Strength Training for Hiking: A Step-By-Step Workout Plan To Prepare You

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Strength training is an important part of preparing for your hiking trip. You’re likely working on your cardio, but are you ignoring this important part of your training?

You’ve reserved your big hiking trip, like the Self-Guided Tour du Mont Blanc, Alta Via 1 or one of the other hiking tours that we offer.  You’re excited to take in all the splendid views! But you want to be sure that you’re fit enough to actually enjoy those views.


That’s why it’s so important to prepare for your big hike. And I’ve got the perfect hiking training plan for you.

Before getting started with any new fitness plan it’s always good to have a medical check-up to avoid the risk of injury. If you have any old nagging injuries, get these assessed by your doctor or physiotherapist.

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Your hiking training plan should include both strength training and cardio.
Strength training should be an important part of your hiking training program.

It’s important to take these small aches and pains into account when training for hiking. You should also factor in how much time you have to train. 

If you have any joint pain/injury (ankles, knees or shoulders) it is imperative that you seek professional advice in advance.

You’ll want to ensure that you work specifically to increase muscle strength in those areas to prevent any serious problems during your hiking trip.

Hiking poles will take some of the pressure off your joints but you’ll still want to strengthen these areas before.

Besides getting you ready to take on that big hike, strength training also has other great health benefits like increasing your cardiovascular health and bone density. 

Related Reading: Algarve in Portugal Hiking Tour

How to Train for a Hike When You Don’t Live Near the Mountains

If you don't live near mountains incorporate stairs into your hiking training program.
Training on stairs is a good alternative if you don’t live near the mountains.

Now you might be asking yourself, how do I train for hiking when I do not live near a mountain nearly as big as where I plan on hiking? I have good news for you. 

There are many ways to prepare. The first step is mapping out just how many weeks you have left until your trip. Then determine how many hours per week you have to dedicate in order to meet your goal.

It is important that you set realistic and achievable goals for yourself. Once you’ve got that sorted you can get down to the fun stuff and get out and get moving.

Related Reading: Southern Via Dinarica in Montenegro, Albania & Kosovo

Here are some ways that you can train for your hike:

Train for your hike now so that it will be more enjoyable.

    • Plan on walking 3 – 5 times per week.  Vary your speed and distances. Be sure to include one long-distance and one brisk walk per week. If possible take the hilliest routes in your area.  Consider bringing a backpack with you so that you can get accustomed to carrying weight. Each week can add more weight to your pack. Ideally use the same backpack that you’ll use when hiking so that you get used to it.

    • Take the stairs. This is important not only to build your cardiovascular endurance but will also strengthen your quads which will help you with the ascents throughout your hike. 
    • BUILD YOUR CORE! It’s a major muscle but is often overlooked. Having a strong core (I’m not talking six-pack abs) will help you more than you think.  When carrying a heavy backpack and as fatigue sets in, a strong core foundation is invaluable to get you up the mountain. 
    • If you have a gym membership, take advantage of the incline setting on the treadmill and the stair climber. Look for other equipment geared towards building leg strength and getting your heart rate up.  

It is important that you get in the miles on your feet.  Whenever possible use the same hiking boots you plan to wear on your trip.  If you plan on getting new ones, now is the time to break them in.

Related Reading: HIking for Beginners: How to Have an Amazing Day

Strength Training Exercises for Hikers

Be sure that your strength training for hiking program includes lots of squats and lunges.
Squats and lunges are an important part of strength training for hiking since you need leg strength.

Here is what you should prioritize in order to get the biggest bang for your buck. Depending on how much time you have on hand add one or all of the following routines to your weekly walks or even better hikes to round out your training.

Leg strength is paramount for hiking. If you have wobbly legs your hike will feel very long and difficult and not enjoyable. And you want to enjoy this. Many of these workouts can be done with bodyweight alone or with weights.

Don’t be afraid to start with a lighter weight and work your way up. You can see photos and more explanations of each of the exercises mentioned below by clicking here.

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Strength Training Leg Routine for Hikers: 

Repeat this pyramid 2-4 times.

10 – Glute Bridges

20 – Reverse Lunges (10 each side)

30 – Squats

20 – Steps ups (10 each side)

10 – Side lunges (5 each side)

Related Reading: Coastal Hike: Costa Brava, Spain to France

Strength Training for Your Core (Important for Hikers)

Core strength is the foundation of your house.  Without it, we would crumble forwards. These exercises will activate and reconnect you with your core:

Repeat this routine 2-4 times.

20 – Bird Dogs (10 each side)

15 – Overhead reaches (Deadbug if more advanced)

15 – Side plank with hip dips (knees bent or legs fully extended) (each side)

15 – Supermans

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Strength Training for the Upper Body for Hikers

Last but not least, this routine targets your upper back and shoulders to build that much-needed strength when carrying your backpack all day. Note this plan is if you’re planning on carrying a day pack. If you’re planning on backpacking, see the plan below this section. 

Repeat this routine 2-4 times.

10 – Cat cows

15 – Shoulder retractions

10 – Wall angels

15 – Push-ups

10 – Pike push-ups

30-second plank

It is also important that throughout your hiking preparation that you take time to stretch and rest.  After each training session is sure that you stretch your quads, hamstrings, glutes, back, and arms. 

Muscle tightness can lead to imbalances and ultimately pain or injury.  Be sure that you do no “overtrain” and that you include at least 1 full day of complete rest to allow your body to regenerate and recharge.

Related Reading: Alta Via 1 Hiking Tour in Dolomites Italy Entire, North or South Route

Preparing For Carrying A Backpack During Your Hike

Backpacking workout plan for hikers.
If you’re doing a backpacking trip you’ll need additional training for your posterior chain.

First things first. Ensure that you choose the right backpack for your body type and the type of hike that you’ll be doing. You’ll find lots of great tips and recommendations in our article 13 Best Hiking Backpacks.

Strength Training Specifically For Backpacking 

It’s important to strengthen your posterior chain, neck, and shoulders. Doing so will minimize aches and pains throughout your hike. Before we get into a specific backpack training program, let’s start with the most obvious way to train.

Carry a weighted backpack during your weekly training.  Each week you can add additional weight to your pack in order to build up strength and endurance. 

Related Reading: Tour du Mont Blanc Self-Guided Tours

Strengthening the “Posterior Chain”

Wear your hiking boots when doing the walking or hiking parts of your training plan.
Try to hike (or walk) in the shoes that you’ll be wearing as often as possible when you’re training.

Now let’s get back to that “posterior chain”.  What’s that you ask? A posterior chain is a group of muscles comprised of the calves, hamstrings, gluteus muscles, multifidus, erector spinae, trapezius, and posterior deltoids. 

This group of muscles is essential in keeping us erect and keeping our hips stable.  More often than not we have an imbalance between the anterior chain and the posterior chain from an over-focus on quad and ab exercises.

This can lead to pain and weakness in our backs and our hips. So how does this tie into hiking?  Carrying a heavy backpack for multiple days at a time is taxing on the body. And it’s especially taxing on your lower back, neck, and shoulders.

Related Reading: Croatia Hiking Tour: Split to Dubrovnik

Strength Training Workout  for Backpackers

Backpacking workout plan for multi-day hikers.
You’ll be glad you followed this backpacking workout plan when you’re in the mountains.

Here are some simple exercises that you can incorporate into the above hiking training program.

You can see photos and more explanations of each of the exercises mentioned below by clicking here

– Good mornings or Romanian deadlifts

– Glute bridges

– Hip thrusters

– Kettlebell swings

– Bent over rows or cable pull-throughs

– Calf raises

– Wall angels

Ensure that you do the stretches listed above when you’re finished.

Related Reading: Crete White Mountains Hiking Tour

Hiking can bring you to the most marvelous and wondrous places but having a weak back can ruin the experience.  These training recommendations will have you well on your way to ensuring you are prepared to take on the mountains!

By doing cardio and strength training you’ll be ready for your hiking trip and you’ll minimize your chance of injury and fatigue. Most importantly, you’ll feel good and enjoy your multi-day hike!

Amanda Isaac is a certified Personal Trainer and Nurse based in Munich, Germany.  She specializes in core and pelvic floor training and provides one to one training.  Get your free “Core Foundations” program by subscribing to the newsletter at

© You Are Stunning Photography by Oli Beer




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