Hike it up: 10 Exercises to Benefit Hikers

There’s no doubt that hiking requires a good measure of endurance. Even if you’re an avid walker, the steep hills and rough terrain will test your cardiovascular system, not to mention your balance, strength and flexibility.

Therefore, it pays to prepare for long jaunts with a complete workout program that helps you surmount the physical challenges that hiking places on your body.

With that being said, below are exercises that will help ready your body for arduous hiking treks.

Endurance Training (Brisk Walking and Running)

First thing first: you’ll need to build up your stamina. Say, you’re partaking in a five-mile hike – you’ll need to walk 30-45 minutes (at a decent pace), three times a week, varying the grade. Add running in once or twice a week, preferably on hilly landscapes, so when you hike, it will be even less of a challenge.

But make sure you hit your target heart rate during running, so you’re experiencing the training benefits.

Calculating Target Heart Rate

Subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate. Multiple that number by 0.5 – 0.7 (50 percent—70 percent for moderate intensity) or by 0.7—0.85 (70—0.85 percent for vigorous intensity) to determine THR zone.

For instance: A person who’s 35 years of age, their target HR (220-35=185) zone at 70-85 percent is 129—175 beats per minute (Source: Mayo Clinic).

Leg Strength Training

Jump Squats

Leg strength is paramount in hiking, especially when it comes to tackling daunting peaks and valleys.

Speaking of tackling hills, there’s nothing better than plyometric leg exercises to help build the explosive strength need race up an incline, and to descent off a slope, when your legs are working overtime in order to keep you from falling over.

One of my favorite leg exercises for dynamic power is the jump squat (watch video)—a plyometric staple that helps to build the forceful quadricep power needed to overtake hellish hills.

  • Start by going down as low as possible into a deep knee bend, with your arms by your side, and jump as high as you can.
  • Perform 4 sets of 8-12 repetitions, 2-3 times a week.
  • As your leaping ability develops, challenge yourself by jumping onto a high, flat surface.

Basic Lunge (with or without weights)

  • With your hands on your hips or dumbbells in each hand, lunge one leg forward a few inches off the ground, landing on your heel.
  • It’s important to remember not to extend your knee pass your foot, as it may cause a knee injury over time.
  • Switch legs, and perform the same sequence as above.
  • Perform 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps for each leg, 2-3 times per week.

Upper Body Strength Training

Your arms and chest aren’t there just for the ride. A strong upper body will help you pump up that hill in grand, rapid fashion. So developing the area will help pay tremendous dividends.

Pushup – View demonstration (Chest)

The basic pushup is a great way to develop upper body strength.


  • Place your hands at your sides on the floor, parallel to your chest.
  • Keep your feet, hips and legs in a straight line with your shoulders.
  • Slowly lower yourself down, and push yourself back up to the point in which your elbows are locked or soft-locked.
  • Perform 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps, 2-3 times per week. Work your way up to multiple reps of 20-25 and higher as you get stronger.

Note: If a regular pushup is too difficult to complete, try modifying it by doing it on your knees while raising your torso. This will help you build up to a regular pushup.

Standing Dumbbell Curl (Biceps)

  • Grab a dumbbell of appropriate weight, one in which you lift without sacrificing form.
  • Stand with your legs shoulder width apart, holding the weight with your palm out.
  • Slowly raise the dumbbell until you feel a full contraction, but don’t push it pass that point.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell to the starting position.
  • Repeat with the other hand.
  • Perform 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps, 2-3 times a week.

Abdominals and Lower Back Muscles

No hiking training program would be complete without strengthen these core muscles, as they are the foundation for everything your body does while hitting the hiking trail. The lower back, particularly, takes a pounding while out on the terrain.

Crunches (abdominals)

  • Lie supine, and clasp your arms behind your head, without pulling on it.
  • Slowly curl your torso toward your knees, bringing your shoulders four to six inches off the ground (don’t sit up).
  • Hold for a second, while pressing your lower back into the mat.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Perform slow, smooth and evenly; it’s not a race.
  • Perform 5-7 sets of 25 reps four days a week.

Back Extensions (Erector Spinae)

After performing crunches, this exercise will work the antagonist muscles of the abdominal area, the erector spinae, located in the lower back.

  • Lie on your stomach (prone), with your arms by your side, with your hands on the floor for support.
  • Slowly raise your torso until you feel those muscles in the small of your back contracting (you may want to slightly push off with hands in order to maximize the exercise).
  • Hold for a few seconds, while tightening your lower back, and then slowly return to the starting position.
  • Perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps, 2-3 a week.

Flexibility Training

Supine Knee-to-Chest Stretch (Lower Back, Outer Hip and Gluteal Area (Parts of the Core).

Hiking places a pounding on the lower back, as well as the outer hip and gluteal regions. So this flexibility exercise will help loosen those areas.

  • While lying on the floor, grab one bent leg behind the knee, and pull it close to your chest while keeping the other leg bent or straight on the floor while relaxed.
  • You should feel a slight stretch in your lower back region, along with a measure of “comfortable” tension in the hip and gluteal areas.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • Repeat three to five times, then stretch the opposite leg.
  • Perform this flexibility exercise 2-3 times a week.

Standing Quadricep Stretch (vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis and rectus femoris).

This is an easy to accomplish exercise that stretches all four of the quadricep muscles.

Increased quadricep flexibility will allow you greater range of motion in your walking and running strides, thus getting you to where you want to go faster while decreasing the possibility of injury.

  • Stand on your left leg, and gradually pull your foot up to your posterior while feeling the tension in the front of your leg.
  • Engage your abdominals to prevent your lower back from arching.
  • Hold for 15-20 seconds, and repeat 3-5 times while alternating each leg.
  • Perform this flexibility exercise 2-3 times a week.

Written by Jerry Del Priore for Bodono.

Jerry Del Priore has worked as a certified personal trainer, and received his degree in Physical Education from Brooklyn College in 1991. Jerry is also a veteran print and digital Sports Writer-Reporter-Author experienced in writing in-depth profile stories on a variety of high school, college and professional athletes and teams.

Additionally, Jerry has developed a presentation based on his book, Running Through Roadblocks, which encourages children to overcome obstacles and never give up…no matter what!

Specialties: Baseball, football, hockey and basketball writing. Jerry also has covered lacrosse, soccer, golf and track and field, with ample experience cover women’s sports. Jerry is also a Food Writer/Blogger experienced in venue write-ups and reviews.

In addition, Jerry has ample experience working with medically fragile children, children with behavioral challenges and children with cognitively impairments.

Read Jerry Del Prior’s book: Running Through Roadblocks and view his blog at www.Brooklynsportsworld.com.