While hiking might sound like the workout itself, a lot of longer, more demanding hikes are made even more brutal if you’re not already in shape before setting out for the trail. Whether you’re an experienced thru-hiker or your everyday weekend warrior, these exercises are the perfect way to improve your overall strength and endurance on the trail.
Legs are one of the most important parts of your body to train if you’re a hiker! Descents can be tough on your thighs, so you should include some downhill lunges in your workout routine at least a few weeks before you plan to hit the trails. Put on your backpack and load it up with around 30 pounds of weight, and then head to a gradual slope. Once you’re there you should lunge downhill for at least 100 yards, and aim to do this three times a week.
If you’re hiking with a heavy backpack on a soft surface, your heels will start to sink into the ground, and this will put pressure on your hamstrings. Over time this can start to put pressure on your back. Avoid this by building stronger hamstrings. You can build your hamstrings by sitting with a very straight back on a rolling office chair. Put your hands behind your head and pull yourself across the room at least 20 times, three times a week to strengthen your hamstrings.
Abs and Back
It’s important for hikers to have a strong core, especially on long hikes with heavy backpacks. If you have a weak core you will struggle to carry your pack and this will result in back pain that can cause long-term problems; but you can strengthen your core by practicing the tick tock plank. Simply get into a high plank form with your wrists below your shoulders, ensuring that your spine is straight, and then jump your right foot to the side without moving the rest of your body. Jump your right foot back in while jumping the left foot out, and try to do this 20–30 times, three times a week.
You can also strengthen your abdominal muscles by doing crunches on an exercise ball. Aim to do at least two sets of 10 crunches, three times a week, to slowly build up abdominal strength.
A hiker’s back carries a lot of weight every time they go out, and if you have a weak back this can result in injury and long-term damage. Thankfully you can avoid this by practicing leg raises while you’re already working on your abs to help strengthen your lower back. Simply lay down on the ground with your chin on top of a folded towel. Slowly lift one leg up and hold it a few inches away from the ground, and then repeat with the second leg. Try to do this at least 20 times, three times a week, to improve lower back strength.
Sometimes glute pain can be confused as lower back pain, so take the time to strengthen both your back and your glutes to minimize the chance of injury. You can easily strengthen your glutes by doing 10 wall squats, three times a week. To do a wall squat, slide your body down the wall until it looks like you’re sitting in an invisible chair, and hold the position for 20 seconds.