This Guide to In-Season Training was written for people that are into fitness for the main purpose of hunting. People that work all year to get in top shape for hunting season.
This is not for people that are just beginning their fitness journey. If you want to focus on making a lot of progress during the season, this post is not for you. This is for people who want to maintain their current level of fitness with the least amount of time commitment and the lowest injury risk so they can focus on hunting.
In this post, I will discuss two different approaches to in-season fitness. The first approach is for hunters that will be going on several hunting trips throughout the season. The second is for people who will be making one hunting trip.
Multiple Hunting Trips
If you will be hunting on weekends or going on multiple trips, we will focus on maintaining strength and conditioning while limiting time spent in the gym - so you can spend more chasing wapiti.
Your training program should stay mostly the same. The most common mistake that hunters make is working all off-season to get in shape, and then avoiding the gym the entire hunting season. If you choose to take 1-2 months off of training, you will lose a lot of the gains that you made in the off-season.
You'll probably have less time to train as you'll be hunting more. To work around this time constraint, we'll ditch low-intensity cardio. Your hunting trips should take care of this. We'll also lower your total exercise volume.
Make sure you are still lifting heavy to maintain strength. Don't worry about setting PR's but you should still be within 10% of your maxes on your weights.
Maintain your movement quality work. If you are doing any corrective exercises to improve posture/ prevent injury, keep doing them. The worst time for an injury is in-season. How bad would it suck to work the entire off-season just to get hurt when it really matters?
I'll provide you with a sample 3-day program. Feel free to use it as your training program or just apply some of the principals to the program that you are currently doing.
Sample 'Barebones' Program
Notes: Perform exercises with the same first letter as a circuit. If time is a concern, cut one set off of each exercise.
Monday - Strength + Weights
Dynamic Warm-Up + Corrective Exercises
A1. Front Squat 3x3 reps (Use 85-90% of your 3 Rep Max)
*** If you've never done low-rep training, do 3 sets of 5 reps (3x5)
B1. Pull-ups 3x8-12 reps (Read as 3 sets of 8-12 reps)
*** Change your grip every set
Tuesday - Core + HIIT
Dynamic Warm-Up + Corrective Exercises
***4-6 rounds (20 seconds work: 20 seconds rest)
B1. Jumping Jacks
B3. High Knees
Wednesday - Active Recovery
Go through the dynamic warmup and any corrective exercise. Do some light physical activity like going for a hunt or playing ball with your kids.
Thursday - Strength + Weights
Dynamic Warm-Up + Corrective Exercise
A1. Deadlift Variation 3x5 reps (80-90% 5 Rep Max)
***Romanian Deadlift or Trap-Bar Deadlift
Friday + Saturday + Sunday - Hunting
Head out and enjoy all the hard work that you've put in during the off-season. Payday.
One Hunting Trip
If you will be making one long trip, we will focus on 'peaking' so that your strength and conditioning is at the highest level of the year during your adventures in the back-country.
You won't need to make any big adjustments to your training program until the week prior to your hunting trip.
At this point, you'll taper off before leaving for your hunt. Tapering is a short-term reduction in exercise volume. This period will allow your body time to recover and be as fresh as possible for your hunt.
This period of reduced volume will allow for 'Supercompensation.' Supercompensation is a phenomena where after a period of intense training, when the body is given a period to recover, it will bounce back above the baseline. In laymen's terms, by reducing the volume during your last week of training, your physical performance will peak for your hunt.
Performance benefits include an increase in muscle glycogen concentration, strength and power, VO2max and muscular endurance, and maximal power output.
How to Taper
We don't need any crazy, elaborate deloading protocols. For the majority of people, simpler is better.
For the last week before your trip, cut down the weight you use for all exercises by 15-25%. This will give your nervous system a chance to recover from all the stress you've been placing on it with your training.
You can also drop 1-2 sets from each exercise. Aim to do 2-3 sets of each exercise.
For cardio based activity, consider replacing any kind of high-intensity training with low-intensity cardio. Don't aim to set any personal bests. 20 minutes of light cardio should be plenty to maintain your base.
In the end, adjusting your training program is as much an art as it is a science. How you adjust your program, if you change it at all, is up to you. It's your fitness journey and your hunting season.
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