Many hunters will be sitting up and alert in a deer stand on the morning of September 24, anxiously waiting for the first buck or doe of the season to make an appearance. With their bow in hand and eyes skimming the woods it is easy to maintain proper posture and be ready to draw at any moment. As the rush from excitement and cup of coffee fades, many hunters find it more difficult to sit up straight.
Experienced hunters planning to go out West know they need to work on cardio-conditioning and muscular endurance to tackle the mountainous terrain. Likewise, if using a treestand for whitetail hunting, hunters should have strong postural muscles to endure long sits on high alert. It is equally important to have enough range of motion in their shoulder joints for climbing in and out of a stand.
Hunting from an elevated position causes a sportsman’s head to tilt downward placing their back and neck in an uncomfortable position. Holding this position for long periods of time can cause a painful crick in their neck and a sore back.
The side effects of sitting and poor posture are undeniable. Whether it’s sitting in a deer stand or in front of a computer screen at work. Doctor of Physical Therapy Grant Harper says, “Sitting for long periods of time is directly related to causing neck and back pain, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome and numerous other conditions.”
To avoid injury, hunters need to lengthen shortened muscles and activate supportive muscles to allow for proper movement without pain or stiffness. Their mobilization and stretching techniques should be specific to the goal at hand.
Harper recommends, “stretching specific muscle groups such as the pectoralis minor and major (chest), anterior neck musculature, hamstrings, piriformis and adductors, which are often in a shortened sate because of an individual’s occupation or lifestyle that requires them to sit for long periods of time.” Bringing these muscle groups to full length is important to avoid improper posture and irregular movement patterns that can result in injury, pain or soreness. Stretching daily allows for better overall posture and ability to sit comfortably longer. However, stretching alone is not enough. Maintain an active lifestyle and do not sit for longer than an hour at a time without standing up and moving.
Harper stresses that physical therapists organize stretching and mobilization programs for each patient specific to their goals and ability. The following stretches are generalized for anyone to perform.
For general mobility purposes Harper recommends doing the following stretches three to four times a week, holding each stretch for 30 seconds to stretch and lengthen sitting and postural muscles:
Chest and shoulder stretch – Stand at a doorway and raise arms so elbows are at shoulder height. Then flex at elbow to 90 degrees so hands are touching the doorway (similar to the pose of a field goal or how big last season’s buck was). Then lead forward until you feel a stretch.
Anterior neck muscles stretch – Cross arms and place hands on collar bone with a small amount of downward pressure. Close mouth and look upward until you feel a stretch. This feels great after waking up from a nap.
Hamstring stretch – Sit one leg on a bench with the leg straightened. Lean forward and try to prevent rounding your back. The stretch should be on the backside of the thigh. Many people suffer from tight hamstrings, which can lead to lower back pain. Be sure to alternate and stretch both legs.
Hip flexor stretch – Kneel on one knee with a pillow or pad placed under your knee for comfort. Your head, shoulder, hip and knee should all be in line. Sit in an upright posture then tighten your rear end on the involved side. The stretch should be felt on the front side of the involved hip. After a 30-second hold, switch to the other leg. Shortened hip flexors result from sitting for long periods of time. Be sure to stand up and move every so often in the stand or at the office to keep hip flexors from tightening.
Adductor stretch – Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders then shift your weight to the right side while keeping the left leg straight. Repeat for opposite side. The stretch should be felt on the inside of the thigh on the involved side.
These stretches are only the basics to improving overall flexibility. Performing stretches daily and staying active will result improved mobility and posture, so sitting for long periods of time will be more comfortable whether you’re sitting in a car for a long commute or at a desk in a classroom. In the deer stand be sure to stand up at least every hour and do fine movements like shoulder rolls or shrugs to keep muscles warm and help prevent shortening.