Western hunting presents a unique set of physical challenges. Extended overnight trips or lengthy hikes require endurance and stamina, heavy backpacks and steep terrain demand overall strength and balance. In a world filled with questionable exercises, sketchy supplements and bad advice, we sat down with our Head Trainer Jimmy Alsobrook to ask about his top 5 functional exercises for the avid western hunter.
Jimmy explains that some combination of strength, endurance and mobility are optimal for peak performance in western hunting situations. Purely training for strength won’t cut it when you’re tacking on double digit miles, and while having great cardio pays dividends, it’s helpful to have some core, leg and back strength when you shoulder backpack full of gear and elk quarters a few miles from the truck.
1. Zercher Squats.
Zercher squats are a great alternative to a traditional back squat for a couple of reasons. One, the Zercher squat is super applicable for everyday strength activities due to the added core stability and strength. The lift reinforces good form and an upright torso in the user, and can make it a bit easier to train a deeper squat movement than a traditional back squat.
Deadlifts are an all around killer exercise that have tons of obvious benefits for western hunting applications. A strong posterior chain is critical for the western hunter, Jimmy says, and deadlifts are a great way to strengthen that. Focusing on a rep range in the 8-12 area is great for building strength and endurance, while maintaining good form and avoiding injury.
3. Lateral lunges
In addition to strength movements, Jimmy stresses the importance of hip mobility for hiking, moving through brush and deadfall, and maintaining balance in steep terrain. Lateral lunges are a great strength movement. The work both adductors and abductors and increase hip mobility. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell at chest height to add weight. Mixing in speed skaters and band walks will increase hip mobility even further - something you won’t regret when September rolls around.
4. Asymmetrical Shoulder Press
Asymmetrical shoulder press builds shoulder strength and core strength at the same time. Using a dumbbell from a seated position, press upward while maintaining an upright core.
“When you’re hunting, you almost always have more weight on one side of your body than the other. Whether you’re carrying a backpack that’s a bit uneven, carrying a rifle in one hand or walking steep sidehills,” Jimmy says.
Asymmetrical shoulder press is a great way to strengthen your core and shoulders to prepare for uneven loads. Again, shoot for a rep range of 8-12.
5. Spider Crawls
Spider crawls are another great movement for developing hip mobility while simultaneously training core strength and shoulder stability. “You get a lot of bang for your buck out of spider crawls,” Jimmy chuckles. “Nobody likes doing them, but they’re a really great exercise with a ton of benefits.”
Start out with shorter distances and focus on form, then as you get more comfortable extend the distance to 30-40 yards at a time.
“It’s hard to narrow this list down to five exercises alone, because if you really want to be balanced and in shape there are plenty of other things you should be doing,” Jimmy says, “But mixing some of these exercises into your weekly workouts can help breakup the monotony and get you ready for fall.”
MTNTOUGH believes that mental toughness is just as important as physical strength and that the strongest muscle in the human body is the one between your ears. With a coaching staff comprised of former Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and renowned physical trainers—the workouts aren’t easy. The goal is to prepare clients for both the unthinkable and the everyday—to have the mental capacity and physical stamina to self-rescue in an emergency, or grind through a 12-hour workday and still play with the kids after dinner. Ara Megerdichian, MTNTOUGH coach and former U.S. Army officer and Ranger, believes the best way to harden the mind is by reaching and exceeding physical boundaries, by taking challenges once considered impossible and making them attainable and repeatable.