Based on my experience, training for “general physical preparedness” (GPP) is the best approach for bowhunters because our hunting pursuits place a wide variety of demands on our bodies. For that reason, when it comes to physical training, our specialty really should be not specializing at all. As a matter of fact, cross-training with nearly constant variation fosters a durable, injury-resistant body that will be ready to tackle the demands of any hunt. And while training for GPP always keeps your training program fresh, there are natural pitfalls to such a varied approach.
If you examine a lot of workouts, which is what I do for a living, you soon discover that people often gravitate toward exercises that suit their fancy and cater to their strengths.
As human beings, we often unwittingly avoid the areas of weakness that challenge us the most. A lot of people don’t want to hear this, but I frequently see leg exercises take a back seat to workouts on the least-functional muscle groups — biceps and chest. Beach muscles are great, but they won’t help a whit in a deer drag, backpack hunt, or an extended draw on alert quarry.
My point is simple: find your weakness and make it your strength. Are you great at sprinting but lack endurance? Are you great at pushups but lack the strength to do one pull-up? Maybe you can hike for miles but can’t even squat your own body weight. These are just some common examples, but the takeaway message is simple — vary your fitness program and minimize your weaknesses.
Here are a few training “secrets” that you might find useful in your next workout:Core Stability Exercises: It’s becoming widely accepted among trainers that exercises requiring the abdominals to stabilize the body are the ultimate “ab builders,” preventing injury to the lower back while activating enough muscle to make your six-pack abs stick out. I recommend the Ab Wheel rollout (you’ve probably seen these on TV), cable rotational exercises, and planks.
The latter is a great beginner’s core exercise that will go a long way in strengthening the key muscles of the trunk. Get into a pushup position, put your weight on your forearms, and keep your hips from sagging toward the floor. Vary the duration of the hold, and draw your abs in tight.
It isn’t enough just to use free weights and machines — your exercise program becomes too patterned and won’t prepare you for the unpredictable movements of the field. To work the greatest amount of muscle, constantly shake up your routine. Try picking up and pressing a sandbag, or maybe flipping a tractor tire. Use sound judgment when selecting loads — and be sure to use proper form in execution — and you will see improvement in strength. I tell my athletes, “Don’t work out on machines — become one!”
Use Flex Bands (www.elitefts.com). These bands improve power and strength by adding resistance to the particular parts of a range of motion. For example, attach two strong, Jump Stretch Bands to the bottom of a squat rack and loop the opposite ends over both ends of a barbell you’ve set up to squat. Then simply perform reps as normal. Avoid slack at any point in the range of motion, and you’ll feel the additional resistance returning from the bottom of the squat. Band training is used extensively by athletes of all calibers.
Without a doubt, GPP is priority number one when it comes to bowhunting longevity and performance. Take to the field with a body that is fit across broad domains and the odds of hunting success begin to tip your way. Bowhunting prowess means you’re fit to hunt!
Editor’s Note: You may follow along with Dan’s fitness training at hoyt.com and his personal fitness blog at www.sportsmansfitness.com.