Functional Training for Whitetail Hunters
Greg C. Moriates

Greg C. Moriates

Owner of Train Hunt Eat

functional training for whitetail hunters

by Train Hunt Eat


Entering the gym, you will typically see the main types of gym equipment, there is the standard cardio equipment, machines that are user friendly and do not warrant a spotter for safety, and free weights.  Before you start telling me that you are at a cross-fit gym or there is an aerobics section or an area with ropes and tires, I am focusing on the typical gym that offers you the $19.95 monthly membership fee with the additional classes being reserved and paid upfront. 

The body as three planes of motion:

  • Sagittal Plane, which is forward and backward movements
  • Frontal Plane, which is side-to-side movement
  • Transverse Plane, which is twisting movement.

The problem with most of the gym equipment is that it is designed to workout in one plane of motion.  Up and Down, Left to Right, etc.  You do not get that compound movements that are important for everyday health and fitness for your body.  Yes, you can, absolutely move in multiple angles and direction with dumbbells.  However, think about your everyday activities such as doing the laundry, yes hunter do laundry as we need to stay scent free, or cutting a tree, or getting out of the car.  We live and breathe in a three-dimensional world, not a two-dimensional world, therefore we must train for life, not for one simple direction.  That is why it is important for Hunters to train using function training.    

Functional training is the process of training for the activities and motions that you are going to operate at.  For instance, a cyclist is not going to only powerlift, and a powerlifter is not going to only cycle.  If you are a mountain climber, you are not going to focus on mass, you are going to focus on strength and optimal body composition that will allow you to scale any crag, route, or peak.  The same goes for hunters. When you, the hunter, is working to get in shape for hunting, you should follow training programs as you train for the hunt.

It really is that simple and is often overlooked on how simple it is when looking for training programs or developing training programs focused on training for the hunt.

In the previous post, you were asked to answer the following questions:

  1. Where are you at, what is your goal?
  2. Do you have a medical condition that will not allow you to train without the supervision of a medical profession?
  3. Have you had a recent physical?
  4. What is your key hunt(s)?

Providing you do not have any medical conditions; whitetail hunting has the following components:

  1. Hike in or walk to a spot or stand with a pack on your back to spend at least until lunch of not the entire day.
  2. You may have a saddle on, climbing stand, or lock-on.
  3. Get to your tree or area (or spot and stalk).
  4. Wait…wait…wait…call…wait…rattle!
  5. Harvest, clean, prepare, drag out, load up and head out!

The main stressor(s) on the body is hiking with a pack, climbing in a tree, climbing down the tree, (can be spot and stalk), shot execution, dragging and loading (if you are successful).  The purpose of any fitness program is to lengthen and strengthen the body to perform at an optimal level by minimizing the impact of the stressors.

What Functional Training as a Whitetail Hunter Can I Do?

When developing a fitness program for hunters training for the hunt, we me first observe the current fitness level of the hunter.  Since I do not have the luxury of know you or evaluating you, I will provide the following movements that you should incorporate into your daily workout sessions.

  • Cardio – Cardio is important to build endurance. Why is endurance important?  Most of us will hike, climb, and trek to their hunting spot with a pack or stand on our back.  We are wearing clothes that may limit our range of motion and we are trying to be stealthy.  There is nothing worse than getting to your stand, gasping for air, and drenched in sweat.  That is an easy way to kill your hunt before you even had the chance to hunt.  I find that the best way to build cardio for the whitetail task at hand is to perform some trail running and ruck treks (weighted pack).
  • Core – As a whitetail deer hunter, we are constantly putting a tremendous stress on our core including abdominals and lower back. The packs and stands on our backs, twisting shot, climbing a tree, setting stands, dragging your game all add stress to our core.  Without a strong core, you risk injury.  Nothing worse than sustaining an injury in the wood that will require a 911 call to help you or sustaining an injury that will not allow you to hit up the woods for weeks.  Simple movements to strengthening to core is various plank movements for 30 to 90 seconds.
  • Legs – Legs are your base. You need them to hike to your spot, climb to and down from your stand, and dragging.  Incorporate some squats, lunges, and side steps into your daily fitness routine.  I also like to take my deer sled out, load it with some weight and perform drags.  Drags are functional training at it finest.
  • Upper Body – We can’t leave out that upper body. You need to make sure we round out your level of fitness with a strong upper body to help you draw back that bow, hold steady on the shot, and we need a strong upper body to lift.  Upper body workouts can be performed with variations of pullups and pushups, or you can grab a sandbag or dumbbells. 

Recommended Equipment

I love the gym but let’s face the facts, the gym is not needed, and it is my belief that function training can and should be done in the environment in which you are training or at a minimal, the training should be able to mimic the environmental in which you are going to operate at.  There are some equipment in which I personally have in my basement so that I can get a quick workout in…anywhere.

TRX Suspension Training System – This system can be brought with you on a business trip, vacation, or setup in your spare room.  The TRX Suspension Training System can and will kick you a$ in a good way.

Ruck Sack – I absolutely hate purchasing equipment in which I can make at home with what I have.  Do you need a ruck? No.  But it is a nice to have.  I recommend two products, one from TRX and the other from Go Ruck.  If you are on a budget, use your hunting back and load it with water bottles or any weight.

Sandbag – The sandbag is great to lift, throw, drag, and run with.  I can get a full body workout with one piece of equipment.  Add in a sandbag with the TRX Suspension System and you are good to go for a challenging workout.

The Train Hunt Eat Core Five

The Train Hunt Eat Core Five is essential to your fitness and conditioning as a hunter.  It is simple and effective.

  • Pushups
  • Pullups
  • Squats
  • Planks
  • Burpees

Repeat the Train Hunt Eat Core Five for 3 to 6 sets, 20 seconds on 10 seconds rest between movements.

The we need to add in some drags with a weighted deer sled or sandbag, deadlifts, and some upright rows.  Round it out with some long-distance cardio (i.e. running, biking, rowing, etc.) and short explosive runs (10×100 on 100 meter walk for recovery).

Remember when you are working to get in shape for hunting, you should follow the same progression as you would for any physical event.  Follow training programs as you train for the hunt.

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Please hit the link below and subscript to our newsletter so that you do not miss any of our workouts, information, FREE Content, and offers!

Looking for Free Training Programs for Hunters?  You can join Team Train Hunt Eat below and get all our hunting training programs for free.  Click the link below.

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