Survival Fitness

Fitness is a topic we don’t really talk about when thinking of survival and preparedness. I suppose for good reason, we have so many other topics on our minds; fitness ranks lowest on the list and is most often overlooked. I hear all the time about people’s plans to bug-out and make a go off grid in the woods with nothing but what they can stuff in their backpack. I’ve mentioned before that if you’re not used to carrying around a 50+ lb pack, you’re certainly not going to make it far on your way out to the woods. Add to the fact you’ll most likely have to trek across creeks, up and down steep hillsides and no doubt traverse some other obstacles. Functional Fitness should actually rank high on our list- if we can’t perform the tasks and carry the equipment we think we need, then what’s the point in the plan we currently have? Functional Fitness focuses on building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, not just lifting a certain amount of weight in an idealized posture created by a gym machine.


While you may have had the best bench press of your life yesterday, you could still throw out your back picking up your briefcase today. We must train in ways that force us to adapt to our real lifestyle and or survival plan. “Conventional weight training isolates muscle groups, but it doesn’t teach the muscle groups you’re isolating to work with others,” says Greg Roskopf, MS, a biomechanics consultant with a company called Muscle Activation Techniques who has worked with athletes from the Denver Broncos, the Denver Nuggets, and the Utah Jazz. “The key to functional exercise is integration. It’s about teaching all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently.” So what’s an example of a functional exercise? Think of a bent-over row; not the kind of row you do on a seated machine, but the kind you do leaning over a bench, holding the weight in one hand with your arm hanging straight down, and then pulling the weight up as your elbow points to the ceiling, finishing with your upper arm parallel to the ground. “That’s an exercise that will build the muscles of the back, the shoulders, the arms, and because of its nature will really work your whole body,” says exercise kinesiologist Paul Chek, MSS, founder of the Corrective High-performance Exercise Kinesiology Institute in California who has advised the Chicago Bulls and the U.S. Air Force Academy. “Compare that motion to a carpenter bending over a piece of wood, a nurse bending over a bed to transfer a patient, or an auto mechanic bending over to adjust your carburetor. Anyone doing a bent-over row will find a carryover in things you do in normal life.”


In like manner, we as preppers, survivalist, and zombie hunters, whatever term you like; must utilize functional skills that allow us do things like pack water, carry a bug-out bag, carry a rifle and ammo long distances, flip over a heavy box or crate, climb a tree or rope, etc. When you work out, get out of the gym and into the woods. You can create all the gym equipment you’ll ever need with a log and a backpack full of rocks and a little paracord. I have a 200lb log, picked up from the local sawmill that I use to workout with quite often. I lift one end and curl it, then press it with one arm, then just pick it up in a rowing manner. I have also placed it across my chest and practiced lifting it off of me after I was exhausted from a sparring session against a tree and I’ve paid under it and bench pressed it. It takes practice to deal with a round log like that, but due to its cumbersome nature you’ll notice an increase in accessory muscle response and development. I’ve also walked the hills with a backpack full of rocks and taken the same pack and used it for curls and triceps pressing when I rigged up some paracord over a branch and used a strong stick as a curl/press bar. You can also work your abdominals with the same set up.


But, before you venture out, start out with some simple bodyweight exercises. You may be able to leg press 500lbs but can you do a one leg bodyweight squat? Probably not… This is why we find ourselves getting injured doing the most mundane tasks; we don’t have core stability and we’re not used to our muscles working together for function. Don’t try to go too fast, the longer you’ve been away from exercise, the more time it takes to build your body back up.


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