Not only is hiking a fun outdoor activity, but a great way to exercise—who doesn’t love fresh air and beautiful views? But to prepare, the smart hiker won’t just hit the trails without any kind of training. Here are a few things you can do to prepare your body for whatever Mother Nature sends your way.
Develop the muscles that push you forward and up
Hikers can carry 30-40 lbs of equipment on their backs. That, plus their own body weight and steep, rugged terrain can really add up to a challenging environment to the legs, especially the hips, knees, and ankles!
“…when going downhill, your legs will have to work a little harder to help keep you balanced. Fitness training will help to improve your muscle strength, bone density and joint health and reduce the risks of injuries during hiking.” –Stuart Young, “Fitness Training for Hikers,” outsidehealthandfitness.com
Even if you’re not hiking the Appalachian Trail or to the top of Mount Everest, building lower body strength can only better prepare you for whatever challenge you may end up facing.
Leg and ankle muscles and muscles for stability, strength, and endurance
- Create a stronger leg drive
- Increase your balance
- Tackle tough terrain with less fatigue
- Potentially reduce risk of injury
4 LOWER BODY BUILDERS TO TRY
- Arc Trainer: Your favorite program, but set body weight (BW) 30 lbs heavier!
- Leg Press: 2 sets of 50 reps @ BW, 3:00 rest between sets
- Leg Press: 1 set of 30 reps @ BW, pressing out with two legs and returning with one leg (alternating between left and right)
- Calf Raises: 2 sets of 8-12 reps, first set focusing the pressure on the outside of the foot; second set focusing the pressure on the inside of the foot
HOW THEY HELP
The Arc scales the resistance to your body weight, so it is essential to enter it when prompted. However, it is also valuable to sometimes enter an incorrect body weight. In this example, entering in a body weight that is greater will scale the Arc Trainer’s resistance to the effective body weight you’ll experience when hiking with a pack. This will help prepare the legs for the extra load you’ll be carrying on your back during those long hikes. The Leg Press for 50(!) reps will really challenge your strength endurance, while the one-leg return reps will help develop strength necessary for going downhill – which is more challenging than going uphill! Finally, hiking on uneven terrain can be more challenging to the ankle muscles responsible for stabilizing the joint. To train for this, performing calf raises with a different point of focus will shift some of the demand to the muscles on the inside and outside of the ankle.