Best Heavy Pack Workout to Build Strength for Backcountry Hunting

Forget the deer-spotting stereotypes. Backcountry hunting requires trekking for miles over rugged terrain only to retrace your steps while carrying hundreds of pounds of fresh meat on your back.

“Packing out an animal is hard,” says Dustin Diefenderfer, hunter, ultrarunner 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’s designed to build the muscle endurance and strength required for such a daunting task.

The Best Heavy Pack Workout to Build the Strength and Endurance for Backcountry Hunting


Load a multiday backpack that has a harness system with sandbags (or wrap free weights with towels) to approximate weight. Perform a descending/ascending ladder with the rep scheme: 30, 20, 10, 20, 30. Rest 2 to 5 minutes between sets. Repeat workout three times a week.

Sandbag Curl to Press

Sandbag Curl to Press
Nate Hill

1. Curl to Press

Grab the pack on both ends, palms facing each other, standing tall with core engaged. Perform a hammer curl, bringing the pack from waist to chest, then immediately push it overhead in a strict shoulder press. Slowly lower the pack to your chest, then waist without using momentum. Beginner: 25 lbs; intermediate: 35 lbs; elite: 45 lbs

Sandbag deadlift
Nate Hill

2. Deadlift

Stand with feet slightly wider than hipwidth apart. Hinge at hips to grab pack on both ends, soft bend in knees so you feel hamstrings engage. Drive through heels and extend through hips as you lift pack off the ground to stand. Squeeze glutes and slightly thrust hips forward at top of motion. Go slow and controlled on the descent, keeping a flat back. Beginner: 60 lbs; intermediate: 80 lbs; elite: 105 lbs

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