Home Skills & Knowledge Camping, Hiking & Outdoors Beginner Fitness Exercises for SHTF Survival (Part One)

Beginner Fitness Exercises for SHTF Survival (Part One)

It’s likely that during (and after) a SHTF scenario, the physical demand on the human body will drastically increase.  Our bodies would suddenly become responsible for filling the productivity gap left from the wake of downed mechanical systems that significantly reduces our workload in providing for our every little need, with little effort.   

Life has become so easy most of us pay little notice the highly productive and efficient grid network built up around us and is working around the clock.

We are all guilty of doing less physical work in the modern era than our ancestors, to the point that sedentary lifestyles are not only becoming the norm, but are on the rise and have been classified as modern day health epidemic.   If many people were abruptly forced with no choice into a mode of high physical stress for survival reasons,  many may not survive simply because their bodies are not accustomed to the level of physical demands required in a hypothetical emergency survival situations.


Not to sound overly nostalgic, but before computers, technology, and large-scale networked mechanical processes (AKA, the grid) was put into place,  we had no choice but to work directly in and with the natural elements.   Rudimentary processes were used to procure food, water and shelter.  Swinging and axe, pulling a cart, hauling buckets of water, travelling long distances, even running from or fighting off an occasional predator or rival group were the norm.

It’s undeniable that our bodies have evolved to not only to move, but move in many different and highly dynamic (non-static) ways.   Research has shown that hunters and gatherers would walk long distances and engage in short intense bursts of vigorous activity with rest in between, which resulted in burning 800 to 1200 calories per day.   In other words, the human genome was shaped by the process of natural selection to be highly active generalists in nature rather than marathon runners, heavy lifters or climbers.


Whether forced into the wilderness or urban survival situations, physical fitness and mobility should not be overlooked or underestimated by prudent preppers.  No quantity or quality of gear, food stuffs, off grid energy, or EDC items can make up for a lack of physical prowess (in the form of mobility, strength and agility) when an emergency situation demands it, especially if bugging in is not an option on one must get one the move.

When no choice remains but to leave it all behind and bug out is when situations could become extremely physically taxing which not only put you at risk but also friends and family who may be relying on you for your survival skills and physical preparedness.

out of shape

The focus of this post is not to dwell on today’s sedentary health epidemic, or reminisce how hunters and gathers were maximizing the utility of their human design.  Our intention is to lay out a plan that will enable individuals of nearly all levels of physical fitness to increase mobility and strength by moving in healthier ways more reminiscent of our ancestors.

As someone who went from being a deathly ill child with Crohn’s disease to practicing and instructing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes for the last decade, regularly doing outdoor fitness challenges and swinging kettlebells, I have full confidence anyone can do it if approached carefully.  Credit is also due to my brother who is a veteran certified manual therapist and kettlebell trainer for consulting with me writing this post.


This post is dedicated to beginner exercises.  If the beginner drills are too easy, please stay tuned for our up and coming posts for intermediate and advanced survival exercise fitness.  This beginner series is for individuals who have remained sedentary for the past 12 or more months with little or no “real” physical exertion.

For example, if you gasp for air when going up a couple flights of stairs when the elevator is down, or when required to walk longer distance, and/or are considered obese, these beginner exercises are a great place to start.

Please note that results results from one individual to the next can vary greatly, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t see any progress for some time.  Make these exercises a daily part of your routine, and before you know it you we be stronger, fitter, more mobile, and all of that good stuff!


Assisted or Solo Deep Body Weight Squats

This movement is excellent for building strength in the quads and gluts while increasing hip mobility. The hips are the foundation of most physical movement in the human body and are essential to movements as simple as walking and getting off the ground.   A deep squat also serves a great seated position when if no chairs or stump, etc,  is available.

Instructions:  Hold on to something such as a post at hip height, if needed.  With your legs spread at a distance that feels natural, slowly sit into squat by engaging the quad muscles and gluts.  Be sure while sitting to drive your heels into the ground and your knees away from each other.  Your feet should remain planted flat on the ground, and your butt should come to a resting position as as close to your heels as your comfort allows.  If this position if uncomfortable or you are unable to maintain your balance, do not force it!  Slowly stand back out of the squat and continue repeat the process until it becomes easier and more comfortable.

  • Remain in the squat position for 30 seconds on and off to gain mobility and reduce pain.
  • Once the squat position is comfortable, work up to 5-10 squat reps, then adding two to three total sets with similar reps.


Assisted or Solo Hanging

Being able to hang from a bar, tree branch, or even a ledge is important for survival climbing and general pulling movements like winding in a rope, dragging logs, etc .  If you suffer from  lack of overhead reach mobility, wrist or grip problems, simply hanging and letting gravity do the work is an excellent rehabilitation and strength building exercise.

Instructions:   To be clear, this is exercises is not a pull up, it’s simply hanging and letting gravity lengthen and decompress your spinal column and allowing your shoulders and arms to stretch.  You can hang from anything that provides adequate grip surface such as a pull up bar, tree branch, or a ledge of a wall.  If your grip constantly slips and you are unable to hang at all, place something under your feet and ease in to a full hang by bending your knees to add or reduce the weight load on your grip.

    • If needed, use support under your feet and build up to hanging for 10-20 seconds with no support.
    • Once able to hang for 20 seconds with both arms, remove the support from your feet and ad two to four reps of 20 seconds.


Plank Hold

A plank hold is one of the best exercises for core strength and stability and it helps posture, improves balance, and strengthens hamstrings, gluts and the shoulder girdle.  While hip mobility is like an axle being able to freely turn, core strength is the engine that gives it power.

Strength in other areas of your body, such as leg strength or back strength are often undermined if core strength is not adequate to back them up during more sophisticated and integrated movements such as climbing, pulling, or grappling.   Therefore, nearly any movement relies on core strength making it a top priority for preppers in survival situations.

Instructions:  Place your forearms on the floor below the shoulders with your elbows and wrists in line with your torso.   Use your toes to brace your weight with your forearms and use your core abdominal, thigh, and glut muscles to raise your hips to be alighted with your shoulders and legs.  Keep your chin tucked while holding this position.

  • Move into the plank hold and maintain it for 10-20 seconds
  • Add two to three reps of 20 second holds.
  • Build up to being able to hold the plank position for one minute or more.


Soft-Surface Medium Distance Slow Jogging

The aim of slow jogging is to build a foundation for cardiovascular and respiratory fitness without keeling over before building to more moderate to intensive cardio exercise.  Look to run on a soft surface with some minor terrain variance such as a cut grass field or easy running trails.

A soft surface will allow your muscular-skeletal system to slowly adapt to the light impact of jogging, by adding bone density and building muscle, fortifying joints, tendons, and ligaments.  Jogging or running on varied terrain has shown to awaken the neuromuscular system by forcing it to make constant adjustments to adapt to the surface variations.  Furthermore, it has shown to minimize risk of injury from over-repetitive movement which leads to imbalance from smaller muscles growing weak.

Instructions:  Find a soft yet slightly varied running surface such as a grassy field or mowed pasture.  Start with jogging for two to five minutes and stop when you experience discomfort in your lungs and chest (cardiovascular system), or on joints and muscles (soft tissues). At this point your body as reached a level of stress that your body can respond, adapt and build strength from. Build on that until you can jog at a slow, relaxed pace for about 15 minutes without stopping.  This will allow you to cover about a one to 1.5 mile distance.

I hope these exercises benefit some of you who have struggled to get a solid start with fitness.  Please feel free to message me or leave comments with any questions.  Stay tuned for our next posts that will be geared towards intermediate and advanced survival fitness with extra fun and dynamic exercises for preppers.

See Part Two – Intermediate Fitness Exercises for Preppers



  1. I came here from preppers on reddit. These exercises look very good for absolute newbies. Thanks for making the effort to put them out there.

    • Thanks for visiting. That was my main goal so I’m very happy to hear that. I’ve found myself going back and making tweaks to the exercises to make sure they can work for all beginners. For example I changed deep squat time from two min to 30 seconds. It’s harder than it looks and sounds.


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