Thoughts On Hunting and Fitness – Part II

In Part I we talked about the necessity and value of physical training for the hunter. I concluded that one of the biggest benefits a hunter can attain from physical training is the mental strength that comes from making our bodies’ do things that it doesn’t want to do. Here in Part II, I want to take a look at what types of training are most beneficial for the hunter.

I don’t pretend to be a fitness expert. You will notice that I didn’t say I want to cover “how” a hunter should train, but “what” a hunter should train.  This post won’t be covering specific workouts or techniques, although I do think that is a valid discussion and we will probably tackle that in the future.

The point I want to get across today is simple: there is not one right way for the hunter to train, but there are a couple of things that the hunter should focus on.

The hunter should focus on building a solid and enduring platform, from the ground up.

Building endurance and strength on the trail


It is obvious to see how building endurance via cardiovascular exercise will benefit the hunter. Many of us, regardless of where we hunt, have to cover a lot of ground to get to where the hunting is good. Making that trek in the early morning darkness with a day’s worth (or maybe even a week’s worth) of gear is no easy feat. Throw in the fact that we hope to come out either packing or dragging a large amount of additional weight and you can quickly see how the hunter will benefit from endurance training.

The goal isn’t to be the first guy out there, it is to be the last one to remain when all else have quit.

Endurance training isn’t about speed; don’t think of it as who can run, bike, or hike the fastest. Endurance is about building up our hearts, minds, and legs to be strong for the long haul. A hunter needs to have the mental and physical strength to keep after it –  day after day, week after week, for the whole season.

The other key benefit of endurance training via cardiovascular exercise is that it is a great tool for weight loss. I used to quibble about the weight of my gear, but I failed to realize that the heaviest thing I was lugging around the woods was all of my unnecessary body weight. Carrying a stand, food, and supplies deep into the woods is hard. Carrying all of that out of the woods, in addition to the game you just harvested, is even harder. Doing all of the above while being overweight is just unnecessary.

The great thing about endurance training for the hunter is that you can choose to do so many different activities to work towards your goals. My choice is primarily trail running. Hate running? You don’t have to run! How about hiking, mountain biking, cycling, walking some hills, or hitting one of the many cardio machines in a gym?

It isn’t easy, but it is simple… Get out there, get your heart rate up, burn some calories, and build some endurance.



When most guys think of strength training they automatically think of things like curls or the bench press. The “macho” thing to do is lift weights and build a massive upper body, but in my opinion the hunter should be, at least initially, focused on the exact opposite.

Hunting is about covering ground on brutal terrain. If the hunter is successful he will often be carrying weight, but it certainly won’t be via his massive biceps. The hunter will be packing or dragging out his game via the power of his legs. The legs are the key tool to getting the hunter where he wants to be and helping him get his game out of the field and into his home.

Moving up from the legs, we get to the core. The core will help the hunter in general strength, endurance, balance, and injury prevention. The core is typically overlooked, or simply thought of as only being about the visual aspects of the abs. A strong core is essential to building a solid foundation and serving the hunter well in all aspects of the hunt. Strengthening the abdominal region, as well as the lower back is essential for the hunter; doing so will help stabilize the hunter when carrying loads and is also very critical for injury prevention and general strength.

Training, just like hunting, is often overcomplicated by many of us. I have made massive gains in my overall fitness and none of what I have done thus far requires a gym or equipment.  No fancy plans, no special equipment, no excuses…you can start now and begin to train for the seasons ahead.

What should you be training?  In my opinion you should be building endurance and a solid foundation by strengthening your legs and core.

How should you be training?  That is up to you…


What about you?

What types of training, or specific workouts have you found to be most beneficial?

The Author

Mark Huelsing is a regular guy with an irregular passion for bowhunting and the outdoors. Learn more about Sole Adventure or get in touch with Mark...

Email  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

  • Al Quackenbush

    I couldn’t have said it better, Mark. I am with you and I train my legs more than anything. I used to be an all around, equal parts guy – this day legs, this day back and bi’s. It can still work, but my focus has changed to cardio and leg endurance. I figure I am not walking up or down a mountain on my hands, so it’s my legs I want to hammer on. One little thing I do is to take my backpack and fill it with weight and walk on my lunch break. While it is a flat surface, my legs are burning and by the time I take the pack off I feel like my legs are feathers. T-minus 7 months until elk season, time to get after it! Great post!

  • Tom Ryle

    Great post, Mark! Here’s one I wrote a couple years ago titled, “Getting in elk shape” that I feel compliments your article pretty well:

    I completely agree that will power and a little creativity is all you need to be successful in getting in peak hunting condition.