexibility in the backs of your legs.
The plank is a staple in any core workout. Place you forearms on the ground so that your forearms and upper arms create a 90 degree angle. Straighten your body as if a straight line were being drawn from the base of your neck down to your feet. Only your forearms and toes should be touching the ground. Hold this position for 30 seconds – 1 minutes and repeat 2-3 times.
These are some basic moves to help you build a stronger, more solid core. They will help protect you from injury and help you perform better in the field. Any bow hunter, upland hunter, or mountain hunter will quickly see the benefit once they have a strong, stable core.