Strength Training in incredibly beneficial for trekking. And every trekker should be incorporating it into their training. However many lifelong hikers don't really want to go to the gym... So what is the solution?
Well instead of simply ignoring strength training and labeling everyone who does it a 'gym junkie', you should know there are plenty of ways to develop it outside!
And while it is probably easiest to develop in a gym environment, there are a number of ways of very effective ways trekkers can still develop muscular strength, just about anywhere.
Spoiler alert: No, it doesn't involve doing a thousand squats or lunges...
Why Trekkers Need Strength Training
Strength training is a very broad term. What we are going to be talking about today is 'maximal strength'. Which is the maximal amount of force your muscles can produce.
And while it might seem a bit counter intuitive to want to build maximal strength for an endurance sport like trekking, there is concrete evidence that by developing this you can:
How To Develop Strength
When you are looking at developing muscular strength, you need to follow a few principles:
And it should be noted, when trekkers are training for strength they are not training for bigger muscles...
Instead, trekkers are training for something called 'neuromuscular coordination'. This basically means you are training the connection between the brain and the muscles, so they can contract more effectively and efficiently when you are exercising.
Strength Workouts For Trekkers
There are a number of great ways trekkers can get strong, without hitting the gym:
Hill sprints are a great option to develop muscular strength.
Here is how you do it:
To progress this (because progression is key to any exercise) you can add an extra set or find a steeper hill.
A word of warning: this is a pretty intense workout. And should only be done by those who have a recent history of running and have no lower limb issues. Each workout should be preceded with a warm up as well as 2-3 'moderately paced' sprints to ease yourself it.
*I am not claiming to have created this workout. It has as been borrowed from the great guys at Uphill Athlete.
This can be a great option to develop muscular strength. However a common mistake in the trekking world is to just perform endless squats and lunges and think you are getting 'stronger'. While this might help for aerobic fitness and muscular endurance, if the exercise isn't difficult enough, it will not stimulate changes in your strength.
To combat this, you need to be choosing exercises which are challenging!
A great exercise here is the pistol squat:
This is the king of bodyweight exercises for trekkers. However, for obvious reasons, the pistol squat is incredibly challenging and may not be appropriate for everyone.
If this is you, choose one of its regressions. Pick one which is achievable, but you cannot complete for more than eight repetitions. Train this exercise a couple of times a week and once you can comfortably do more then eight, then move to the next progression.
In the gym, sled pushing can be a great way to develop lower body strength. And while not everyone has access to a sled, it is very easy to replicate outside!
Here is how you do it:
Don't have a car? Get creative! Drag a tire behind you. Push your lawnmower. As long as it is safe and there is load, you should be good to go!
*For those who don't have a recent history of running this is a much better alternative to the hill sprints mentioned above.
Training for strength can be incredibly beneficial for trekking. You now know a few great options to develop strength outside of the gym. Incorporate this in your training and not only will you help prevent common trekking injuries, but you will greatly improve your movement efficiency and confidence on the trail as well.
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 hikers have the best chance of a safe, enjoyable and successful adventure.