The first aspect of F.O.C.U.S. training for elk hunting is “Foundation”, or legs. Elk hunters, if they are to effectively hunt the mountains, must have strong and enduring legs. Today I want to look at three simple, yet essential leg workouts that anyone can perform anywhere, without any equipment.
1) The Step-up
The step-up is an extremely simple exercise, but this functional movement will prepare your legs for the mountains like no other. In fact, you will be performing this “exercise” endlessly as you scale the mountains in search of elk.
I perform my step-ups at home by utilizing the picnic bench on my deck, but one could also use items such as a stable chair, cooler, bucket, or yes, even steps. Get creative, find a stable platform, and get to work. It may not seem like much, but the step-up will get those legs burning, especially when you add weight on your shoulders.
The step-up will work muscle groups in your legs, including the glutes, thighs, calves. The step-up will also strengthen your balance and stability by working the minor “stabilizer” muscles in the legs, as well as improving the strength of joints, tendons, and ligaments.
2) The Lunge
The lunge works many of the same muscles as the step-up, and once again improves stability and balance, but it also stretches and strengthens the hip flexors. A lunge performed with a shorter gait will focus more on the quadriceps, whereas a lunge with a longer gait will target more of the glutes.
Both the lunge and the step-up target each leg individually, however their range and cycle of motion differs. You will likely notice that it is more difficult to performed a weighted lunge, when compared to a step-up with the same weight.
3) The Squat
The squat has to be one of the best, if not the best, body weight exercises that one can perform. Like the step-up and the lunge, the squat works the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. But unlike the step-up and lunge, which work each leg individually, the squat works all of these muscles in both legs as one unit. Be sure that you develop proper squat form, focusing on the position of your knees and the angle of your back.
Add Some Weight
Each of these exercises can be effectively performed using nothing other than your own body weight, but as you get stronger you may want to begin increasing the challenge by adding weight. Of course you can use traditional weights, such as dumbbells or a barbell, but I like to use weight that is cheaper and easier to access.
My favorite way to increase the difficulty of these exercises is to load up my elk hunting pack, the Tenzing CF-13, with sand bags. Not only does using sand bags in your elk hunting pack simulate the real life “weight” of hunting the mountains, but it also allows you easily change the total mass weight that you use for your exercises.
Completing the exercises with controlled movements is important, so don’t add more weight than you can effectively and safely control.