What are the most essential exercises for hikers?
Right now, approximately half the world is thinking of going into hibernation as winter approaches. The other half is just about to go into the hiking season. Some of you are always in the hiking season. Lucky you! Whatever your season or location there are five essential exercises for hikers that will keep your body hiking ready all year round.
It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a short hiking weekend, warrior style, or preparing for a long through hike; fitness can’t be faked. For me, if I don’t stay fit I may be able to do the hike, but I will pay for it with either a painful injury or an uncomfortable recovery period. A combination of strength and flexibility exercises will keep your body ready for your next hiking adventure.
1 – Squats
Squats are the best way to build stronger quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Squat exercises are the building block for all physical activity. Squats can be done a multitude of ways either with weights or without. The important thing is to protect your back and knees by doing them properly. Here’s a link to demonstrate proper form.
2 – Lunges
Lunges don’t just strengthen your muscles but improve flexibility and stability. Lunges target the quadriceps and additional muscles, including the glutes, hamstrings, calves and core muscles. As with squats, the important thing is to do them properly to protect your knees and back. Here’s a link to demonstrate proper form.
3 – Heel Raises
Heel raises strengthen the ankle and calves. You need to have strong and flexible ankles to avoid strains when you slip on rocks or have to scurry over a log. Ankles can be vulnerable on the trail. Here’s a link to demonstrate proper form.
4 – Bridging
A strong core is essential for any physical activity. The bridge specifically targets the butt and hamstrings but also improves the abdominal muscles, lower back, and hip. I always know immediately when I’m slacking in the core area – my back becomes vulnerable to injury. Here’s a link to demonstrate proper form.
5 – High Box Step Up
I like to call this the pièce de résistance. The High Box Step Up will not only work your quadriceps, hamstrings, and butt but will improve stability and control in your core. It’s going to mimic climbing a mountain – you can’t do better than that indoors. Here’s a link to demonstrate proper form.
While these 5 exercises will target the most essential muscles used in hiking – don’t forget to incorporate flexibility sessions in your hiking training plan. Like any good exercise plan, begin slowly and increase weight and resistance as you go. Start with 2 days a week and with 3 sets of 15 repetitions for each exercise. Here’s a link to some great exercise tips for beginners.