by Todd Walker

I’ve read lots about the little that is written about functional fitness when the SHTF. The image of svelte bodies in wet t-shirt contests on spring break clouds the mind. Snap out of it. TEOTWAWKI is here! The only wet t-shirts you’ll see after a collapse scenario will be sweat-soaked. I personally am not looking forward to the site or smells emanating from Uncle Joe’s overalls while splitting firewood. The bonus of overalls is it saves us the disgusting site of his plumber’s crack.

I’ve written before about my fitness philosophy. Looking good naked may be a fine goal now, but will it help you survive? Life after TSHTF will be, shall we say, challenging. I know a man down the street in his early 80’s that can work circles around me in the garden. Yes, there’s a bit of shame in that for me. This got me to thinking about my functional fitness plan. First question: Is it functional? Duh! Will my weekly pull-ups, push ups, squats, and sprints really make me useful to my family when it really counts?

For instance, I’ve dabbled in blacksmithing. I’m not good at it. The first time my farrier friend taught me to make a simple wall hook, the simple motion of swinging the hammer made my forearm swell to painful Popeye proportions. I swing a carpenters hammer on side jobs all the time. The hammer-on-anvil swing is different, but transferable. So, will your present level of fitness be transferable in post-SHTF? If you’ve got a nagging in your gut that you’ll be toast, you may want to try these functional workouts.

Legal disclaimer stuff: If you’re starting any exercise program, consult your physician first. There’s the legal advise. This is not intended to be professional advice. It’s simply exercises that I do. Your mileage may vary. If you do stupid stuff, bad things will happen.

Build your own SHTF gym!

A.) Taken to the Woodshed

Obviously, the best way to build strength and functional fitness is doing SHTF stuff. Here’s your first workout. Grab an axe, splitting wedge, and sledgehammer and destroy that pile of round wood stacked behind your house. Don’t have any wood? Someone in your neighborhood probably does and would love to have it split and stacked. You’ll be rendering random acts of kindness while earning a reputation at the rotary club as that crazed-wood-splitter.

Don’t want that label in the community? Simulate it in the privacy of your own backyard with one tool, a sledgehammer. Check it out here. I use a ten pound hammer. DRG uses a six-pounder. After a month of swinging the hammer, you’ll be in lumberjack shape.

B.) Haul Water

Water: It’s not just for drinking

Nerd Alert: What is the density of water in pounds per gallon? 8.328676 lb/gal. Being the frugal prepper (cheap is more like it) that I am, I bought these two 7 gallon water jugs at a yard sale for two bucks. Reeking with redundancy, I do walking lunges with these puppies in my back yard. That’s 58.31 pounds in each hand if I measured correctly. Don’t try this at home kids!

Here’s how to haul water like your great grand parents… with proper form of course. If you’ve never done lunges, start out with your body weight only and work up to weighted lunges. Too heavy and your asking for injury.

Starting position: Arms hanging by your sides, feet shoulder width apart, back straight, chest out, core (abs) tight.

Next: Step forward a few feet. As your foot lands, bend your extended leg so that your front heel is below your knee. DO NOT allow your knee to pass beyond your toes during lunges. Your back knee should be about an inch or so off the ground with the heel of the back foot pointed to the sky if performed correctly. From this bottom position, lift your body up to standing position and repeat with the other leg. Your entire lower body will beg for mercy after a set of these.

While you won’t be doing lunges to tote water from the creek or pond, this functional movement will certainly make daily life after a crisis much easier. Whatever your goal, lunges will help build a balanced and stable foundation.

Recommended lunge link:

There are so many prepping uses for the sandbag. From flood control to hardening areas of your retreat for ballistic protection. Even if you’re not worried about either of these potential emergencies, repeatedly lifting dead weight bags (livestock feed, rice, beans, etc.) takes functional strength. Could you fireman carry a loved one out of a burning house? For the hunter/gatherer types, can you sling your field dressed carcass over your shoulders and hump it back to camp? Remember, your mechanical advantage disappears WTSHTF. Your four-wheeler is yard art by now.

Here’s how the humble sandbag can help.

Start: If you don’t have sandbags, I’ve seen them at home improvement centers cheap. If your cheap like me, use any bag that is durable enough to hold sand. Use sand or small pea gravel to fill the bags. Get creative.

Once you have several filled, you’ll need a larger bag to hold the smaller sand bags. I’ve seen army duffel bags and sports bags modified for the workout. Again, start out with a weight that you can comfortably handle with good form. You can always add more bags as your strength progresses. Do a search on the internet for ideas on sandbag workouts. I’ve posted a link of a short 3 minute video below.

Don’t want to go through the trouble of sandbagging? Clear some land. You live in the city? So! You’ve got parks right? I’ve got a section of fallen tree in the local park that I shoulder for doing squats. I’m guessing it weighs about 100 pounds. If you’ve done squats with barbells and squat racks in the gym, the form is the same. However, balancing a piece of wood on your shoulders enlists muscles for balance that you don’t use in a controlled gym setting. I like to alternate the log to each shoulder between sets of squats. Then drag the log up a hill and carry it back down. You’ll be the land clearing queen/king at your retreat.

Don’t forget the rocks. I also throw basketball sized rocks in the same park. The great thing about rocks is that they stay where you leave them. I’ve had to replace my log several times. With rocks, I just keep a stack at the base of a pole with a bird feeder on top. It looks like they belong there.

Start: Grab a rock and lift it with your legs, not your back. Hold the rock chest high with both hands and press away from your body like a basketball pass. It’s not going very far. Run get it and repeat. After a few tosses at chest level, raise it over head, slightly bend your knees and press it up and out away from your body. Do I need to warn you about physics here? What goes up must come down. So, be sure to press the rock up and away from your body, not directly overhead. Throw it over the railing and into an imaginary horse-drawn wagon. Your clearing land post-SHTF. Try throwing for accuracy. Imagine crushing the head of predator ten feet away – caveman style. You’ll be ahead of the curve when all your guns are confiscated. Geez, I just had to get off topic.

Recommended link:

MovNat in a city park

MovNat in the woods

Post-SHTF will require functional fitness. Get started now. You’ll be ahead of the herd!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

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