The most effective heavy pack exercise to construct power and endurance for the backcountry hunt

Forget the stereotypes of deer watching. Backcountry hunting requires miles of trekking through rough terrain just to retrace your steps while carrying hundreds of pounds of fresh meat on your back.

"It's hard to unpack an animal," says Dustin Diefenderfer, hunter, ultra runner, and founder of MTNTOUGH Fitness in Bozeman, MT. “You need a strong chassis like an F-150.” Hunter or not, try his signature 45-70 heavy pack workout. It is designed to build the muscle endurance and strength required for such a daunting task.

The best heavy pack workout to build strength and endurance for the backcountry hunt


Load a multi-day harness backpack with sandbags (or wrap dumbbells with towels) to achieve the approximate weight. Do a descending / ascending ladder using the rep scheme: 30, 20, 10, 20, 30. Rest for 2 to 5 minutes between sets. Repeat the workout three times a week.

Sandbag curl to press Nate Hill

1. Curls to press

Grasp the package by both ends, palms facing each other, and stand upright with the core locked into place. Perform a hammer curl, bring the backpack from your waist to your chest, then immediately press it over your head with a stern shoulder press. Slowly lower the pack to your chest and then to your waist without using the momentum. Beginners: 25 pounds; Intermediate: 35 pounds; Elite: 45 pounds

Sandbag deadliftNate Hill

2. Deadlift

Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Hinge at the hips to grab the backpack at both ends, soft squats to make you feel the hamstrings tighten. Ride through your heels and stretch through your hips as you lift the pack off the floor to stand up. Squeeze your glutes together and gently push your hips forward as you move. Go slowly and in a controlled manner as you descend and keep your back flat. Beginners: 60 pounds; Intermediate: 80 pounds; Elite: 105 pounds

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