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Prepper Fitness for Self Defense: Training for Survival

Avatar for Jodie Weston Jodie Weston  |  Updated: October 31, 2018
Prepper Fitness for Self Defense: Training for Survival

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Now, more than ever, preppers are seeing the advantage of improving physical fitness. For a long time, it was just the opposite. People were much more inclined to talk about how their guns would protect them and not look at their weight problem in the face. It’s a terrible reality and it is hard to get out from under being out of shape and overweight. However, in a disaster, it could mean the difference between living and dying.

Your physical condition is also what determines your worth to a criminal. They operate on a risk/reward system. If they can snatch a purse they want to do it to the smallest and most weak looking person, they can find. Even if they want to stick you up with a firearm, they still don’t want to deal with a guy who looks like The Rock.

Those in our society who take advantage of others, almost always look for weak and easy targets. This can happen today when you are walking down the street, or it can happen following a serious disaster. The bad guys are always watching. They are like lions hiding just out of sight behind the grass. They want to find that weak gazelle.

This article is about how to either stop being or never become a target. It’s about how to improve your physical fitness, self-defense capability and how to get better at prepping while you do it!

prepper fitness for self defense

The Big Three

If you are going to train in self-defense you should start with one of three disciplines or all three at once, if you are truly out of your mind.

Muay Thai

Also known as the Art of 8 Limbs, Muay Thai is hands down the most effective striking system in the world. It is dominant in close quarters and its use of kicking people in the legs means you can also keep space when need be. The clinch in Muay Thai is another incredible means to control an attacker.


Traditional western boxing is still one of the very best ways to deal with someone who wishes to do you harm. The physical training and condition that goes along with learning and practicing boxing are so important. The distance and ability to avoid punches is just as important as learning how to throw a devastating left hook to the body.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The only thing that can negate someone who is well versed in the above to martial arts is if you put them on their back and they don’t know how to stand back up. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling art that teaches you how to get a person to the ground, control them on the ground and submit them or choke them unconscious.

I didn’t just pick these out of a hat. These are the martial arts that the best fighters on the planet use. I think once you have a base of one or a few of these you should also consider taking some Krav Maga and integrate things like dealing with guns and knives in an attack.

Beating Burnout

Every year I watch, at least, one person fall to fitness or training burnout. It’s something you have to see coming or it will get you, too! Its when you are just over the top about your fitness and your self-defense training. If you go from 0 to 7 days a week of training its going to catch up to you.

Beating burnout requires a plan. Whether we are talking about fitness, self-defense training or both, you have to take time off. This time off is critical for your body to heal and to get physically stronger. It is also important to have time for thinking and absorbing the things you have learned.

Burnout is mostly mental and conquering it has everything to do with a schedule. The single best method for dealing with burnout is to create a schedule that puts you in the gym at a certain time on certain days. Start small and add to it as time goes on.

For example:

Gym: Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Self Defense Training: Wednesday

This gives you three days, a week to work hard and your Wednesday becomes a serious task. You will enjoy those days off in between and they will also make you look forward to the next workout. That’s not to say you cannot work yourself up to training every day, but it takes time. BEWARE OF BURNOUT!

5 Fitness Exercises for Self Defense

The great news is that we don’t have to guess about this stuff anymore. We know what makes the best fighters in the world and we need only look to the training gyms of top-level UFC fighters. These athletes have spent the last 10 years shaving away the unnecessary exercises and creating a core of movements that make them more efficient fighters.

These exercises, along with practicing good technique, will help you punch harder, explode into movement and dominate positioning with a strong core. That’s why we consider them to be an essential part of prepper fitness for self defense.


If you don’t know how to punch properly you might not understand why the squat is on this list. Anyone who can generate serious power with their body is always going to start with their legs. Its true in punching, kicking and taking someone down and its true in all other physical arenas as well.

The basic back squat is an incredible exercise for blasting your hamstrings and strengthening your core. Your gym probably has squat machines that allow you to do squat like movements, free weight is best. Your whole body learns when you step away from the squat rack carrying a load.

Pull Up

Pull-ups are hard and not many people like doing them. However, your pulling power is incredibly important to hone. Not only that, you will find three things about pull-ups outside of the back strengthening potential

  1. They also improve grip
  2. The pull-up bar is never crowded
  3. They take willpower to even pursue

For many, the damage to their ego is far too heavy when they step up to the pull-up bar. If they can only get 3-5 reps it can be embarrassing, and most people never return. Remember, you are here to get stronger! You are not here to impress the people around you. If you can only do 5 pull-ups at a time that is PERFECT! That means you can do 5 sets of 5 pull-ups each. That’s a good quality pull up workout.

Weighted Sit-ups

When it comes to your core, anything you can do to strengthen it is great. I am talking about your abs, obliques and lower back. Don’t underestimate this area of your body. Most people who are out of shape look at sit-ups as a practice in vanity. In a fight, your core is going to give you most of your stability outside of your legs.

I like to do sit-ups with a medicine ball or lay down on my back and extend legs and arms out with a medicine ball in my hands. Then contract all the way in like a sit up. You will only need about 10 or 12 of these to really feel the difference.

Overhead Press

In the world of the bench press, deadlift and squat, the simple overhead press has lost steam. I think it’s a great indicator of strength and another exercise where your whole body learns. When you push that weight up over your head, almost every muscle in your body is engaged in things like pushing, balance and stability.

Start light with the overhead press if you aren’t strong already. It can be hell on your shoulders or bring on a serious back injury.


One of the best ways to increase your cardio is to run. However, jogging will only help you develop to a point Bruce Lee wrote that he believed the best way to use running to enhance cardio was to run a reasonable distance and work a combination of running and sprints into that distance.

Running and sprinting use two different systems in your body, aerobic and anaerobic. Just running will only train the aerobic system but sprinting will train your anaerobic system as well. The result is a person who can not only keep a steady pace, for a long time but someone who can explode into fast, rapid movements and recover quickly.

Integrating Preparedness into Every Workout

Once you have settled into your core set of workouts you should begin to integrate prepping and survival into those workouts. There are at least four ways that I do this on a regular basis and find massive benefits from it. Some people might look at it as freakish efficiency, but you will see improvements in your preparedness and fitness in a hurry.

Foraging Run

The foraging run requires a quality field manual for wild plants, trees or both.

  1. Find a section of woods with a path that can be run close by.
  2. Hit that section of woods with your running shoes on and your manual in a pocket or in hand
  3. Stop running when you come across a tree or plant you want to ID and find it in your book
  4. It’s a great way to learn about local plants and you will like the break you get while researching
  5. Imagine the benefits if you just ID 1 or 2 new species each time you run

Bugout Hike

To truly master the bugout bag you need to get it on your back. A decent hike of a couple miles or more, with this load on your back, is a great exercise and prepping combo.

  1. Grab the bag
  2. Wear it with all the straps and pads in place
  3. Take it on a decent hike in some varying terrain

Gym Session Cram

The gym session cram is all about working out both your physical and mental aspects. It’s a process of pushing through a workout while digesting a survival podcast or audiobook.

  1. Find your book or episode ahead of time
  2. Start your warmup and begin listening
  3. Spend the full workout learning about prepping
  4. Be sure to bring a small notepad and pen to highlight things you hear and would like to put into practice.

New Skills Stretch

Don’t underestimate flexibility. Whether you want to be injury free in the gym or injury free in a disaster, having flexible muscles can make that happen.

  1. Set aside time for a nice stretch on most of the body’s muscles
  2. Turn on a computer or television
  3. Find a bushcraft or urban survival video that interests you
  4. Stretch and watch, simple!

Planning your Prepper Training Routine

Now that you understand what is possible, how to be effective and how not to get burnt out, let’s look at some routines. I have 3 tiers listed below and each one presents a different type of weekly regiment. Tier one represents the most intense and tier 3 the least intense. These are merely examples and can be modified to your liking.

Tier 1

Daily, light, workout routines with 3-5 serious workouts per week.

Weekly Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai or Boxing training


Tier 2

Heavy Bag Work

Fitness Training 3 times a week


Tier 3



Shadow Boxing


The reality is that time and money play a massive role in how far you can take your prepper fitness and self-defense. Training is not usually cheap. So tailor your workouts to your lifestyle. You can often do away with some other activities to make time for working out and you can always get a good workout, even without a gym. There are other factors you need to take into consideration like your nutrition, and your mental strength.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to you. Are you going to do it or not? You will wake up every day and you need only answer yes to one simple question: Am I going to get better today?

James Walton is the host of the I AM Liberty Show ( a podcast about 21st-century freedom. He is a freelance writer in the prepping and survival niche and likes to keep a healthy balance between prepping and enjoying life. 

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