4 Conditioning Workouts for Backcountry Hunting

4 Conditioning Workouts for Backcountry Hunting

Posted by Clayton on Nov 24th 2016

As fall hunting season approaches, many hunters dream of bagging a trophy buck or two in the middle of the beautifully rugged backcountry. While some hunting practices require little in the way of physical fitness, backcountry hunting is one of the most physically demanding of any sport due to the rough landscape.

Even if you have the best hunting gear and a thorough knowledge of the terrain, without adequate fitness you may find yourself falling behind and missing golden opportunities to take home your trophy.

To make sure you are prepared for whatever your hunting adventure throws at you, here are four conditioning workouts for backcountry hunting.

Cardio Conditioning

A solid cardio regimen is essential if you are planning on hunting in the backcountry this season. The lack of oxygen at high elevations can wreak havoc on your endurance and concentration, both of which are necessary for taking down big game.

The best cardio training for backcountry hunting is hiking or trail running, and it is even more effective if you build up to running with a pack or weighted vest. This weight will get you used to moving quickly at high altitudes and over long distances and prepare your body for navigating the rough terrain. However, not everyone has ready access to hiking trails, so here is an effective cardio conditioning workout you can do at the gym or home.

Treadmill Workout

Use the incline function on your treadmill to your advantage. Over the course of a 30-minute cardio training session, you can steadily increase the incline to mimic the elevation of a hiking trail. Aim to do a cardio workout 4-6 times per week to see results, and always be sure to stretch after your cardio training session to prevent any injuries from keeping you out for the season.

Warm-Up: Walk at 2 mph at an incline of two degrees for five minutes.

Minutes 6-20: Run/jog at 2.5 mph, gradually increasing your incline by 0.5 degrees every minute until you reach an incline of 9.5 degrees.

Minutes 21-25: Run/jog at 3 mph, at an incline of 2.5 degrees.

Cool Down: Walk at 2mph at an incline of one degree for five minutes.

Endurance Training

Some of the best and most rewarding hunting experiences are to be found after long, exhausting hikes tracking prey. when you finally spy your quarry, you need to have enough energy left in your reserve tank to take the shot—or else you might head home empty-handed.

Endurance training ensures you will never miss an opportunity to take down your hard-won prey by making your body more effective at the way it uses oxygen and increasing your lactate threshold.

Many people mistakenly believe that to increase your endurance you need to simply run or work out longer; however, a more effective way is with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT uses short bouts of intense exercise with very little rest between sets. After a good warm up, here is one of the best HIIT workouts to prepare you for the rigors of backcountry hunting:

Using appropriately weighted dumbbells for your fitness level, perform each set of exercises for 45 seconds with a 15-second rest. Complete the circuit 4 times.

Squat with Overhead Press/Chop

Side Lunge/Plank

Mountain Climbers

Sumo Squat with Bicep Curl/Chop


Push Up/Side Plank

Strength Training

While most hunters aim to pack light, even a light backpack and a 12-pound rifle can feel like you are lugging a boulder up a hill after you’ve been hiking up steep elevations for hours. Add the awkward deadweight of your prize, and you have yourself a problem.

Aside from enabling you to transport your gear, strength training gives you the necessary explosive power to quickly track prey once you’ve spotted it. Here are some of the best explosive strength training moves for hunting.

Perform three sets of 10-15 repetitions:

Box Jump: Stand in front of a 20-inch box, squat down, then explosively jump onto the box, landing as lightly as possible.

Plyometric Lunge: Perform a standard lunge, then push through the balls of your feet, jump and switch legs mid-air, and lunge on the opposite leg.

Kettlebell Swing: Get into kettlebell deadlift position, swing the kettlebell back through your legs, then up until it reaches shoulder height.

Core Conditioning

The best hunting spots are always off the beaten path, but hiking through unknown mountainous country is fraught with unstable rocky terrain and thick ground cover, which can make it difficult to navigate.

Balance is the key to successfully stalking prey through this landscape, and the key to building better balance is through conditioning your core. Here is a great core conditioning workout using a stability ball.

Perform 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions of each exercise:

Hamstring Curl: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ball and raise your hips.

Bridge: Lie with your shoulder and upper back on the ball, raise your hips until they are parallel to the floor, and then lower them.

Elevated Plank: With your feet on the ball, walk out to push-up position. Hold for 60 seconds.

Standing Wood Chops: Stand with the ball above your head and swing the ball diagonally across your body. Keep your core engaged the entire time.

Final Thoughts

To get the most out of your backcountry hunting experience, you need to be in the best physical condition possible. Perform a combination of these four conditioning exercises in the weeks building up to hunting season, and you will easily bag your trophy buck.