Hiking is excellent for fitness and your mental health. There are only so many activities that will give you the same benefits. You’re out in the open air, enjoying the views while getting your heart rate up and working your leg muscles. That’s where our tips for the best exercises for hiking can help!

To train for hiking, you can simply go on a few hikes. But if you are serious about making the most out of your time on the trails, there are a few things you can do. By targeting some areas of your body, you can hike for longer and enjoy yourself much more.

Kettlebell deadlifts are great exercises for hikers

What You Need To Work On For Effective Hiking Training

Build Muscle

Hikers rely on strong muscles. By improving your leg strength and building a strong core, you can go on longer hikes in more exciting places with more elevation gain. It would be best to improve your shoulders and lower back strength. This allows you to manage a heavy backpack better and take on more challenging terrain.

Improve Your Endurance

When those muscle groups become stronger, you can hike for longer. Therefore you won’t be limited to short hikes on flat surfaces. Instead, you can make your hikes into all-day activities, even on uneven terrain.

Work On Balance

Good balance is essential for hiking. This is because you will be more stable, which will benefit you when uphill hiking. It is also beneficial when on challenging terrain and in precarious situations.

Improve Your Cardio

It is an excellent idea to improve your cardiovascular health for hiking. Your hiking will significantly benefit from adding activities, like mountain biking or trail running into your training program. You will undoubtedly feel the difference, especially at high altitudes.

When To Start Training For Hiking

Ideally, you should start training with these exercises for hiking for a long hike about eight weeks in advance. It would be best to incorporate these exercises for hikers and similar activities and workouts into your weekly training program.

For example, do two strength training workouts and three cardio sessions per week. But ensure you add two rest days between workouts to lower your risk of injury. Change your cardio workouts to long walks with a backpack two weeks before your long hike. But you should also taper off your training a couple of days before the long hike to give your body a chance to recover.

The Best Exercises For Hiking


Squats are a great way for hikers to strengthen the larger leg muscles. They work your hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps, the muscles you use most while hiking. The good news is that they are easy to do, and you can start with bodyweight squats and then add weights to do goblet squats.

To do a squat, place your feet shoulder-width apart with most of your weight in your heels. Then slowly dip down until your thighs are in line with the floor, but make sure your knees stay over your toes.

Once your legs are parallel to the floor, stand up straight by pushing through your heels. This is one rep.

To turn this exercise into a goblet squat, hold a kettlebell or a dumbbell with two hands in front of your chest. Start with a lightweight and go heavier as your fitness progresses.


The step-up is another excellent exercise for hikers as it works your glutes and quads. You need these muscles to help you tackle steep inclines while hiking. You can do steps in the gym on a box or any step you may have at home.

To do a step up properly, stand in front of your step and place one foot on it. Then simply use your muscles to step up until your leg is fully extended and you are upright on both legs. Then step down on the same leg before repeating on the other side.

You can increase the intensity of this exercise by using a higher step or box. Alternatively, holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in each hand increases resistance. This is a great way of improving muscular endurance for hiking.

Downhill Lunges

Most people find walking downhill more challenging than uphill. This is due to the punishment it can put your quads through, especially taking on big descents. Downhill lunges are excellent for muscle strength, which is essential for going downhill on a big hike.

Look for a hill with a mellow gradient. Stand facing down the slope with your shoulders back. Then step forward with your left foot and your core engaged. You should lower your hips until your left knee is at a 90-degree angle over your front foot. Press into your heels to stand back up with your feet together. Then repeat by stepping forward into the lunge with your right foot.

Do this exercise repeatedly and increase the distance you walk as your leg strength improves.

Kettlebell Deadlift

The deadlift is an excellent exercise for your hamstrings, which gets a great workout while hiking. Therefore, it’s worth improving their strength before a big hike.

If it’s your first time doing a kettlebell, deadlifts start with a light weight until you can do the exercise with proper form. It won’t take long before you want to increase the weight.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and make sure your toes point forwards. Hold the kettlebell with both hands between your thighs with your body upright. Make sure your back is straight before bending at the hips and slightly sticking your backside out. Gently bend your knees to a squat position until the kettlebell touches the floor between your feet. Then straighten your knees until you are back at your starting position. This is one rep.

Calf Raises

Calf raises are a great exercise for hiking as it greatly helps you ascend tricky hills with a heavy pack. There are quite a few types of calf raises you can do; here’s a short rundown of what you can do.

You can do a single-leg calf raise by standing on a step on the ball of one foot. Gently lower yourself until your heel points at the floor, and you feel a stretch in the back of your calf. Then use your calf muscle to raise up until you’re on your tiptoes.

Mix it up by pointing your toe slightly inwards or outwards to target different parts of your calf muscle. You can also add weight by holding a dumbbell on the side you are working. You can also do this exercise by standing with a barbell on your shoulders and raising up on both feet.

Final Thoughts

As you can see the best exercises for hiking take place in the lower body. They build the foundation of muscular strength to take you from a casual hiker to an avid hiker.

But don’t forget to improve your core strength with exercises such as planks, t-stabilizations, and Pilates. Building your shoulder and back muscles to maintain good posture with a backpack on difficult hikes is also a good idea.

If you’re new to hiking or exercising, it is best to consult a doctor or fitness specialist. They can advise you on the best exercises to prepare for your backpacking trip.

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Tom Fortune

Tom is an outdoor enthusiast and writer based in the French Alps. Most days, you can find Tom shredding the slopes on a snowboard or splitboard, exploring the mountains on a hike, or hitting the trails on a mountain bike.

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