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#ElkShape Workout for the Aging Hunter

2016_0328_Aging Hunters_Tony Mudd

As we age, hunting doesn’t get any easier. Decreasing flexibility, waning strength and endurance, fading motivation, or constant pain are all potential barriers. The thrill of chasing bugling bulls throughout the mountains gradually gives way to a desperate search for oxygen and shaky legs. At 55 years old though, that scenario is simply not an option for me!


What is an option is a little hard work and a lot of persistence to ward off those aging evils! For you younger guys, once you get into #ElkShape, remember this: It’s Easier to Stay in Shape than to get in Shape! Make it a lifestyle.

2016 marks my 30th year of training for bow hunting, and my 28th year for elk and mountain bowhunting. I train with one thing in mind: to be in the best shape possible when opening day arrives. This mindset simply makes my hunts more enjoyable.

Over the last 30 years, there are a few things I’ve learned about physical conditioning. I have tried everything under the sun when it comes to getting in ElkShape, and I now have it refined to efficient, functional training for me as an archery elk hunter.  The focus of this article is on physical conditioning for an aging hunter, but PLEASE REMEMBER, nutrition and recovery are just as critical to your overall conditioning as the workouts themselves. My daily goal is three balanced meals, with three high-protein shakes that contain Glutamine.  This aids in faster recovery and enables me to get back after it sooner. If you haven’t yet, check out the MTN OPS Magnum protein blend, along with their other products. When it comes to supplements that will help you get into ElkShape, they have everything you need.

Tony3A brief health history about myself – between the ages of 50 and 52, I had multiple injuries. I completely tore my Achilles tendon (in half) playing indoor soccer with my daughter’s soccer team. I also had two arthroscopic knee surgeries that were the result of several years of downhill mountain running, a naval hernia that finally required surgery (after living with it for 28 years), and a badly torn hamstring from pole vaulting. Then, to top it off, my back went out to the point that I couldn’t sit comfortably or straighten up. During this time period, I thought I had been in excellent condition. I had been doing cross-fit workouts with my daughter’s soccer team, along with consistent weight training and mountain trail running. It became apparent that I needed to take a serious look at my workouts.

First, I sat down and looked at my injuries. Three things became clear. First, my range of motion and flexibility were horrible and needed to greatly improve. Additionally, my joints and tendons needed more support from surrounding muscles. And lastly, my core strength needed some work. With these factors in mind, I laid out a simple workout plan that would be a better fit for me as an aging bowhunter. Since I changed my training program three years ago, I’ve been basically injury free (knock on wood)!

There are four areas of focus that have become the cornerstone of my training the last three years: Flexibility, Range of Motion, Strength, and Endurance. The actual exercises I do improve each of these areas and work to help me become a better mountain hunter. I break my workout into two categories – Upper Body (Monday/Wednesday/Friday) and Legs/Core (Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday). Here is my actual workout program:


2. Warm-up2Warm-Up Exercises:

First, warm up the shoulders and rotator cuff areas with full range of motion movements. I use a machine to help warm-up, but the exercises can be done with bands as well. 3 sets of 25 on each Warm-Up Exercise should get you nice and warmed up.

Upper Body Exercises:

  • Exercise #1 – Push-ups
  • Exercise #2 – TRX Strap Back Pulls
  • Exercise #3 – Dips
  • Exercise #4 – Pull-up
  • Exercise #5 – Straight Bar Shoulder Press
  • Exercise #6 – Straight Bar Curls
  • Exercise #7 – Standing up right rows

On Monday and Wednesday, I want to focus on getting blood flowing into the upper body muscles. It’s important to concentrate on an excellent range of motion and stretch. Monday and Wednesday are setting up a heavy weight/low rep workout for Fridays.

Here are the reps and sets I do on Monday:

Exercise #1 – Push-ups: (6 sets – 250+ push-ups)

  • Set 1: To Max, timed for one minute, 2 minute rest
  • Sets 2-6 : To Max, 2 minute rest between sets

Exercise #2 – TRX Strap Back Pulls: (5 sets – to MAX)

Exercise #3 – Dips: (3 sets – to MAX)

  • no weights

Exercise #4 – Pull-ups: (3 sets – to MAX)

  • no weights

Exercise #5 – Straight Bar Shoulder Press: (3 sets – to MAX)

  • bar only

Exercise #6 – Straight Bar Curls: (3 sets of 15 reps)

  • choose a weight you can achieve 15 reps in 3 sets

Exercise #7 – Standing Upright Rows: (3 sets of 15 reps)

  • choose a weight you can achieve 15 reps in 3 sets

Here are the reps and sets I do on Wednesday:

Exercise #1 – Push-ups: (6 sets – 250+ push-ups)

  • Set 1: To Max, timed for one minute, 2 minute rest
  • Sets 2-6 : To Max, 2 minute rest between sets

Exercise #2 – TRX Strap Back Pulls: (5 sets – to MAX)

Exercise #3 – Dips: (1 set – to MAX)

  • no weights

Exercise #4 – Pull-ups: (1 set – to MAX)

  • no weights

Exercise #5 – Straight Bar Shoulder Press: (1 set – to MAX)

  • bar only

Exercise #6 – Straight Bar Curls: (1 set of 15 reps)

  • choose a weight you can achieve 15 reps

Exercise #7 – Standing Upright Rows: (1 set of 15 reps)

  • choose a weight you can achieve 15 reps

As I mentioned previously, Friday is my strength day, so I’m going for heavier weights today to increase strength.

Here are the reps and sets I do on Friday (strength day):

8. Shoulder PressExercise #1 – Push-ups: (6 sets – 250+ push-ups)

  • Set 1: To Max, timed for one minute, 2 minute rest
  • Sets 2-6 : To Max, 2 minute rest between sets

Exercise #2 – TRX Strap Back Pulls: (5 sets – to MAX)

Exercise #3 – Dips: (5 sets – to MAX)

  • Set 1: No weights
  • Sets 2-5: Add weights with a weight belt or dumbbell between your legs

Exercise #4 – Pull-ups: (5 sets – to MAX)

  • Set 1: No weights (goal – 6-8 reps)
  • Sets 2-5: Add weights with a weight belt or dumbbell between your legs

Exercise #5 – Straight Bar Shoulder Press: (3 sets – 12 reps each set)

  • bar only or minimal weight

Exercise #6 – Straight Bar Curls: (5 sets of 5 reps)

  • choose a heavier weight you can achieve 5 reps of

Exercise #7 – Standing Upright Rows: (3 sets of 10 reps)

  • choose a weight you can achieve 10 reps of


Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday

Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are Leg Days and Core Days for me. My goals for Legs and Core is simple – increase strength.

Warm-up Exercises:

Do something to get your legs warmed up and stretched out (jump-rope, air squats, lunges, etc.)

12. Core2Leg Exercises:

Exercise #1 – Deadlifts: (6 sets)

  • Set 1: Just the bar
  • Sets 2-3: 5 reps with heavy weight
  • Sets 4-6: 3 reps with heavy weight

Exercise #2 – Squats: (6 sets)

  • Set 1: Just the bar
  • Sets 2-3: 5 reps with heavy weight
  • Sets 4-6: 3 reps with heavy weight

Core Exercises:

  • Core Exercise #1 – Knee Lifts/Twists: (3 Sets – to MAX)
  • Core Exercise #2 – Mason Twists: (3 Sets – to MAX)
  • Core Exercise #1 – Ab Wheel Rollouts: (3 Sets – to MAX)


Here is a video highlighting the exercises I do:


Nowadays, I don’t focus on anything other than hiking to get my cardio. I prefer to hike 3-4 times per week with a 50# pack. As I get closer to season, I’ll increase it to 5 days a week. If time allows, I sometimes even do 2-adays! Normally, my hikes are 3.5 to 7 miles loops and will vary from 500’ in elevation gain to 4000’ feet in elevation gain.


Lastly, here are some things to keep in mind with each of the exercises I mentioned:

4. Push-upExercise #1 – Push Ups

I try to do 250+ in the least amount of sets as possible with a short rest between sets. I also time my first set and monitor how many I am doing in the first minute. Set a goal! My goal was to double my age in push-ups in 1 minute.

Be kind to your joint. DO NOT LOCK your elbows out on the upward movement – close, but not all the way locked.

Keep a log on your iPhone or Android of your progress. My log looks like this:

  • 02/17/2015 – 72, 40, 38, 34, 32, 35 =251 (6 sets). My first day.
  • 06/04/2015 – 111, 85, 60 = 256 (3 sets). It took almost 4 months to reach my goal of doubling my age in 1 minute.
  • 02/28/2016 – 112, 75, 75 = 262 (3 sets). A day after my 55th Birthday.

Please do not take these numbers as boasting – I am simply sharing what is possible at 55 if you choose to work your tail off.

5. Back PullsExercise #2 – TRX Strap Back Pulls

I do them at the gym with TRX straps, BUT you can make these at home with pull straps hanging from the garage ceiling.

Keep your elbows out and then pull your elbows in tight to your chest as shown in the video.

6. DipsExercise #3 – Dips

Focus on a full range of motion with a stretch and pause at the bottom of the movement.

7. Pull upsExercise #4 – Pull-up

Again, focus on a full range of motion with a slight pause at the top.

8. Shoulder PressExercise #5 – Straight Bar Shoulder Press

This can be one of the best shoulder exercises. HOWEVER, you need to take it slow! ANY PAIN = STOP. Focus on that full range of motion and a good stretch at the bottom.

Start light and work into them gradually. If you have any pain with the straight bar, try dumbbells instead.

9. CurlsExercise #6 – Straight Bar Curls

Focus on a full range of motion. Curl up, and then drop the weight slowly (3 second resist on the way down).

10. Standing RowsExercise #7 – Standing up right rows

Focus on the full range of motion.


I hope this workout gives you some ideas for how aging hunters can maintain their conditioning and avoid injuries and pain. Heck, even you younger guys might see the benefit in this program. I’d love for you to give this a 4-month run and let me know how it works out for you!


  1. Tony Mudd says:

    Good Luck Bob! Shoot Straight! If you need some help getting back in better shape don’t hesitate to reach out to me! I’ll do what I can to get you headed in the right direction! Again have fun and good luck!

  2. Bob Phipps says:

    I’m sitting here alone in my elk camp at 63 years old. Came to Elk 101 to see the gutless bone out video and got caught up in this workout section. Man do I need work. I broke my leg and screwed up my knee in May. Holding off seeing the ortho until hunting season is over. Now I have some new goals to achieve. The trick for me working out is starting off gradually enough to not damage a joint. Thanks for this article and the motivation.

  3. Tony Mudd says:

    Yes Absolutely ????

  4. SurvivAllExpert says:

    Glad to hear about the older gentleman still out there pounding up the hills, I’m 56 too and there are a few things I hope I can do for a long time: hunt, fly and wrestle with the grandkids!

  5. Tony Mudd says:

    Good Luck, gradually work into this and increase slowly. The training hikes are super important as we age! I’m 56 and get around the mountains pretty good for a short legged dude! ???? I hunted elk this month with a 68 year and he gets around mountain incredibly! Once you get in shape maintaining all that hard work is much much easier than getting in shape!! Good luck and shoot straight!

  6. SurvivAllExpert says:

    Went deer hunting with my 30 year old son a couple of weeks ago (archery deer UT) and was discouraged that for the 1st time in my life I had to let him carry the heavy pack. I’ll get started with a beginner version of your program tomorrow morning at 6am to make sure I’m an asset when we’re out chasing the elk in Oct, thanks for the info.

  7. Tony Mudd says:

    My friend all I did was make a few suggestions and answered a few questions. You have done all the work and it shows. You have overcome obstacles that would surrender most to a recliner, watching others call in and arrow elk on TV! Keep up the good work! We have a lot of elk to call in, kill and pack off the mountain in 2017!

  8. Ralph Albright says:

    I have had the good fortune of knowing Tony for the past 25 years and he is the real deal. He makes most 30 year old’s look like old men. While I get exhausted just reading about his workout program, he actually lives by it and it shows. He has managed to talk me into working out more and at 69 yrs old his suggestions for me have been wonderful. In too have few moving body parts ie. left knee replaced, fused right ankle, fused right wrist, 5 fused vertebra in my neck, and even with all of those having been done, I felt better and hunted longer than I have for many years. I managed to call in a nice 5 pt bull for my son this year and can’t imagine having been able to have kept up without Tony’s help the past year and a half with my workout program. It’s amazing, even at my age, the difference that it makes. Thanks Tony, you’ve helped a lot!

  9. Tony Mudd says:

    Warren I hope when I’m 75 I’m touching my toes and still chasing elk like you.

  10. Tony Mudd says:

    LOL Warren I’m hoping I can do the same when I hit 75 if I make it that far! 😉

  11. warren says:

    And here i was thinking, all i have to work on is my legs and lungs.L.O.L. Am 75 but can still touch my toes without bending knees.

  12. Tony Mudd says:

    I couldn’t agree more WI about the stretching! If I tweak anything normally it’s because I wasn’t warmed up enough! Basically I live by the theory if you don’t use it you’ll lose it! Thanks, Good Luck this fall! Tony

  13. WI Bowman says:

    Tony, I think your work out is intense and will be adding some of the things to my own. Having been in track & field when younger I think we should also show caution. Since my younger days I have tried to stay in shape, however anyone trying something this advanced may start popping body parts. (especially someone my age). You do tell to warm up but I also would suggest more stretching and the more the better. I stretch for at least 15-20 minutes every morning before any exercise or warm up. This may not be easy when starting out, but in time you will be able feel the difference. Flexibility is a big part of being in shape and less prone to injury. How many of the readers can bend over and touch the ground without bending there knees ? (pop a hamstring) You are correct in warming up, just take it a step further. I see guys in the gym and they start lifting before any warm up or stretching.

  14. Dennis Janecke says:

    Did your workout as a full body cycle today..Tony, your a beast! (Helluva workout)

  15. Tony Mudd says:

    You’re welcome Dennis. This workout can be easily done 3 days a week (sometimes I do) by making it a full body workout, the only long day would be the heavy day. Good luck!

  16. Dennis Janecke says:

    Nice workouts, find myself doing similar. I mainly concentrate on HIIT and full range of motion excercises. I am 37 and have 3 kids under 6 so staying in shape is a must….The only negative thing I can say is there is no way I’d be able to work out 6 days a week. Not enough time! I hit it hard 3-4 days for 45min to an hour but that is a good week. Thanks for the ideas!

  17. Tim Salters says:

    Got it. Thank you!

  18. Tony Mudd says:

    Absolutely Tim! For the most part YES it’s normally 2-3 minutes for everything. Im trying to maintain my strength, so the longer rest I have between sets the stronger I am, and the better I perform and the heavier I lift. I’m NOT trying to build muscle. Yes, sometimes I do vary from light to heavy. It may look like this; Saturday heavy squats, deads and core, off Sunday and Monday, Tuesday may look like this 1 warm up set and then 1 set 50-75% of my max for max reps (working on stretch and range of motion), light Thursday (working on stretch and range of motion) 1 set to max sometimes no weight and some times with weight, setting up Saturday’s heavy day. Remember my main goal in the gym is maintaining and increasing my strength. My cardio is done on the mountains with weighted packs. If you have other question please feel free to email me at: Thanks, Good Luck! Tony

  19. Tony Mudd says:

    You’re welcome, anytime Chad! Let me know if you have any questions! Good Luck!

  20. Chad Duckworth says:

    Awesome! I am def. going to be stealing this work out plan! Thanks, Tony!

  21. Tim Salters says:

    Hey Tony. Thanks for the workout. I’ve been looking for solid program for my injury-prone aging body! Question… do you rest 2 minutes between all sets on every exercise, or just pushups? Also, on your leg day, to you alternate loads? Like a light, medium and heavy day? Thanks.

  22. Tony Mudd says:

    Thanks Bud!

  23. Tony Mudd says:

    Thanks Elkhunterfromhell!! Awesome name by the way!

  24. Elkhunterfromhell says:

    Nicely done! At 52 I live by this “it is easier to stay in shape than get in shape” the mountains never get flatter!

  25. Clint Radford says:

    Tony has things dialed. An inspiration to us ‘young bucks’ for sure!

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