LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015
Fitness and bowhunting make the perfect marriage. More fitness means hunting harder and going further. To hunt at your best, you must own more stock in “General Physical Preparedness” (GPP). Shares of GPP come with a steep price tag, but will lend itself to better bowhunting….I guarantee it. GPP means you’re able to perform numerous tasks extremely well; ready for anything Mother Nature throws at you. However, GPP won’t be improved if you train like a bodybuilder.
Bodybuilding isolates muscles and has distinction between weights and cardio. Every guy in those major bodybuilding magazines uses steroids and has lots of useless muscle for the mountains. If you want to read about tanning, supplements, empty promises, and awesome chest workouts – this is not the article for you. Bodybuilding is a good way to train, but not the best if you’re committed to bowhunting. If training in front of a mirror is more important than making your body ready for the mountains, then your GPP will suffer.
Along those lines, if you’re a decent runner but can’t muster a pull-up, you’re lacking GPP. Another example is if you can bench press a couple hundred of pounds, but can’t run a mile under 10 minutes, you’re lacking GPP. To obtain more GPP you have to compromise your training, focus less on what you’re good at, and spend more of your time training at what you like the least. Weaknesses are chinks in your armor and getting rid of them is how you increase your GPP for bowhunting.
Hunting is unpredictable. You don’t know how far from the trailhead you’ll be packing meat. You don’t know what challenges may arise just like you don’t know when the next weather system may roll in. The needs of a Western bowhunter and a Midwest bowhunter differ in degree, not kind. What I mean by that is all of us have a need for functional competencies to move our own bodies and backpack through the woods. Whether its mountains, rolling hills, or treestand hunting, all bowhunters can benefit from fitness. In other words, you need to be in shape if you want to tip the scales of lady luck in your favor.
Just like the environment you hunt in your training should be an unpredictable, mixed bag of weight training moves and cardiovascular fitness.
The GPP Answer
Cross-training offer’s a wide range of athletic movements and promotes GPP. To obtain this general fitness level you have to perform workouts with wide variety. When we cross-train, we’re inviting several facets of fitness into the workout:
• Strength (Power, Speed, Elasticity, etc.)
• Endurance & Stamina
• Balance (Accuracy, Coordination, Proprioception, etc.)
• Flexibility (Mobility, Stability, etc.)
All these components will come in handy when bowhunting. If just running prepared you for the demands of the mountains then this feature would be about pounding out the miles. I’m not against running, in fact I hammer out a handful of miles each week, but I recognize that fitness doesn’t just start there. Keep your training on shuffle mode and you can easily diminish the chinks in your armor. Here’s how to get started on improving GPP.
If you’re convinced to get off your butt and train then follow the charter of mechanics; which is consistency and then intensity. Mechanics refers to technique—your ability to move properly through the essential strength exercises. Check your ego at the door and go at your own pace. Execute the right mechanics and then integrate consistency. Consistency has a two-part application: 1) That you are consistent in performing the mechanics of the exercises; and 2) That you are consistent in weekly workout bouts. Both are necessary.
The best example for following the charter of mechanics is how often you shoot your bow. If you shoot year round (consistency), versus dusting your bow off before opening day – you’re much more likely to be a better shot when that precious shot opportunity materializes. We both know that shooting weekly and year round dramatically improves consistent muscle memory; this is the hallmark for continuity. Training has to be consistent as well.
Instead of a normal walk for fitness, try carrying your backpack loaded with actual gear (or dumbbells) and walk with your bow in your hand. Add mountains and/or stairs to really spice things up.
Technique will allow you to lift more weight and perform repetitions faster. When you can perform more work in less time; you’re obtaining more work capacity and increasing GPP. Remember though, training is medicine; too much too soon and you can severely hurt yourself. Thankfully, the body adapts relatively fast, and before you know it, you will be hitting each workout with maximum intensity. From my own personal experience, cross-training has provided me with faster results with less time invested. This has enabled me to dedicate more time to my shooting, tuning, and scouting. A compelling formula for success in the field!
Don’t Use Machines – Become One
Backpack bowhunting is hard, your pack feels a little heavier each day, carrying water with you takes a toll, and getting out of that warm cozy sleeping bag every morning isn’t easy. The more GPP stock you own, the more motivation you will have as you endure the hunt. With that being said, the choice of exercises to implement into our workouts must be functional movements. True functional exercises do not involve a machine and in order to perform them correctly you have to invite a lot of muscles to work harmoniously.
Most weight training machines don’t engage as many muscles as free weights. However, machines for cardiovascular purposes are a different story.
Therefore, don’t waste your time on a Bowflex, or sitting on machines at the gym. They don’t elicit functional strength and endurance that you need in order to tackle mountains. Squatting, picking things up off the ground, putting things overhead, pulling ourselves up, running, jumping, throwing; these are the organic movements of life, and when done with intensity, they prepare us for the demands of the outdoors. Exercise machines isolate muscles, nature doesn’t. Machines are man-made, mountains are not. Cross-training will turn you into a bowhunting machine, and this means more meat in the freezer come fall.
The GPP Workout
Many workouts have the same mundane template – spend 20 minutes on the bench press and then 40 minutes on the elliptical machine. Isolate muscles, pick a body part, and create distinction between weights and cardio – not a lethal combination. I’m selling a different approach, train your entire body in one shot, blur the distinction of weights and cardio, and get more done in less time – and better results. Everything we do in the mountains starts and ends with the legs. Do you really expect to keep up with a four-legged animal that lives on the mountain year round? Not if you show up to camp overweight or de-conditioned. Here’s your first taste of a workout that demands GPP:
Workout – “Elk Shape”
Task – Perform 4 Rounds For Time of:
10 Step-Ups on a 20″ Plyometric Box or Step
400m Run (1/4 mile)
***To add more “spice” to this workout, wear a 40lb weight vest or wear your hunting pack, perhaps even carry your bow and wear your hunting boots.
Step-ups are great for the mountain legs – place foot of first leg on the box. Stand on the box by extending hip and knee of first leg and place foot of second leg on the box. Step down with second leg by flexing hip and knee of first leg. Return to original standing position by placing foot of first leg to floor. Repeat first step with opposite leg alternating first steps between legs for 10 total repetitions. Then run, walk, or jog the quarter mile distance (400m).
Step-Ups may sound simple with very little to offer the “hardcore” bowhunter. However, when you consider the amount of realistic, “in the field” movement it incorporates it will become clear that a good deal of average weight training and treadmill running isn’t going to adequately prepare you for the mountains like cross-training can.
Congratulations, you’ve performed one of four rounds and you’re already feeling horrible. Don’t worry; it only gets worse no matter what shape you’re in. Once you’ve completed the fourth round look at your timer and note the duration. The beauty of this workout is that you didn’t have to go to the gym to do it. If you’re battling knee problems you could have walked instead of sprinted. If a 20″ box is too high, lower the height. If it’s too easy, wear your pack during the workout. If you’re way out of shape just perform one or two rounds.
I strongly encourage doing these cross-training workouts with a friend or cohort. The human spirit thrives on friendly competition and misery loves company. You will undoubtedly perform better when going against the clock and with friends. The key to harnessing intensity…..utilize camaraderie to maximize your results.
Physical preparedness leads to confidence, which affects all areas of bowhunting and ultimately leads to more filled tags. This off-season reinvent yourself, increase your GPP and reap the rewards!
General Physical Preparedness is your ace in the hole. The fast paced workouts can be summarized by constantly varied, functional exercises, executed at high intensity. Cross-training will save you time and prepare you for whatever Mother Nature will throw at you. Mother Nature will never discriminate – she does not care how old or young, weak or strong you are. She is ruthless and cannot be fooled. Rich or poor, she will expose you – be prepared for anything by improving your GPP. Fitness and bowhunting are the perfect combination to make your freezer bust at the seams. Go get some!
Dan is an avid bowhunter who lives in Inland Northwest. Dan owns and operates CrossFit Spokane Valley. Dan has his Master’s degree in exercise physiology and his undergraduate degree is in exercise science. You can check out his workouts at http://www.crossfitspokanevalley.com/workout-of-the-day-wod/