Hunting Fitness: In-Season Performance Starts Off-Season

Open a new tab on your web browser and do a quick search for the term ‘hunting workouts’ or ‘hunting fitness’. What you’ll find is that nearly 90% of the results focus on the month or a couple of weeks right before deer and elk season. 

While it’s great to find so many resources that recognize the importance of getting physically and mentally charged for hunting, they’re going about it the wrong way. 

And if you’re the type of hunter who hikes where others won’t, starting your training a few weeks before the season isn’t just a disservice; it’s dangerous. 

Here’s the truth: there's nothing worse than starting your physical (and mental) prep for hunting season in August. It’s simply not enough time to set yourself up for a successful and safe hunt. 

Unfortunately, the majority of hunters will face this inconvenient reality year in and year out. The only way to break out of this vicious cycle is to embrace an ‘Always Ready’ mindset.

Embracing the Always Ready Mindset

‘Always Ready’ is a lifestyle that provides the motivation and grit to keep you going all year - at its core, it’s a commitment to continuous training, adapting to changing environments, and making sure you’re in the best position to handle the challenges ahead.

You’ll never have to hit the restart button if you never stop training.

This ethos is hardwired into the Backcountry Hunter Series. The series is a comprehensive, calendarized training program that ensures you're ‘Always Ready’ throughout the entire year, and most certainly ready for the rut.

It forges hunters into physically and mentally tough athletes, able to conquer any mountain ahead - from hunting life to life at home. 

The Backcountry Hunter Series is more than your average mix of workouts. But let’s prove it and take a close look at each program you’ll tackle in the series throughout the year; it’s the best way to see the difference of a holistic approach to hunting fitness can lead to the best hunting season of your life.

Backcountry Hunter Preseason Prep 2.0: Peak Hunting Fitness (May-Aug)

While most preseason guides to hunting fitness fall short, MTNTOUGH’s program stands apart. It's the crown jewel of the Backcountry Hunter Series, recognized as the top-notch training resource for mountain athletes. 

The key distinction? MTNTOUGH doesn’t buy into the short-term prep myth. Real preparation demands at least 12 weeks, ideally 16, to forge the physical and mental resilience needed for backcountry challenges. This timeline is determined by physiology, rather than opinion.

That’s why MTNTOUGH's Preseason Prep 2.0 is a no-nonsense, 12-16 week grind, built for those who want to tackle the backcountry head-on. Forget the quick fixes; this is about reshaping mountain athletes so they’re ready for the brutal demands of the wild. Over the course of 16 weeks, this program guides you through an immense transformation across three distinct phases: Neural Recruitment, Strength and Power, and Conditioning.

  • Phase 1 - Neural Recruitment: We start with high-intensity, low-weight exercises. This initial phase isn’t meant to see if you can lift a heavy object. The purpose is to rewire your body to move the right way and memorize the correct patterns.
  • Phase 2 - Strength and Power: Next, the focus is packing on lean muscle and raw power - both are non-negotiables for a successful hunting season.
  • Phase 3 - Conditioning: The start of hunting season looms closer - this phase pivots to all-out conditioning. Here, you fine-tune agility, flexibility, balance, endurance, and the mental grit needed for hunting - and just in time.

Each phase is a strategic step in building up muscle memory, brute strength, power, and cardiovascular endurance. This phased approach is the responsible way to make yourself the most effective hunter throughout the season.

Phase 1: Neural Recruitment (2-4 Weeks)

Clearing this stage has zero connection to how much weight you can lift. Instead, it’s all about getting your muscles to fire off at full capacity. 

It starts with high-intensity, low-weight exercises. These first 2-4 weeks are designed to rewire your body to move the right way and memorize the correct patterns; it’s the bedrock of your training. Your body will learn how to talk and respond to your muscles the right way, and right from the start.

By the end, your muscles will be ready to pack on the strength and mass needed to make it through the season. Skipping this phase is basically giving the backcountry permission to build your neural recruitment under real conditions - it’s a recipe for being unprepared.

Building on Neural Recruitment

After establishing neural recruitment, it’s time to ramp things up. The focus shifts to muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness. This approach is the science behind the 12-week preparation minimum, ensuring your body is fully primed and backcountry ready.

Phase 2: Muscular Endurance (8-10 Weeks Post-Neural Recruitment)

This is where things start getting real; you start to sustain strength without fatigue. In other words, over the next 8-10 weeks, your body's going to learn how to keep going without burning out.

This phase consists of two parts: building an endurance base then making sure you can haul all your gear (and hopefully protein-packed elk meat) without gasping for air every few feet.

You'll experience a significant increase in your ability to perform repetitive movements over prolonged periods, powering through activities that used to leave you winded. This stamina will be incredibly helpful in the rugged terrain ahead.

Phase 3: Cardiovascular Training (8-12 Weeks)

Aerobic capacity and altitude are the focus here - this is where you’ll push your limits. For 8-12 weeks, this phase will boost your oxygen delivery to muscles through increased production of hemoglobin and red blood cells.

Your heart rate will begin to adapt, and work smarter, not harder. As it becomes more efficient, your heart will adjust to a lower rate while still meeting the oxygen and nutrient demands of your muscles. You’ll feel the payoff as you run faster, hike further, and endure multi-day hunts with significantly less fatigue than when you started.

How Do You Train Endurance for Hunting?

Training endurance for hunting involves a functional mix of cardiovascular and muscular training. Interval training, short bursts of high intensity exercises, like sprinting, improves cardio. Strength-building activities, particularly for the legs and core, helps you endure long hunting trips.

Training for hunting endurance is about striking the right balance and taking a comprehensive approach. The mission isn’t to just bulk up, but to tune your body to handle unique challenges you’ll face.

Backcountry Hunter In-Season Training: Maintaining Peak Performance (Sep-Oct)

The outdoors are no joke - tough conditions only get tougher as fall shifts to winter across much of the US. Each day that passes from the start of the season is increasingly difficult. So, should you ease off the training once the rut begins? Hell no.

For those that push through Pre-Season 2.0, what’s the point in reaching peak toughness right before the season only to lose it right away - and at a time where conditions continue to worsen outside? It’s not only a waste of effort, but sets you up for a lower success rate for your deer hunt (or elk hunt) and invites a higher risk of injury in the process.

Training in-season helps you keep your hard-earned grit and muscle when the conditions get tougher.

Don't get us wrong though - hunting is still the focus of the In-Season Program, and the workouts are a supplement to the hunt. But, if you can commit to working this program into your weekly routine between hunts, you'll go into the mountains ready to operate at your highest level the entire season.

Approach to In-Season Training

Let’s face it, many hunters let fitness slide during the season. Not here. With the In-Season Training, you can maintain your off-season progress without sacrificing valuable hunting time

There’s a clear difference in performance before and after hunting season: the mountains take their toll on the body. Compared to when the season started, mountain athletes descend as thinner, weaker versions of themselves. There’s a severe dropoff in strength and cardio, both are the focus of the in-season program.

Like all MTNTOUGH programs, Backcountry Hunter In-Season Training is tooled for functional fitness. And although strength and conditioning are the priorities, balance, range of motion, and mental toughness still get attention, just a lower priority compared to other programs in the series. In order to keep you ‘Always Ready’, strength and cardiovascular fitness have to be the top priorities during hunting season.

In-season training may be a rarity among hunting workout programs, but staying exceptional at a time when you need it most should be common sense. Here are just a few of the reasons we’re so committed to in-season hunting fitness.

Benefits of the Backcountry Hunter In-Season Training Program

The In-Season program is all about flexibility - it's tailored for hunters who've put in the work all year. Whether it's making room for weekend hunting or a multi-day in the wild, this training adapts to fit your schedule. 

The goal? Create a program that’s versatile enough to help you keep your fitness as close to where it was at the season's start, without messing with your hunting time. Let’s break down what the program brings to the table:

1. Endurance that Counts:

A mountain challenge dwarfs just about anything you can cook up in the gym. The endurance you need to not only have a successful hunt, but an entire season. It needs to last through every inch of rugged landscape you cross, every hill you ascend and descend, and still leave you with enough gas in the tank to focus on shot placement.

In-season training is dialed in on making your heart and lungs work like a well-oiled machine for those long, tough hunts.

2. Smart Strength Training:

Bulk up? Not now. Although some hunters believe strength for hunting is about getting as jacked as possible (common hunting fitness mistake #2), but the strength you need should be functional - it needs to translate to the backcountry.

Strategic strength training periodization is the right answer. It’s the process of ramping up your power while keeping you agile for the hunt, avoiding any chance of burnout or overtraining. It will still challenge you, but with purpose.

3. Mobility and Flexibility - The Unsung Heroes:

Mobility and flexibility are criminally overlooked as ways to maintain your hunting fitness. They make all the difference between keeping you in the hunt and not on the sidelines nursing a highly-preventable injury. You need a wide range of motion for backcountry hunting, but some areas need it more than others. 

This program leans into the problem areas and makes certain that your hips, hamstrings, and quads don't end the trip too soon. Greater mobility and flexibility shows in your overall performance too. Your movement will feel less taxing.

Backcountry Hunting: In-Season Training Schedule

In-season training is where hunting fitness discipline starts to go sideways. No judgment. We get it. Your schedule gets even crazier as you start adding hunting days into the mix. But, we're committed to helping you maintain and progress your fitness all year long - even during hunting season. This is where the adaptability of the program shines.

How MTNTOUGH’s In-Season Training Program Is Flexible:

  • Strength days are your priority workouts, but you can still adapt the program to fit your schedule and life. For instance, you can hit two strength days per week on Days 1 and 3, or you can combine them into a longer Day 1 if you’re short on time.
  • Make a secondary priority your Day 2 and do a flush day right before you go hunting as your Day 4. This will help push blood, nutrients, and oxygen to and from your muscles right before you'll need it the most.
  • Unless you’re hunting on Day 5, you’re rucking. Throw on your heavy pack and boots, and go for 10 miles. Since we ramp up strength and intensity as you go, every time you head out into the field you're at your best.

If you're hunting during the season, your approach doesn't have to match your pre-season routine either. Your body is getting the workout of the year thanks to the backcountry. But remember, this doesn’t mean that training should pause until the season ends.

With some modifications and picking from the wide options of in-season workouts in the program, you can build a schedule that ultimately serves its purpose; helping you keep your fitness full-throttle amidst the hunting frenzy. Tailor it to your rhythm, and you’ll keep your strength and endurance all season.

Backcountry Hunter PostSeason Strength (Nov-Feb)

Postseason training is a 16-week program that’s hellbent on turning you into an optimal athlete. Someone who’s not just strong, but also powerful, functional, and dynamic. This program empowers you to recover and rebuild after a long season, increasing your endurance, strength, and mobility for the next hunting season and beyond. Designed with intention, the program’s purpose is threefold: 

  • All-Around Athletic Improvement: Unlike the preseason program, which is more sports-specific, postseason is more general, focusing on boosting your overall athletic capabilities.
  • Preparation for Next Season: Don’t worry, it comes back to hunting (it always does) - the postseason sets the foundation for the next hunting season. Athletes emerge stronger and more prepared for spring training and pre-season training, enhancing their performance.
  • Accessibility and Flexibility: Suitable for different fitness levels, with adjustments and modifications available for beginners, intermediates, and elite athletes.

The program primarily consists of four elements; mobility, endurance, cardio threshold, and strength. You’ll find mobility exercises baked into workouts - starting your path to improved range of motion and flexibility, a jumpstart to preventing injuries. Endurance is also a staple of this program. Workouts will continue to push your stamina and get you ready for long hikes when September arrives, while also pushing your heart and lungs to their breaking points, with the intention of rebuilding them to operate more efficiently. But the real focus, the limelight component of the program, is strength. You’ll sweat tirelessly to increase muscle and power.

Postseason isn’t directly about getting fit for the niche movements next hunting season, but rather, knocking down and redefining your physical limits. Its focus on foundational strength, mobility, and endurance are instrumental to your long-term success.

Backcountry Hunter Spring Training Camp (Mar-Apr)

To build your statue of the ultimate mountain athlete, your postseason efforts serve as the marble, while your spring training work is your chisel. As spring rolls in, it’s time to sharpen and enhance everything you’ve built in the offseason.

Your challenge over this 8 week period is to ramp up your endurance and aerobic fitness while holding onto all the hard-earned strength you amassed in the postseason. Here, you begin your return into a more agile, conditioned hunter, setting the stage to put the final details on your toughest hunting shape in the upcoming pre-season training.

Awaken Aerobic Capacity

You’ll face 60 days of training to target the sweet spot between ideal body weight for optimal performance without losing muscle or strength. Your aerobic capacity and endurance will be tested daily while your training brings your focus back to the sport, lending your fitness to hallmarks of the season, like hitting the trails hard or hunting spring bear.

You'll be thrown into the deep end with exercises like explosive jump squats and high-intensity sprinting. The goal? Skyrocket your strength, jump height, sprint speed, and, most importantly, your stamina. You'll find yourself lasting longer each session, moving smoother, and keeping sharp throughout. The focus only sharpens through pre-season training, and each aspect finds its way into your hunting season. With consistent and progressive training throughout the Backcountry Hunter Spring Training Camp program, you can expect to see remarkable transformation in:

  • Aerobic capacity in just a few weeks
  • Ability to sustain physical activity for longer periods during hunts
  • Ability to navigate tough terrains
  • Ability to maintain focus and accuracy throughout the hunt

Greater Flexibility and Mobility through Hard Work

Your range of motion is your armor against injury and your tool for your best performance in the backcountry. You’ll be able to target different parts of your body to reach maximum strength and motion. With exercises like Spiderman Crawls, Switch Kicks, Hip Thrusters, and Band Walks - you’re bulletproofing your body for the tough times ahead.

  • Get into proper positions
  • Perform exercises more efficiently
  • Improve performance
  • Achieve better results when you’re out in the field

This part of the regimen is about mastering movement, ensuring you can get into position, nail the form, and, ultimately, up your game in the wild. Consistency is key; hit these workouts several times a week for real results.

Backcountry Hunter Elite Spring Training (Mar-Apr)

Think you've mastered the MTNTOUGH Spring Training? Welcome to the Elite Spring Training, where we crank the intensity amp to 11. This program isn't for the timid or the first-timer. You should be a veteran of multiple MTNTOUGH routines and boast a high-level fitness baseline. Here, weaknesses aren't just exposed; they're hunted down and dominated.

Timed workouts are the backbone of this elite hunting workout plan. You're not just going through the motions; you're racing against the clock - and yourself. Each session is a battle to push harder, lift heavier, and shatter your previous records. 

No room for easing up or cutting corners here; you attack this program with the same ferocity you'd bring to any hunt.

Gear-wise, the Elite Spring program aligns with our standard Spring Training. However, you should probably have heavier weights or a wider variety of options for these workouts.

Since it’s elite training, you’ll be pushing your previous records on many dumbbell, kettlebell, and barbell exercises.

Tailored Workouts for Every Season

Every season in backcountry hunting demands its own brand of toughness. Only MTNTOUGH’s Backcountry Hunter Series can create an unthinkable edge in your hunting performance and build a defense to keep you free of injury.

Each program is your tool to master a critical element for hunting season. There’s nothing routine about these routines. The entire calendar of training is dynamic with the purpose of pushing you closer to your goals or helping you maintain your fitness so you can enjoy the goal you’ve worked so hard for - peak physical and mental fitness for the best hunting season yet.

Thanks to the ‘Always Ready’ mindset, in this system of hunting workout programs, every challenge becomes a new opportunity to triumph. These workouts are your weekly battle drills, preparing you for whatever the wild throws at you, from the raw grit of pre-season to the relentless demands of post-season. Training is your year-round warpath.

Now you can jump into the entire Backcountry Hunter series on MTNTOUGH+ for 2 weeks without any cost. That’s right, try it risk-free with our 14-day free trial.