Chad Belding is nearly as passionate about training in the weightroom as he is hunting duck and big game. So, when he’s out in the wilderness without a training facility in sight, he brings the gym with him. It’s not quite the spread he’s used to at Sierra Strength & Speed in Sparks, NV, where he works with his trainer Robert Conatser, but it gets the job done.
“We call it ‘tailgate training,’ and we’re out in the woods a lot,” says Belding, who stars in “The Fowl Life” reality show on the Outdoor Channel and hosts the The Fowl Life Podcast. “We’re on dirt roads. We have trailers with us. We have trucks with camper shells. We have tailgates. We have ice chests and coolers, and we have our TRX bands. And I always travel with workout shorts and shoes.”
Translation: Being off the grid is no excuse for missing workouts. When Belding is hunting or otherwise away from a commercial gym space, he still squeezes in his strength work. Below are five of his favorite do-anywhere moves.
1) TAILGATE JUMPS
Equipment: Pickup truck with tailgate down
This is simply an “in the wild” version of a box jump. If you’re hunting, fishing, or camping and you have a truck, lower the tailgate and you instantly have a sturdy platform to jump on to.
“I’m a big fan of power and explosiveness training – but controlled power and explosiveness because I’m 47 years old now,” says Belding. “I have a two-inch lift on my truck, so my tailgate’s a little bit higher. This is an explosive drill where I like to step back, explode up, and do standing box jumps onto my tailgate.”
How to Do It
Stand a foot or two in front of the tailgate (in the lowered position) of a pickup truck. Assume an athletic position with your feet hip-width part and knees slightly bent.
Dip down at the hips and knees, then explode up to jump onto the tailgate. If you need to, take a counter step back with one foot before jumping to give you some extra power.
Land softly on the tailgate, “like there’s an egg on there and you’re not trying to break it,” says Belding. After completing the rep, step (don’t jump) down to the ground and go into the next rep. Don’t be in a hurry. Gather yourself between every rep.
Do two to four sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Belding’s Training Tip: “If you can’t reach your tailgate — because it can be dangerous if it’s too high, and you can slam your shins — use a cooler. I like to use something that’s stable on the ground so that I can explode off using my abs, legs, quads, hamstrings, and calves.”
2) FULL-BODY SANDBAG SLAMS
Equipment: 20- to 40-pound sandbag
A typical medicine ball slam is a great functional exercise for developing upper-body and core explosiveness. Belding’s sandbag version is different in two major ways:
First, he prefers a heavier load (40-pound sandbag) than is usually prescribed for this movement, as most gyms top out at 20-pound med balls.
Second, his slams are a whole-body exercise with a full squat at the bottom of each rep (a standard med ball slam doesn’t call for that), plus the fact that the heavier sandbag makes for a more challenging overhead lift.
“I tend to go a little bit heavier on these, and I believe in full [elbow] extension over the head and a full squat,” says Belding. “It really opens up that chest cavity and the lungs, and you’re using the diaphragm to get good breath and use good posture. You’re also loosening up that entire core, upper thoracic, upper back, and shoulders. I love this exercise.”
How to Do It
From a standing position with open area in front of you, hold the sides of a sandbag in front of your shoulders with arms bent.
Keeping your core tight, back flat, and weight over the middle of your feet, squat down until your thighs reach parallel with the ground.
Extend your hips and knees to drive up to a standing position, pressing the sandbag overhead as you reach the top.
When your arms reach full extension, explosively throw the sandbag to the ground in front of your feet.
Pick the sandbag up and go into the next rep.
Do 3 sets of 12 reps.
Belding’s Training Tip: “If 40 pounds is too heavy, use 25 or 30 pounds, making sure to extend it all the way above your head.”
3) COOLER DUMBBELL BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUATS
Equipment: GATR Cooler (or any other heavy-duty cooler)
Squats travel. You can do them anywhere and use any number of implements to add resistance — a heavy band, a barbell or dumbbell at a hotel gym, a 40-pound rock you find lying around.
For Belding, throwing a dumbbell or two in the bed of his truck on a hunting trip is worthwhile, but that may not be heavy enough for a standard two-leg squat. The solution: Bulgarian split squats with a dumbbell and the rear foot elevated on a GATR cooler he has on hand either way. Doing squats one leg at a time requires far less external resistance while still delivering a great strength-and-muscle-building stimulus.
“I love Bulgarian split squats,” he says. “It’s a great way to stretch and hit the glutes, quads, and groin. You’re also getting really good squatting form, where it’s working that entire front leg.”
How to Do It
Stand holding a dumbbell down at one side with a cooler (or bench, step, or chair) a few feet behind you.
Start with one foot on the ground below you and the other up on the cooler behind you — only the toes of the back leg should be touching the cooler.
Keeping your torso upright, bend your front leg to lower your body straight down. Your back knee will also bend; once it’s within a few inches of the ground, contract the glutes and quads of the front leg to stand back up and return to the start position.
Repeat for reps, then switch legs.
Do 3 sets of 12 reps per leg.
Belding’s Training Tip: “Keep your shoulders up with good posture and without bending over. Go down as deep as you can, but not too deep to cause pain in the knee.”
Some may consider a bodyweight row to be an isolation move for the back muscles (lats, rhomboids, middle traps), but Belding considers it more of a whole-body exercise. As with pretty much all TRX moves, the core is heavily engaged, and other key muscle groups are involved as well.
“You’re working your core, and you’re working your legs because you’re balancing on your calves,” he says. “But you’re really working those forearms, your grip, and your biceps and deltoids.”
How to Do It
Attach a TRX to a stable structure overhead (a tree, monkey bars, etc.) and adjust the handles so they’re dangling several feet from the ground.
Grab the handles and start with your body facing upward, arms fully extended, and body in a straight line from your head to feet. Only the backs of your heels should be in contact with the ground, and your body should be in a rigid upward-facing plank.
Contract your back muscles to pull yourself up in a rowing motion, keeping your elbows in tight to your body. Go up until your hands reach your torso, then slowly lower your body back down.
Do 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps.
Belding’s Training Tip: “Everybody forgets about the negative and they lose their form because the core collapses and they don’t keep the tension on the way down. I like to pull up, hold it at the top, and then get that negative all the way down for four, five, six, maybe seven seconds. I extend all the way, get a good stretch, and then breathe out and fill out of my diaphragm as I’m pulling my body back up.”
If you’re accustomed to doing push-ups with your hands firmly on the ground, you’re in for a treat. With your hands suspended in the air with the TRX straps, you’ll be constantly fighting instability as you try to bang out your pushups. Pecs, arms, delts, core, even the legs — all these areas are working.
“It’s going to be shaky if you’re not used to a TRX,” says Belding. “You’re using your abs, shoulders, and everything to keep all those muscles engaged so your arm doesn’t just fly out and you fall flat on your face. I’m a big fan of the TRX. s handy, it’s easy to get to. As long as you’re safe with it and you have something you know will support you, it’s a great way to get a full-body workout in a hurry.”
How to Do It
Using the same TRX setup as with rows, grab the handles with your body facing the ground. Start in a push-up position with your arms extended and body in a straight line.
Bend your elbows to slowly your body down, steadying yourself throughout to keep your arms from flying out to the sides.
When your hands are just outside your chest, press yourself back up to the arms-extended position.
Do 5 sets of 10 reps.
Belding’s Training Tip: “Don’t try and do this exercise fast, like you might do with regular pushups. Make it a controlled movement, even if that means you have to do fewer than 10 reps per set.”