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  • Matt Breton

Pushing and Pulling

Continuing the theme of strength training, I'll cover two more components that are important to consider: Pushing and Pulling.

With the emphasis still on movements and not muscles, these two lifts are predominantly about upper body strength. For a hunter, these movements create the strength needed to handle our gear or the animal, once down. For an angler, the same applies- casting, carrying a canoe, drilling holes in ice- upper body strength is important.

The bodyweight adjusted 5 rep max for pushing would lead us to target our bodyweight for 5 reps, so a 165# fella should work up to being able to bench press 165# x 5 reps. Simple! You can complicate this by including the overhead press. A good exercise, but not one I advise maxing out at or doing a lot of volume with due to the stress on the rotator cuff muscles. As a goal, if we want to convert this, very roughly, to a pushup count, the math works out to 32 pushups. (165# x 56% = 92.4# pushup equivalence, 1RM 191#, max calculator for 1RM down to 92.4# = 32 pushups).

Pulling is harder to calculate. The challenge is the lack of exercises for comparison. A bent over or bench barbell row will work, but they each have some limitations. I generally estimate the same target for the pull as the push, 5 reps at bodyweight. The pullup is a reasonable bodyweight exercise to train for back strength, though if you have a TRX or low bar, these might be even better for training the pulling movement. I try to work up to 10 bodyweight pullups with a neutral grip as my goal by the end of the strength phase of my training.

My workouts for pushing and pulling are similar to the lower body exercises in terms of set/rep schemes, each are done once per session and two sessions per week. 5 sets of 5 for the bench press or 3 sets of 8-12 reps for pushups. The floor level TRX Row gets 3 sets of 8-12 reps. Pullups start out at 3 sets of 5 and evolve in to 1 or 2 sets of 7 or 8 reps until I can get 10 in a row. There are a lot of different pulling exercises you can perform that are all pretty good, as long as you emphasize scapular retraction to the midline and avoid shrugging shoulders to ears. Other examples include:

Bentover Row (Barbell or single arm dumbbell)

Cable Row (multi position, sitting or standing)

Lat Pull Down

Inverted Barbell Row (similar to TRX Row)

Examples of other pushing exercises, in addition to the bench and the pushup, are:

Overhead Press

Military Press (standing or seated)


Cable Press

As mobile hunting athletes, I don't want to get too heavy through the upper body, which is why these numbers are on the relatively low side. Strength in the upper body is important, but must be matched to utilization and most of what we do has to do with our bodyweight, so getting good at pushups and pullups is often sufficient.

Next up in training...loaded carry (including dragging a log around!).

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