As hikers, we are well aware that uphill hiking can be tough. Burning legs, red faces and heaving lungs, it can be a genuine challenge on many adventures. And if you throw a heavy pack in the mix, it can turn into a real ordeal.
When it comes to training for uphill, a hiker needs to be smart. While getting your legs strong is always going to be good, there are a few specific exercises which will help you more in this situation. This article will share with you three of the best strength exercises a hiker can do, to turn their uphill hiking into a walk in the park.
Exercises For Hiking Uphill
If you struggle with hiking uphill, more than likely no matter how much hiking you do, this isn't really going to change. Yes, you might get a bit more comfortable over time, but if you genuinely want to make a change here, and turn uphill hiking into your strongest section of the trail, than you need to be doing more.
And the first thing any hiker should turn to here is structured strength training.
If done right, you can greatly increase the strength and power of your legs to help them specifically during uphill hiking.
And today, I want to share with you a few of my favourite exercises for this:
#1 The Barbell Step Up
Without a doubt, the absolute best exercise a hiker can do to improve their strength for uphill hiking is the barbell step up.
This is the single most specific exercise a hiker can do for this situation, and it will directly impact your ability to go uphill with ease (especially if you are carrying a heavy pack).
A few reasons why it is so great:
If you are doing this, a few points to remember:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Now if you are not 100% confident with a barbell on your back, holding a couple of dumbells or wearing a weights vest can be just as effective.
#2 The Front Squat
One of the single best exercises a hiker can do to improve their power uphill is the barbell front squat.
In my opinion, just about everyone should learn to squat with Goblet Squats (holding a dumbbell on your chest). But as time goes on, and your legs get stronger, it can be pretty tough holding onto that dumbbell.
Now the next step that most people take next here is to try out the barbell back squat (putting a barbell across the back of your shoulders). While this is a great exercise if you do it well, unfortunately, it is pretty easy to get wrong.
A great alternative to this is the barbell front squat. By holding the barbell on the front of your shoulders, you can keep your torso upright and really eliminate much of the risk of hurting your back.
It is great for:
And training this exercise will directly help your legs power up those steep uphills!
Now to be completely honest, it will feel a bit weird at first. And many people find it quite uncomfortable... but if you stick with it, and learn it properly, it can be one of the VERY best exercises you can do to get your legs mountain strong!
If this exercise is a bit too advanced for you, a great place to start is the goblet squat. This will work the same muscles and have the same benefits, but only requires a dumbbell instead of a barbell:
#3 Single Leg Calf Raises
One area which is often neglected by hikers, but is so incredibly important for uphill hiking is calf strength.
The calves are incredibly important at helping your legs propel you uphill. And most hikers will be familiar with that dreaded calf burn when going up steep inclines (not to mention that resulting stiffness the next day!).
To combat this, calf strengthening should be made a priority. And while it can be incredibly boring to complete for many, it needs to be done!
Probably the best exercise for this, is the single-leg, loaded calf raise.
A few tips for this:
If you struggle with this version, feel free to do this body weight or on two legs.
Now there is a lot more that goes into best preparing a hiker for uphill hiking (such as mobility, muscular endurance, hill intervals, antagonist strength etc.) but master these three exercises, and I guarantee you will notice a big difference on your ascents.
If you do struggle with uphill hiking, and you wanted some help with a comprehensive, specialist training program to get you ready for the hills, you can find the help you need here:
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.