top of page

The 3 Best Exercises for Mobile Hunters

Your mobile game just became easier because of the weight room.

Bowhunting can be a grind. You are on your 10 day rut-cation and you are getting up every morning at 4 am and you're going from sunup to sundown. Sleep deprivation, getting hit in the face with northwest winds, walking 2 miles on public land to set your stand up, it can wear you down if you’re not in peak physical shape.

If you follow Oak & Iron Outdoors, you know that we are about the physical & mental fortitude to do what we need to in the gym to make our outdoor pursuits more efficient.

Mobile hunting has been around since people could climb trees. However, in the mid 70’s the Baker stand was introduced to the bowhunting community. It was a crude stand that worked but also very dangerous as many were just homemade at the time. Also, at a time when many hunters never donned a safety harness. Stands then evolved from D’Aquistos Lone Wolf stands to everything that you see today. Saddle hunting has taken off and is the new thing for the mobile hunter. (Although saddle hunting has been around for years)

The original Baker stand. A true workout in its own right as you had to bear hug the tree.

Any type of exercise is going to help with our mobile hunting game (as long as we are performing them correctly). However, during the hunting season we may have limited time and we need to be very efficient with our time spent working out. While there are many exercises that would help with your mobile game, as a personal trainer, these are the big 3 exercises I would have a client focus on.

Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian Split Squat’s (BSS) main purpose is to help with lower extremity strength. Whether you use a tree saddle, climber, or hang on stand, the mobile hunting gig requires you to be physically fit. The mobile game is king if you believe in the virgin sit when it comes to tagging out. Sure, the preset stands kill big bucks every year and some are extremely comfortable with their modern amenities. However, when you are playing the chess game with big bucks, it's the ability to move that keeps you one step ahead of their next move.

Lower yourself slowly maintaining a vertical spine.

Primarily the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. BSS also works our core which aids in balance. Our balance is extremely important when we are standing on 6” pegs, sometimes up 25’ in the air. What I like about the BSS is that it works one leg at a time. Some individuals may have one lower extremity weaker than than the other side. By working one side at a time, this doesn’t allow the good leg to take over and allows the bad leg to obtain equal amounts of work.

The BSS also mimics the function of ascending climbing sticks, whether it be with the saddle or hang-on tree stand. Strong legs allow you to maintain your balance up in the air for safety and makes it much easier to hold an awkward position on the sticks as you hang a stand. There is also the benefit of having strong legs which will aid in your walk as well as a long drag when it’s time to get your buck out to your vehicle.

How to perform:

In standing, place one foot on a bench with the top of the foot on top of the bench. The bench should be around knee high. Brace your abs, keep your torso up straight and then slowly lower yourself towards the floor. Keep your knee in-line with your foot and don’t let your knee get over your toes. Be Careful on how close your foot is to the bench. The closer your foot is to the bench the more you work your quads but it can put undue stress on the knee. By keeping the foot a little further away, it will place more emphasis on the hip flexors and take the stress off the knee.

Once you master the exercise you can add weight. You can either hold dumbbells at your side or hold one dumbbell close to your chest like you would see in a goblet squat.

Mid grip row

This is a multi facet exercise that helps with the rhomboids (the muscles between the scapula & the spine), the rotator cuff, posterior deltoid, latissimus dorsi with biceps being secondary. So what does this exercise cover and why is it so important?

First, it helps with rotator cuff, lats and rhomboids which play a big part in pulling back your bow. Even if you're not looking to increase the amount of poundage you're going to pull, this exercise should help in keeping the bow pulling muscles in shape and strong.

Retract those scapula (shoulder blades) first, working those rhomboids.

However, the main reason I chose this exercise is that it mimics the functional strength of hanging a tree stand. Many times you have one arm wrapped around a tree while the other arm is holding the stand against the tree. Disclaimer: You should always be utilizing a safety harness along with a lineman's belt at all times. It also helps with grabbing onto the sticks as you ascend the tree. Your legs don’t do all the work, the upper body needs to help in the climbing motion as well.

How to perform

Place your feet on the platform in front of you. Keep an upright position and brace your core right before you start the pulling motion. Palms should be facing together as this takes some pressure off the shoulders compared to having the palms in pronation (facing down). Most individuals just pull back with both hands. However, I prefer the scapula to be activated first. This assures that the rhomboids are not being neglected. After the scapula are contracted, then you will pull your hands back and then slowly bring them back to the neutral position.

Plank on the ball

The plank on the ball is designed to improve your core. When most people think core, they think abdominals only. However, core includes low back, obliques and to an extent hip flexors and even the mid thoracic region. A weak core will cause us to have back issues when carrying our stand, sticks, saddle and pack. Now include camera gear, extra clothes, snacks, lights or any other goodies and those packs on our backs can push 80lbs if not more.

Keep those feet together, brace and hold those abs.

A strong core also helps us with our balance as we are installing our hang on tree stands or if we are holding ourselves upright while in a tree saddle. A strong core is also a preventative measure to take against having major back issues. Ask anyone who has ever had a bulging disk or even back spasms and you can pretty much forget the concept of mobile hunting all together.

Why the plank? Also why the plank on the ball?

The plank is considered an isometric exercise. In layman's terms it means work is being done with little to no movement. This makes it one of the safest exercises for an area that is as critical as the low back. With an isometric exercise, we don’t have ligaments/tendons moving over joints and the muscle fibers are less likely to be injured. Also, by performing the plank on the ball we add the balance factor that incorporates our obliques more.

How to perform

Place the ball under your forearms and keep your chest and stomach off the ball. Keep your feet together and on your toes to decrease over all initial stability. Remain straight and keep your butt level with the rest of your body as some people like to start with the butt high. Perform for 30 seconds and add time if you are able to do so. Progress by adding 10 seconds each week. Be sure that the stability ball you are using has ample air and is firm. A mushy or somewhat deflated ball will decrease the efficiency of the exercise.

Honorable mention

Knee raises off a power tower

There are some of us who still roll with the climbing tree stand. I even like to utilize my climber from time to time due to its lighter weight. This is assuming I have one of those bean pole tree’s to ascend. The Climbing tree stand motion utilizes the primary muscles of the lower abdominals and of the hip flexors. Secondary muscles include the shoulders and even to an extent the triceps, depending on the type of climbing stand that you are using.

Hold the arch in the lower portion of your back to protect your spine during the exercise

Knee raises utilizes the same “inchworm” motion that is utilized in the climber ascend motion. By becoming stronger in the core region with this exercise you will be able to cut down on the sweat component and potentially protect your back overtime. It’s also a safety component as a strong core will help you re-correct the standing platform should it not catch the tree correctly.

How to perform

With forearms braced against the arm pads, continue to hold and brace the abdominals. Proceed to bring both knees upward. Pause at the top as not to create a momentum bounce or even into swinging technique, which should be avoided. Slowly lower the legs to the neutral position.

These exercises will definitely help you with your hunting experience this fall. Indirectly they should keep you safe by aiding you in your balance and protecting your back. During the deer season it can be tough to stay up on our workouts. However, if you can get to the gym at least twice a week and then add these exercises to your workout you should see a significant difference in your mobile hunting game.

Stay strong and hunt hard.

~Clint Ward, ACE certified personal trainer, associates degree of physical therapy, associates of chiropractic (chiropractic technician).

Please follow us on Facebook at or

bottom of page