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Functional Fitness for Bowhunters

Functional Fitness for Bowhunters

All bowhunters peruse catalogs in search of the latest and greatest new gear to improve their chances for success in the field. However, equipment catalogs don't offer the most important success item of all -- physical fitness.

Without question, time constraints tug at most of us in every corner of our lives. So for us to squeeze in a fitness regimen, we must find one that is fast and effective.

Multi-joint exercises like the front squat will get your body in tune for bowhunting.

How much time must you spend getting in shape? With the right program, you really don't need to work out more than 20 to 30 minutes a day. Setting aside that amount of time is not selfish. It will keep you healthy and will add quality years to your outdoor lifestyle. The time invested in fitness is well spent. It may require some sacrifice of sleep or TV time, but it isn't a sacrifice unless it costs you something.

Train Smart

If you're training for a half hour or less per session, you need to choose high-stimulus exercises that sear away calories and produce fast results. Compound movements such as deadlifts, squats, pull-ups, and dips are the types of movements that bring the results you're seeking as a bowhunter.

To make the best use of your limited time, perform multi-joint exercises that train several parts of the body in one shot, eliminating the need to do several other moves. For example, a biceps curl can help make your arms bigger, but its overall value pales in comparison with a front squat (see photo), which works the large leg muscles and the upper body all at one time -- in addition to burning more calories.

In general, I do not endorse exercise machines because they do NOT produce true functional results. Exercise machines involve a fixed plane of motion with minimal feedback from the body.

Conversely, exercises done with free weights, or with your own body weight as resistance -- pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups -- require you to make consistent adjustments that simulate real-life movements.

Ideally, you want the strength gained from workouts to transfer to your outdoor expeditions, which involve such moves as lifting a heavy cooler off the ground or dragging a deer.

Free-Weight Benefits 

Free-weight exercises such as the deadlift or squat replicate these moves -- and prepare you to do them in the field. Bottom line, functional exercises with free weights will help you safely perform all your outdoor activities.


Ease into any new program, especially if you're getting along in years. The older you are, the longer it takes for your joints to adapt. Spend your first few weeks of training with light loads and high reps before you work into heavier weights. Schedule easy days with fewer sets and reps, and make time for active rest such as hiking and cross training.

To get in shape for bowhunting, you don't need a lot of time, just a few efficient, multipurpose exercises.

Following these guidelines, you can get into amazing shape regardless of age and current physical condition.

If you're looking for cure-all gear that will make you a better bowhunter, then, sure, study equipment catalogs. But above all, spend time renovating your body. It's the most important gear item you'll ever own. With proper maintenance, it will keep you at the top of your game.

Dan Staton holds a Master's degree in exercise physiology, and owns and operates CrossFit Spokane Valley. Feel free to contact Dan.

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