Leg Fitness for Hiking


Hiking is all fun and games until you’re half way up a mountain and have to stop because of aching, quivering legs. The truth is if you want to be a badass hiker you are going to have to work at it…

If you’ve been preparing for your great trek by walking vigorously and doing cardio, you are half way there. Yes, cardio is a great form of exercise – it releases endorphins, increases stamina and controls your blood pressure (to name but a few benefits) but for a strenuous hike, some leg muscle training will help a great deal.

The correct techniques will help you improve your balance and flexibility as well as endurance, all of which are crucial for hiking and backpacking.

Not only will strengthening your leg muscles improve the overall experience it will also prevent any unnecessary injuries. Tearing a muscle or rupturing a tendon is not fun, especially on a hike.

Uphill climbs are particularly taxing on your body and a full body work out is recommended. However, one of the biggest misconceptions is that a downhill trek will be easier on your legs – wrong! It’s definitely easier on your lungs but your legs are working extra hard to keep you from falling forward and landing flat on your face.

Here are three exercises you can try to get your legs in great shape

1. Leg Hover Step Ups

These are great for working those quadriceps:

  • Use a box or any sturdy step (about 10 inches in height)
  • Hang the non working leg off the side of the step
  • Bend your knee and slowly lower your body until the unweighted foot is just above the floor
  • Then press up into the standing position
  • Repeat
  • For some variation you can hold a dumbbell in each hand

2.  Calf Raises

These are great for your glutes:

  • Place a 2×4 piece of board in front of you or any slightly raised platform
  • Place the balls of your feet towards the end of the board
  • Drop your heels until they almost touch the floor
  • Exhale and lift up to your tip-toes or as high as you can manage
  • Try to use your own bodyweight as resistance
  • Repeat

3. Lunges

These are great for working your hamstrings:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, make sure they are parallel
  • Take a fair stride forward using your right leg (keeping shoulder width distance)
  • Keep your torso in a vertical position and your shoulders directly over your hips
  • Lower your body until your knee is just above the floor
  • As you stand up bring your left leg forward to meet the right
  • Repeat

Being prepared physically and mentally will help you enjoy the great outdoors so much more. Of course, great gear is just as essential. Check out the Hiking category on this website to find the best gear reviews.

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