Let’s face it… Looking good in the mirror does not equate to athletic performance and lower risk of injury. In fact, sometimes training solely for your physical appearance can sometimes have negative effects on your overall fitness level. Bodybuilding, in the strictest sense of the term, can lead to reduced flexibility, higher blood pressure, and limited athleticism. This does not mean that you should immediately cease trying to look good; some of the greatest motivators in physical training are the visible gains we make in losing weight and building muscle. Also, looking better is a natural byproduct of getting into shape! However, if you want to hunt fit and be fit, you need train the way you play – you need to train for functionality.
What is Functional Fitness
Functional fitness is a form of fitness that focuses on improving your body’s ability to do certain tasks easier, more effectively, with less risk of injury. For example, a functional fitness routine will involve multi-joint exercises that involve multiple muscle groups and actively engage your core (you don’t do a bicep curl to pick a bucket up from the floor do you?). These kinds of exercises cause your body to do what it already does all day: use multiple muscle simultaneously to accomplish a given task.
Why You Should Care
Functional fitness is important for the hunter because seldom are you isolating one muscle group while hunting. Instead, you are constantly involving multiple muscle groups, including your core and stabilizer muscles, to complete a given task (hiking on uneven terrain, holding a rifle steady, coming up to a kneeling position while at full-draw, etc.). Here is a functional workout that you can incorporate into your weekly routine that will help you to improve you functional fitness level:
Functional Fitness Workout
Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, holding the weights at chest level, palms facing inward. Squat as low as you can, then come up and press the weights overhead while turning your palms forward.
Plank with dumbbell row
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and get into pushup position. Keeping your body straight, shift your weight to one side and row the opposite arm’s dumbbell to your side. Repeat on the other arm.
Grab the end of a kettlebell and let it hang vertically between your legs. Lower your body into an athletic stance (knees bent, torso centered over your feet). Now explosively straighten your hips and knees as if you were jumping, and swing the weight to eye level. Allow the weight to swing down as you bend your knees, keeping your chest out. Repeat the motion to swing the kettle bell up again.
Dumbbell Clean and Press
Hold a dumbbell in your right hand so that it is just inside your right foot. With your chest out and you butt down, explode upward with the weight so that you bring the dumbbell up to your shoulder, with an underhanded grip, while in a squat position. Immediately drive upward with your legs as you push up with your arm, extending the weight above your head. Complete the necessary reps and repeat on the other side.
T-Pushup (with or without dumbbell)
Get into a pushup position and complete a pushup. As you come up, lift one arm off the ground as you rotate your torso until your chest is facing the wall and your arm is extended directly upward. Slowly, return to the starting position and repeat for the other side.
Swiss-Ball Lunge with Twist
Holding a 6-10 lb swiss ball centered at chest level, go into a forward lunge. At the bottom of the move, rotate your torso so that your chest is angled away from your body with the ball still centered on your chest. Return to center and stand back up. Repeat for the other side, rotating to the other side as well. That is one rep.
There are many, many more exercises like these, but these are all entry-level functional fitness moves that can help you maintain a higher level of overall fitness. These exercises (and others like them) will help you to be more flexible, more athletic, and more capable of performing the strenuous activities involved in hunting in the backcountry. Incorporate a workout like this each week and you will reap the benefits down the road.