Strength training for hikers and trekkers really can do a number of amazing things...
From improved joint stability to better movement economy. From reduced risk of injury to improved confidence. It really shouldn't be overlooked in any trek training program!
However there is quite a bit of confusion around strength training - which leads a lot of trekkers missing out on these amazing benefits!
So today I am going to clear up any confusion and share what trekkers should (and should not do) when it comes to strength training for trek preparation.
The do's and Don't of Strength Training For Trekkers:
DON'T: Waste time on isolation exercises.
If you are doing exercises that target single muscle groups - such as bicep curls, leg extensions or even sit ups - you are not making the best use of your time.
DO: Train Compound Movements.
Train exercises that target multiple muscle groups at a time. Things like squats, deadlifts, rows etc. No one has hours to spend at the gym each day - so these are your best bang for your buck.
DON'T: Only Stick To High Reps
Chasing the burn with repetition work can be great for building muscular endurance... However if this is all you are doing, then you are missing out on a huge amount of benefits.
DO: Work Towards Heavier Lifting
For trekkers, some of the best benefits are stimulated from high weight, low repetition work. A reasonable amount of your programming should be dedicated to this.
*If you are new to strength training, or are not 100% confident lifting heavier - I HIGHLY recommend you work with an exercise professional.
DON'T: Do A HIIT Class
HIIT is great for weight loss. It isn't great for trekkers. The 'strength training' components of these classes usually have minimal thought behind them, completely miss entire muscle groups and have an unnecessarily high risk of injury.
DO: Work Off A Program
The body thrives on consistency. By following a structured program and building off it each week - you can ensure you are continually progressing in a safe and effective way.
DON'T: Only Do Squats And Lunges
This is what 95% of 'preparation advice' says on the internet... To get the best benefits of strength training, a little more thought needs to go into it then this...
DO: Train The Body In Balance
For every exercise focused on the front of the body (i.e. squat, lunge, push up) you should balance it with an exercise focused on the back of the body (e.g. deadlifts, glute bridges, seated row). This way you can ensure the body stays in balance, you hit all the necessary muscle groups and don't miss something crucial!
By following this strength training advice, you will be ahead of 90% of other trekkers. And whether you want to summit Kilimanjaro, conquer Kokoda or simply want to hike pain free in your local national park... it will do wonders towards a safe, enjoyable and successful adventure.
Rowan is a personal trainer who specialises in training for hiking, trekkers and mountaineers for their bucket list adventures.
Summit Strength is a personal training for hiking service created specifically to help trekkers have the best chance of a safe, enjoyable and successful bucket list adventure.