This training program is specifically designed to prepare hunters for an extended (7-14 day) self-supported, backcountry big game hunting trip in the Rocky Mountain West, Canada, New Zealand or Alaska. You’ll be chasing game in steep, rocky terrain, covering long distances, and carrying heavy loads.
This program is designed to be completed 8 weeks directly before your hunting trip. Week 8 in the plan is an unload/taper week.
***CAUTION: This is a very intense training program, designed for the serious backcountry big game hunter. If you are going on an outfitted trip, a more casual hunting trip, or are de-conditioned (not physically fit) this program is not appropriate for you.
As well, if you have longer than 8 weeks to prepare for your trip, consider completing plans/order in the Backcountry Big Game Training Packet, which consists of 6 months of training, and 4 training plans, ending with this plan.
This is Version 5 of the Backcountry Big Game Pre-Season Training Plan, Last Updated in December 2019.
This 8-week, training program increases in difficulty over time. You will train 6 days/week for a total of 48 training sessions. The training program includes multiple 2-a-days and long Saturday “mini-events.” It is sport-specifically designed to build athlete’s “Mountain Chassis” (legs, lungs, core) and prepare athletes for the following Backcountry Hunting Fitness Demands:
1) Mountain Endurance: Legs and Lungs for uphill hiking under load
Backcountry big game hunters carry their weapon and camp on their back. Some establish spike camps, and day trip from there. Others carry their camp with them at all times and often camp high on mountain ridges. Pack weights range from ultra-light 30 pounds to 60 pounds. Often travel is off-trail, and it always includes vertical gain.
The fitness demands of this “Mountain Endurance” involve leg and mid-section strength, and mode-specific aerobic conditioning (lungs). This program builds your uphill hiking under load fitness and stamina using Step Ups, Rucking (hiking with a pack), unloaded running, and extended weekend “mini-events” which combine all three. You’ll train step ups 3x/week during this training plan.
2) Eccentric Leg Strength for Downhill Hiking Under Load
Hiking downhill under load is significantly more intense on an athlete’s leg musculature than hiking uphill. Downhill movement demands “eccentric” leg strength as gravity tries to force the athlete into the mountain and he/she must absorb this impact with each downhill step. If backcountry hunters have not trained specifically for this fitness demand, early trip downhill hikes can result in extreme leg soreness and negatively impact the trip. This program deploys a loaded set of lower body exercises called the “Quadzilla Complex” to train your eccentric leg strength. We originally developed the Quadzilla Complex to train eccentric strength for professional Olympic and Big Mountain skiers and snowboarders. You’ll train the Quadzilla Complex 2x/week during this plan.
3) Load Carriage Strength and Endurance for the Pack Out
The work really begins when the animal is down. Often loads for the pack out can reach beyond 100 pounds and distances extend past 5 miles. This trains you for this fitness demand sport-specifically via heavy (55# women, 75# men) ruck efforts 2x/week, extending to 6 miles.
4) Chassis Integrity: Functional Mid-Section Strength and Strength Endurance
Loaded movement, and long, heavy rucks demand functional mid-section strength and strength endurance. On top of the loaded step ups and heavy rucks you’ll complete, this training plan deploys MTI’s Chassis Integrity mid-section strength programming methodology via extended mid-section strength training circuits with target total mid-section strength, rotational strength, anti-rotational strength, and extension/low back strength.
5) Mountain Stamina: Fitness for long days, and multiple long days over a multi-day trip
Stamina and mental fitness are a key characteristic of successful backcountry hunting trips. This is the physical and mental fitness to not only go long and hard for one day, but to do this multiple days in a row. This program trains Mountain Stamina by causing you to train 6 days/week, multiple 2-a-days, and long weekend “mini-events” extending to 3 hours. This approach and methodology have proven successful with MTI’s sport-specific military selection plans used successfully for special forces selection by soldiers and Marines over the past decade. It’s important to understand Mountain Stamina is not only physical, but mental as well. This training plan is not only designed to build your sport-specific Mountain fitness, but also your mental fitness. You will be pushed.
- Monday: Step Up Intervals, Chassis Integrity
- Tuesday (2-a-Day): AM – Quadzilla Complex, Upper Body Strength; PM – Heavy Ruck which builds to 6 miles
- Wednesday: Unloaded Run which Builds To 8 Miles
- Thursday: Step Up Progression which builds to 1,000 Step Ups @ 30/40# backpack
- Friday (2-a-Day): AM – Quadzilla Complex, Upper Body Strength; PM – Heavy Ruck which builds to 6 miles
- Saturday: Mini-Event which builds to 210 minutes.
- Sunday: Total Rest
What equipment is needed to complete this program?
This is a limited equipment training plan which does not require a gym membership to complete. Below is the equipment you’ll need:
- Stop Watch with repeating countdown timer (Timex Ironman is best)
- Sandbag. Female hunters will need a 40# sandbag. Male hunters will need a 60# sandbag. We sell sandbags HERE or you can use any old duffle bag. Wood Pellets or mulch made from ground up tires make great filler.
- Backpack for Rucking and 25-75# of filler. We use dumbbells and iron weight lifting plates for filler. You can use anything heavy.
- Dumbbells. Female hunters will need a pair of 15# dumbbells. Male hunters will need a pair of 25# dumbbells.
- Foam Roller
- 16-18” Box or step for step ups
- GPS-enabled Watch. Recommended, but not required, a GPS-enabled watch will make measuring run and ruck distances much easier.
- Hand Counter to keep track of step ups – Recommended but not required. (https://www.amazon.com/Digi-1st-TC-04-Tally-Counter/dp/B00T8K04OA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490478568&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=hand+counter&psc=1)
Who is this plan appropriate for?
This plan is not appropriate for severely de-conditioned athletes.
I’m not fit enough for this plan. What should I do?
Build up to this training plan using the plan progression in the Back Country Big Game Training Packet HERE.
I have several months out from my trip. What should I do in the meantime before beginning this plan the 8 weeks directly before my trip?
Using the plan progression in the Back Country Big Game Training Packet HERE.
What if I have less then 8 weeks before my hunting trip?
Still start at the beginning of this training plan. Don’t skip ahead until the week directly before your trip, then skip ahead to Week 8 in this plan. Week 8 is an unload/taper week.
How much rest do I need between the end of this plan and the start of my trip?
None. Week 8 of this plan is a “Taper” week, and unloads the intensity significantly.
What does “4/8x” mean? How about “15/25#”?
First number is for women, second is for men, both for reps, and loading. Examples:
4/8x Push Ups = Women do 4x, Men do 8x
15/25# = Women us 15#, Men us 25#.
What does “Grind” Mean?
Work steadily, not frantically. Keep moving and work steady through the circuit.
What if I miss a training day?
Ideally, you will train 6 days in a row, and take 1 full day off for rest. If for some reason miss a session, do not skip ahead. Start again where you left off and complete the sessions in order throughout the plan.
Where do I find unfamiliar exercises?
See our Exercise Library HERE.
What about nutrition?
See our Nutritional Guidelines HERE.
This training plan emphasizes lower body strength, mountain endurance and mid-section strength. What about the upper body?
This plan includes upper body maintenance programming two days/week, but the emphasis is not on upper body strength by design. Why not? Because the fitness demands of backcountry hunting hammer the “Mountain Chassis” – legs, lungs and core, and this is a sport-specific training program for backcountry hunting.
How long should the training sessions take?
60-90 minutes for the Monday-Friday AM and PM sessions. Saturday’s mini events begin at 90 minutes and extend to 210 minutes.
What if I can’t keep up the Monday to Saturday Training Schedule?
This program is “progressive” – difficulty increases as you work through the plan. Don’t skip ahead. Start again where you left off.
How do you count reps for Sandbag Getups? Stepups? Scotty Bobs? Quadzilla Complex?
Sandbag Getups – The prescribed rep count is total reps, so 50x Sandbag Getups = 50x total reps, 25x each shoulder.
Step ups – The prescribed rep count is total reps, so 50x Step ups = 50x total reps, 25x each foot. Use a 16” box or step.
Scotty Bobs – 1x Scotty Bob = Push up + Right Arm Row + Push up + Left Arm Row. So, 5x Scotty Bobs = 10x push ups total, and 5 Rows, each arm.
2x Quadzilla Complex =
2x In-Place Lunges with Dumbbells, each leg (4x total)
2x Jumping Lunges with Dumbbells, each leg (4x total)
2x Jumping Lunges unloaded, each leg (4x total)
4x Squat Jumps
3x Quadzilla Complex =
3x In-Place Lunges with Dumbbells, each leg (6x total)
3x Jumping Lunges with Dumbbells, each leg (6x total)
3x Jumping Lunges unloaded, each leg (6x total)
6x Squat Jumps
Any Rucking Advice?
Use this training plan to get your rucking dialed – including boots, pack loading (aim to keep the weight high in the pack, across your upper back. You may need to put towels, a volleyball, or other light “padding” in the bottom of the pack to keep the load high), pacing, nutrition, and hydration. Ruck in the same boots you’ll hunt in. Refuel the same way you’ll refuel during your trip.
The training plan says “Ruck” but this isn’t easy walking. Walk briskly at a comfortable, but not easy, pace. Push yourself. Fit athletes may even jog or run. The aim is to train the ability to move fast, in the mountains, under load.
If I use trekking poles while hunting, may I use them for the rucking in this plan?
Can I substitute a stair master for the step ups?
No. Please do step ups as prescribed.
Step ups suck! They are boring! Pure Drudgery! Can’t I do something else?
I don’t have a 16” bench or box for step ups. Can I use a 12” box?
Nope. Be resourceful.
What about nutrition for the Saturday “mini-events”?
You’ll need to refuel during these long events – just like you will during your long days in the backcountry. Use of energy gels like Gu and Hammer Strength are recommended, as well as proper hydration, and solid, calorie-dense food such as hard cheese and hard salami.
Can I see sample training?
Yes. Click the “Sample Training” tab to see the entire first week of programming.
How do I access the plan?
Access is online, via username and password. You can log in either through our website or through our app (Mtn Tactical Fitness) available for IOS and Android.
Can I print out sessions to take to the gym?
Yes – you can print a week of programming at a time.
More Questions? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org