There are an infinite number of weight training programs out there for people of every shape and size. And while lifting makes you stronger, too many get caught up in the vanity side versus lifting to get better at something. Vanity lifting might get you a beach bod, but if you want to be functionally stronger, pay attention to big compound lifts that work an entire muscle chain as opposed to a simple lift that only works one muscle (i.e. bicep curls).
Here are four lifts that will help turn you into a mountain-conquering, boulder flattening badass.
The squat is probably the most functional lift there is. When done properly, it will strengthen your rear end, hamstrings, and quadriceps, as well as your core muscles, arms and shoulders. You can do squats as a “body weight exercise” by just, well, squatting down repeatedly while holding nothing. You can also hold dumbbells as you do them to add a little extra resistance. If you really want to get the maximum effect, forget all of that baby stuff and put a barbell on your shoulders.
Deadlifts are another vital part of any hiker’s strength training program. Like the squat, deadlifting will give you the legs and back muscles of an ox, as well as doing wonders for your core. Deadlifting can be a troubling lift to execute properly, however, with seriously injury potential if done incorrectly. Horror stories of slipped disks and hernia abound, so if you’re doing it for the first time, do a low weight, high rep set. This will give you a feel for the lift without putting yourself in the chiropractor’s office. The most important form issue to remember is to always keep your back as straight as possible and never round it out. Just like everyone who’s ever worked a construction job has heard, lift with your legs.
Clean and Press
The clean and press is a deceptive lift, as it appears to be a primarily upper body lift. While it does greatly benefit that area, it’s also beneficial to your posterior chain. Like the deadlift, the clean and press can be dangerous if done incorrectly as it involves a couple of rather violent movements. Just make sure to start out with low weight and high reps as prescribed above and you’ll be on your way to picking up heavy metal objects and pushing it up above your head like a total badass.
Good Mornings suck and you should dread doing them. But you need to do them, and you should do them often. Like every other aforementioned lift, they’ll work your posterior chain as well as several of your adductors (hip muscles), your back, abs, shoulders, and many other secondary muscles. But they suck, really bad.
The most important part of any program is to remember to constantly check your form. Not doing so will at best, make you look like a doofus, and worst case, will lead to injury, negating the purpose of these lifts (which is to train for major hikes). One last tip: stay away from the weight machines unless totally necessary. While personal trainers may gasp at the sound of this, weight machines are in no way good training for hiking.