Think You’re Backcountry Ready? Take Our Free Workout Test

When you train with MTNTOUGH, each workout is designed to serve a purpose. Some build strength, others build endurance, and some are simply a gut check. “The 22s” being the latter - it's one of the workouts that’s simply meant to push your limits and see what you're capable of. 

Rooted in the six pillars of MTNTOUGH training, this free workout encompasses all of the physical qualities that a backcountry athlete should possess. If you’re not a backcountry athlete but want to see how you stack up against those who are, “The 22s” will give you a good gauge.

If you’re a mountain athlete who’s been disappointed with other workouts, or you simply want to see if you’re MTNTOUGH, allow us to introduce you to the perfect introduction for hunting fitness. By the end, you’ll realize what areas of fitness you’re strongest in and where you might need to improve to be ready, come hunting season. Then, the real training begins.

"The 22s" Workout: A Comprehensive Breakdown

There’s no time to sit around between sets and check your phone during this workout. “The 22s” is light and fast, which means you’re going to have minimal downtime. Equipment is entirely optional, although it’s recommended if you’re looking for more of a challenge.

When the workout begins, the intensity might not hit you at first. As time goes on you’ll start to feel the fatigue and deep muscle burn caused by high reps mixed with cardio. Push through that discomfort to come out better on the other side. Remember, this is a test of your physical abilities and your willpower. Keep reading if you're up for a challenge. 

Exercises You'll See in "The 22s"

In the workout, you’re going to do .5-mile sprints before and after each superset of exercises. For the running portions, you can run outdoors but it’s easier to do them on a treadmill. If running is painful or you simply don’t feel ready for it, you can substitute the run with a .25-mile walk. 

After you hop off the treadmill you’ll head right into a superset, which is a combination of two exercises that you perform one after the other. You’ll pair lower and upper-body exercises together so that one muscle group can rest while the other works. This keeps the pace of the workout fast and is part of what makes “The 22s” so challenging.

The reason why it’s called “The 22s” is because you’ll start with 20 reps of one exercise and 2 of the other. Then, you’ll drop the first exercise by 2 reps and increase the second by 2 reps. Repeat that process until you’ve completed 2 reps of the first exercise and 20 of the other. And you'll always end up with 22 reps in each superset across the two exercises.

Below we’ll talk about the exercises in depth, if any of the exercises in the workout are new to you, reading through the technique will be helpful. You’ll also learn which muscles each exercise targets. So if you're unsure about what all the mechanics are or want a few things clarified from the workout video above, skip down a section.

Mechanics are vital - and with a workout like this where time is a measure of your fitness, it's no time to slouch on form. Even though you should be moving quickly through this workout, maintaining proper form has to be your primary goal since it's so important to minimize injury risk. 

Superset 1: Forward Lunges

Forward lunges build the leg strength that backcountry athletes need. They can help you get up any mountain with a heavy pack on your back. We highly recommend checking out this video for tips on proper technique. Attention to detail is important when you’re doing lunges because small adjustments can save you from hip and knee pain.

There are some technique mistakes that the MTNTOUGH coaches want you to be aware of. For example, bringing your knee back as you stand up rather than keeping it over your foot.

We know, it sounds minor, but this little detail is an important one - just watch this video to see why.

A couple of other notes - forward lunges can be done with or without weights. And you can also choose to do jump lunges instead of forward lunges in “The 22s”. Jump lunges cause greater impact but build more explosive power in your legs. If you choose to do jump lunges, don’t hold any weights.

  • Step 1: Start with no weights or a dumbbell in each hand
  • Step 2: Take a big step forwards with one leg, planting your foot
  • Step 3: Lean forwards slightly over your front leg with your torso and bend both knees to drop towards the ground
  • Step 4: Put your weight into your front foot and step your back foot up so that both feet are together
  • Step 5: Repeat with the other foot

Muscles Worked: You’ll use your quadriceps when you step forwards to lower yourself under control and then stand back up from the bottom of the movement. Plus, the hamstrings and glutes control you on the way down and power you on the way up. If you hold weights, you’ll use your lower back muscles, forearms, and trapezius to control them.

Superset 1: Push-Ups

You don’t need to bench press as much as a football player to be successful in the backcountry. However, you need enough upper body strength to lift your own body. To get through this workout you’ll need both strength and endurance in your chest and arm muscles because you’ll be doing a lot of reps. Just make sure you do each push-up with MTNTOUGH-approved form, if you try to cut corners with sloppy technique you’re only cheating yourself.

  • Step 1: Get into a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders and feet together
  • Step 2: Straighten your elbows and knees
  • Step 3: Keep your legs straight and bend your elbows, dropping your chest towards the ground
  • Step 4: When your chest is inches above the ground, press back up without letting your hips drop
  • Step 5: When your elbows are fully locked out again you’ve completed one rep

Muscles Worked: Your chest muscles are the main force producer in push-ups. Your front deltoids share the work with your chest. You also use the triceps to lock out your arms and quads to lock out your legs. The abdominal muscles prevent your hips from dropping. 

Superset 2: Squat Jumps

As a backcountry athlete, you need the athleticism and speed that squat jumps build. These are going to be difficult after running .5 miles, but make sure you jump as high as you can on each rep. Pay careful attention to proper landing technique as well, because the force of landing can cause injury if you’re not careful.

If you have knee, hip, or lower back pain, you might want to avoid jumping entirely. You can simply switch to a bodyweight squat for this workout, which works the same muscles but takes away the force of impact.

  • Step 1: Start standing with feet roughly shoulder-width apart
  • Step 2: Throw your arms down and back and squat down
  • Step 3: Throw your arms up and jump up as high as you can
  • Step 4: When you land, soften the impact by bending your knees and returning to the squat position
  • Step 5: Throw your arms back and go immediately into the next jump without stopping

Muscles Worked: Your legs are the driving force that creates power in the jump squat. Your quadriceps and glutes do the majority of the work, but your hamstrings and calf muscles also contribute. These same muscles not only produce the force that launches you into the air, but they also absorb the impact of landing. 

Superset 2: Renegade Rows

The renegade row is traditionally performed with dumbbells, but you can do them without. Even if you have weights, you might want to try this exercise without them at first to get the hang of things. It requires a lot of control from your core in addition to upper body strength. Focus on keeping your trunk rigid and preventing excessive rolling of the hips during the movement to get the most out of it.

  • Step 1: Start in a push-up position with your hands slightly behind your shoulders and feet wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Step 2: You can hold a dumbbell in each hand if you want to use weight, otherwise put your hands flat on the ground
  • Step 3: Lock your elbows and knees out so that your arms and legs are straight
  • Step 4: Lift one hand towards your shoulder, without rolling your hips to either side
  • Step 5: Lift the weight or hand up until your elbow rises above your rib cage
  • Step 6: Place that hand back down and switch to the other hand

Muscles Worked: This is truly a full-body movement. Unlike the push-up, your back muscles are the main target of this movement. That includes the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius, which all work to bring the weight up. You’ll also use the abdominal muscles, specifically the obliques, to prevent rotation. Your biceps, shoulders, and triceps will all work to stabilize you in the push-up position. Your quadriceps keep your knees straight and stabilize your legs.

Time-Based Performance Rating System

Depending on how fit you are, simply completing the workout might seem like a daunting task. No matter your time to complete or your fitness level, make sure you record how long it takes you to complete everything. That’s how you’re going to monitor your progress as you go through the MTNTOUGH programs.

To interpret how you performed, here are some basic guidelines and what they tell us about your fitness level:

Over 40 Minutes:

If it took 40-50 minutes to complete “The 22s”, you’re likely lacking in both muscular and cardiovascular fitness. It means you should spend time working on both types of fitness, not worrying about which is better for you. In other words, you should start with foundational programs and work your way up to more advanced workouts.

30-40 Minutes:

If it took 30-40 minutes you’re probably in good cardiovascular shape but lacking in muscular strength and endurance. It means you’re not going to quit when the going gets tough, but you’re not performing at high speeds. To take your athleticism to the next level, focus on bodyweight and weighted strength training.

25-30 Minutes:

If it took 25-30 minutes you’re in good shape. As a MTNTOUGH athlete, this is a time you should be proud of and it might’ve taken you a while to get to this point. While you could improve both your cardiovascular and muscular fitness a little, you’re ready to hit the backcountry and perform at a high level. Since your physical fitness is in check, you can work on mental toughness training to break through to the elite level.

Under 25 Minutes:

If your time is under 25 minutes, congratulations! You’re an elite MTNTOUGH athlete. That doesn’t mean you should stop training, but you’re fit enough to worry about fine-tuning your physical performance with strength and power exercises. That means plyometrics and weight training should be your main concern. There are elite workouts designed to meet your needs within the program.

20 Minutes or 2 Hours - Embrace Your Growth Mindset

Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t score as well as you expected. If you failed to hit the mark, dwelling on the setback is counter-productive. In fact, reframing disappointments as learning experiences is one of the best exercises you can do to build mental toughness. A quality you'll need plenty of in getting ready for and facing the backcountry.

At the same time, don’t rest on your laurels if you scored high. “The 22s” is a gauge to see how fit you are and what you need to work on. Fitness is a year-round endeavor, and having a baseline allows you to set goals and remain disciplined. A common problem with exercise programs is that they don’t measure progress. To avoid a false sense of security in your hunting fitness, test yourself regularly.

The Challenge: Are You MTNTOUGH?

Every time you do “The 22s” you’re going to learn something about yourself. It might be related to your body, like learning that your leg endurance is a weak point. It could be something mental, like learning how to push through tough moments in training. Whatever it is, take the outcome of this workout as a learning experience and an opportunity to improve. At the end of the day, you need to know that you can rely on your body when you’re in the backcountry.

The Community Is Always with You

Part of what makes MTNTOUGH so special is the amount of time and effort that goes into preparing the workouts. “The 22s”, like every workout, is the result of thousands of hours of research and development, including testing on real people in the gym.

That means you’re never truly going through a MTNTOUGH workout alone. Others who’ve gone through “The 22s” have shared their experiences. Former Marine, George Urmann, was glad to have found a workout specific to hunters.

Having a positive attitude will help you through many struggles in the backcountry. You can build positivity and mental toughness by gutting through tough workouts. Community member Lance Bernal reminds you that, if you fall, it’s up to you to get back up again

Some people find that “The 22s'' is an excellent ego check. Chuck Chauvrin, another MTNTOUGH member, admits that he was humbled by this workout. If you never challenge yourself, you might go into the backcountry with an overinflated sense of your abilities.

After having a taste of what it’s like to train as a backcountry athlete, try a second workout on us. 

The 6 Pillars of MTNTOUGH Training

To be a successful backcountry athlete, you need to be well-rounded. In some sports, you only have to focus on strength or endurance. For any rigorous activity in the wilderness, you need many physical and mental qualities. These qualities are built through year-round training, with each phase focused on a few specific things.

1. Endurance

Some hunts are quick, but others take a week or longer. Hell, with some, you don’t know exactly how long you’ll be out. But regardless of the days, if you're hunting the backcountry, there's a high probability you'll be hiking many miles with sustained effort, ultimately fighting off fatigue. You need serious endurance for this.

Many athletes use low-intensity and long-duration training to build endurance. Think of going on long runs or cycling for many miles as long-duration endurance training. That works, but at MTNTOUGH you’re going to train with higher intensities. That’s because you’re rarely going to have the luxury of moving slow and steady when you’re chasing game animals. 

It might sound strange, but doing high-intensity training can actually build endurance just as well as doing long-distance training, plus it takes less time. Efficient and effective is always a nice combo.

2. Chassis

Strength training year-round develops your foundation. It's a simple formula - the stronger you are, the easier it is to carry your pack in and pack out meat for the winter. Even without a bull's head and quarters in your pack, you're still carrying extra weight.

Say it's 30 pounds - add that to your existing weight - what would you think of your condition at that total weight? It's certainly a challenge when you throw in altitude, terrain, and all sort of obstacle courses on an uneven incline.

Building your foundation starts with strength training for your legs. You’ll find a lot of leg exercises in the program because they’re so important. There’s also upper body strengthening and core development to make you well-rounded.

The strength workouts aren’t your average bodybuilding-style programs - they’re not designed to make you look better, they’re created to make you a better mountain athlete. Your muscles are your foundation, and you wouldn’t want to build athleticism on top of a weak frame.

3. Oxygen Adaptation

A unique challenge that many backcountry athletes grapple with is altitude. You might be up above 7,000 or 8,000 feet for days without coming back down. You could even go upward of 11,000 feet for a period to get to prime elk country. The higher you are the more likely altitude is to sap your energy.

Training with high-intensity workouts increases your aerobic capacity. Many forms of cardiovascular training can help mountain athletes, such as Versa-Climbers and rowing machines are just an example of some of the equipment used in MTNTOUGH programs.

If the cardio in workouts like “The 22s” seems intense, it’s for a reason. You need to get your heart rate high to make your body adapt to scenarios where you’ll need a lot of oxygen. Plus, it gets your mind ready for the uncomfortable conditions Mother Nature might throw at you.

4. Balance

Don’t forget about more fine-tuned physical qualities, like balance. Whether you’re carefully trekking through snow downfall or climbing over slick deadfall, balance is key for a backcountry athlete. The better your balance is, the less likely you are to injure yourself.

Many movements hone your balance, but some of the best use kettlebells. That’s because a kettlebell is awkward to carry and challenges your balance. Single-leg movements with kettlebells train your body to avoid falling while lifting heavy things.

You can also improve your balance with yoga or Pilates. You’ll see various bodyweight exercises in the MTNTOUGH programs that require balance, some of which come from these disciplines.

5. Stamina

The amount of energy and effort you can sustain across a workout like “The 22s” is your stamina. If you tend to start strong but get gassed quickly, you know you need to work on this aspect of your fitness. If you’ve only been weight training and neglecting your cardiovascular system, chances are stamina is a weakness. As a hunter, you might need to maintain your athleticism for hours as you track.

The MTNTOUGH workouts are designed to help you do just that. Note that stamina is different from endurance, which is your ability to keep going at a moderate pace. Stamina helps you get through intense workouts without seeing a drop-off in performance. For example, alternating between .5-mile sprints and jump squats requires stamina because you have little time to rest and are performing high-intensity exercises.

6. Mental Toughness

Going into the backcountry doesn’t necessarily require mental toughness, as long as the conditions are good and nothing goes wrong. When conditions aren’t in your favor and your body is failing you, the only thing that can keep you going is your mind.

Those who are mentally tough can adapt to any situation. Take Remi Warren for example. When he hurt his wrist he adapted by using a mouth tab to draw his bow. A mix of ingenuity and determination can get you over some of the highest hurdles.

You’ll build mental toughness in workouts like “The 22s” by fighting past the voice in your head that tells you to give up or slow down. After each workout, you’ll come out stronger on the other side. You’re also going to learn how to build mental toughness by adopting a more positive outlook. Plus, you’ll learn mindfulness techniques that you can use anytime, anywhere.

Mental toughness is the double helix to the MTNTOUGH DNA - it runs through everything we do.

Get More with MTNTOUGH

As hunting season approaches, your readiness window slowly fades away. It takes at least 12 weeks of training to get ready for the backcountry, so don’t delay. Start preparing now to perform at your best and decrease your risk of getting injured.

Forget about the programs you’ve seen in magazines or on social media. As a backcountry athlete, you need a specialized training program crafted by people who understand you. You need functional fitness that translates into the experience in the wild.

“The 22s” is just a taste of what MTNTOUGH has to offer. If you commit to the training programs you’ll see progress in all 6 pillars. You’ll build muscle and strength, improve your endurance, become more flexible and mobile, and get tougher mentally.

Try a second workout on us to see what some of our other programs are like.

Of course, you can do more than just prep for hunting season if you train with us, but we also get that not everyone is ready to try out a 14-day free trial. But if you decide to make that no-obligation trial a reality, you'll see the wide variety of programs that make MTNTOUGH unique. Including our well-known and trusted Backcountry Hunter program - keep reading to see what each phase of this year-round training can do for you. 

MTNTOUGH's Flagship Backcountry Hunter Program

Ask any athlete about their training and they’ll tell you what they do in the off-season, pre-season, and in-season. They think of training in year-round terms with a constantly changing program. 

Backcountry athletes have a peak season, just like football or basketball player. That means there are times when you need to be athletic and times when you can focus on other things like strength. Each workout leads toward hunting season, which is when you’ll be at your best.

Thousands of hours of testing and development have gone into creating the year-round MTNTOUGH program. Each segment is tailored towards the ultimate goal: making you a better backcountry athlete. “The 22s” gives you an idea of the priorities of these programs: increase endurance, stamina, and strength.

Read more about what each season of training looks like below:

Backcountry Hunter Preseason Prep - MAY-AUG

This is the flagship program in MTNTOUGH and one that's recently been updated into the Preseason Prep 2.0. The latest and greatest instance is the result of careful planning and years of research by training athletes just like you. For 80 days you’re going to build your cardiovascular system, get stronger, and improve your flexibility.

Backcountry Hunter In-Season - SEP-OCT

When hunting season rolls around you might find that you don’t have as much time to dedicate to training. That’s fine because the in-season training program has built-in flexibility. Up front, you’ll learn which workouts you need to prioritize and which are OK to skip if you’re in a time crunch.

Backcountry Hunter Post-Season Strength - NOV-FEB

It’s normal to lose a little weight and strength during hunting season. As soon as you’re able to get back into the gym full-time you should start the post-season strength program, geared towards building back muscle, strength, and size.

Backcountry Hunter Spring Training Camp - MAR-APR

After building back size and strength during the off-season, it’s time to start conditioning your body for pre-season training. This is your opportunity to build up your cardiovascular system and athleticism so that you can hit preseason training hard. This is a short program, but it's got a lot of kick to it.

Minimal Gear Daily Workouts

Most of the MTNTOUGH programs use some form of equipment, but that doesn’t mean you need a full gym setup to get started. There are bodyweight and minimal equipment programs, as you’ve already seen by trying “The 22s”.

Even if you have access to a full gym, you’ll find that these workouts come in handy. If you’re traveling or in the backcountry for a while without exercise equipment, you can still get a workout. You can also do these workouts if you’re on a trip and your hotel doesn’t have much equipment.

The best thing about the minimal equipment workouts is that they target the same MTNTOUGH pillars as the fully equipped ones. You’ll work the same muscles and build your stamina at the same intensity as the gym workouts. That’s because the same principles apply to all programs. In other words, you’re not missing out just because you don’t have access to a gym.

Train Like A Backcountry Athlete

After thousands of hours of training backcountry athletes, the MTNTOUGH team knows what your body needs. Check out the free 14-day trial to see what’s included in the year-round programs. It’ll take more than one challenging workout to prepare you to hike the backcountry for days on end, and you can bet it will take more than that to haul the meat of a fully-mature bull off a mountain.

While hunting fitness and mountain sports are what we love and what we train for, you don’t need to be a hunter or wilderness explorer to use MTNTOUGH and see the rewards of your work. The programs are made for anyone who wants to compete against themselves and realize their true potential. Workouts like “The 22s” are a chance to check in with yourself, testing your physical and mental limits.

So then, take the bait - challenge yourself to stick with one of the seasonal programs, dedicating time to your workouts almost every day of the week. The discipline required to make it through MTNTOUGH training will make you better in all aspects of life, regardless of what or where that may be.