In this series, we will provide several different opinions regarding the Best Exercises For Hiking. This is a battle royale in which you’ll decide the hiking exercises to incorporate into your workout routine.
Round #1 – Cori’s Best Hiking Exercise Picks
You’re Reading: Round #2 – Clay’s Best Hiking Exercise Picks
Coming soon: Round #3 – Marcus’ Best Hiking Exercise Picks
I would argue that there is not a definitive list of the “BEST HIKING EXERCISES.” This series, however, provides a swath of opinions for the best hiking exercises. Round 2 comes from Clay. Clay is a hiker and trainer who lives in Seattle, WA. Clay has hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim, several slot canyons in Utah, the Enchantments Traverse in Washington, and other hikes throughout the Northwest and desert Southwest.
So here we go with Round #2. Check it out and decide which are the “BEST EXERCISES FOR HIKING.”
1. Hill Runs or Stair-climbing
2 of the best exercises for hiking are running up hills and stairs. For non-runners, brisk walking to the top is still useful.
Running hills or stair climbing builds strength and stamina to tackle the steepest parts of your hike. Any hill or staircase will do the trick. There are benefits to more vertical and longer hills and higher staircases. Still, it’s more important to find something and do it. When you feel strong enough, add a lightweight pack to intensify the exercise.
2. Squat Jumps
Squat jumps are a staple of most athletes for all sports and one of the best exercises for hiking.
Build strength and power through your legs and hips with this ballistic exercise.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Squat by dropping your hips back and flexing your knees to approximately 45 degrees, then jump explosively.
Land softly, toe-to-heel, absorbing the jump, then immediately jump again. When strength allows, you can hold light weights to intensify the exercise.
3. Bench Step-Ups
Bench Step-Ups are on many ‘Best Exercises for Hiking’ lists.
Find a 12-to-18-inch bench that you can step up and down on.
How: Place your right foot entirely on the bench, shift your weight completely onto the right leg, and stand to your full height. Momentarily balance on the right leg before bringing the left foot to the top of the bench. Step down and repeat for 10-15 reps, then do the same with the left leg. Increase intensity by adding a light pack.
4. Depth Drops
Depth Drops is one of the best exercises for hiking. They are more intense than they appear as stepping off high objects is critical for leg strengthening.
This exercise is excellent for building downhill strength, in other words absorbing load.
How: Standing on top of the bench, step off landing on both feet in a partial squat position. Be sure to absorb your landing toe-to-heel and flexing at the knees and hips. Engage the core to protect your back. You may hold light weights to increase intensity.
5. Walking Lunges
Walking Lunges also appear on many lists for the best exercises for hiking.
Lunges help build leg, hip, and core strength. Lunges also improve balance. Lunging down a hill helps build downhill hiking strength.
How: Stand tall with good posture engaging the core muscles. Take a big step forward with your right foot and drop into a lunge position. Flex both knees to a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the lunge. Your weight should be mostly on the front foot. Push through your front foot stepping forward while carrying your left foot forward, dropping into the next lunge. Make sure to pay special attention to align your knee with the ankle/foot; prevent the knees from leaning left or right. You may add a weighted pack to increase intensity.
6. Single Leg Squat and Touch
‘Single Leg Squat and Touch’ is an excellent exercise for building single-leg support strength and balance.
How: Stand with a tall posture on your right foot, squat by pushing your hips back, and flexing the knee and hip. Keeping your back straight, reach with your left hand and touch a low object, like a cone. Stand tall on your right foot to complete the exercise and repeat. Then switch to the left leg. Do three sets on each leg. To increase the intensity, add a loaded pack. For a more significant balance challenge, perform the exercise barefoot or on an unstable surface such as a folded beach towel or pillow. Balance discs and pads are also available commercially.
7. Mini Band Walks
Mini Band Walks is a unique ‘Best Exercise’ pick.
A mini band is a big, wide rubber band used to strengthen the outer hips (abductors). These muscles are critical for the stability of your hips and knees.
How: Place the band just above your knees. Maintain tension on the band as you step sideways with small steps. Start with 8-10 steps in each direction gradually increasing to 15-20 steps. Perform three sets. Slightly toeing-in while stepping will increase muscle engagement.
What are the Best Exercises for Hiking?
You just finished reading Clay’s best hiking exercise picks. In contrast be sure to read Cori’s best exercise picks. Note that the both of them listed Bench Step-Ups and Stair Climbing. Interesting huh? They curated their choices independently and unaware of what each one would include in their best exercises for hiking lists. Be on the lookout for Marcus’ list – 3rd one for the series and maybe the last unless one of you want to step up and submit a list; we are open to it and willing to help you write and publish it.
The BEST EXERCISES FOR HIKING series are great to read but no sense in deliberating on your own if you need help picking best exercises for your own hiking workout. Share your exercise ideas in the private Hiking Training Solutions Facebook group and get feedback from Clay and other experts and peers.
Disclaimer: Exercise is not without its risks. This or any other exercise program may result in injury and/or death. Any person who undertakes these exercises does so at their own risk. To reduce the risk of injury, you should consult your doctor before beginning this or any other exercise program. As with any exercise program, if at any point during your workout you believe conditions to be unsafe or start to feel faint or dizzy, have physical discomfort, or pain, you should stop immediately and consult a physician. It is important to perform exercises correctly to avoid injury. You should also acquire help and teaching to undergo any new exercise program safely.