As hikers, we all know downhill hiking can be tough. There is nothing quite like it to turn the legs into jelly, the toes into bruised messes and the knees into a genuine worry!
And when it comes to training for descents, a hiker needs to be smart. This article will share with you the two best exercises a hiker can do, to help their downhill hiking feel more comfortable.
How To Get Strong Legs For Downhill Hiking
If you struggle on this section of the trail, no amount of hiking is probably going to fix it. Sure, you might be a bit more comfortable after a while, but if you truly want to overcome this issue, and enjoy comfortable and pain-free descents on the trail, then you need to be doing much more!
And a big part of that process is strength training.
If you do it right, you can strengthen the legs in a very specific way, to help them be prepared for the demands of downhill hiking.
And today, I want to share with you my two favourite exercises for this:
#1 The Poliquin Step Down
As you probably know, the step down is one of my absolute favourite exercises for hikers and mountaineers alike. Once you have mastered this basic exercise, The Poliquin Step Up is the next progression.
This involves you doing a normal step down (i.e. standing on a plate, step or box and slowly dropping your heel to the floor), but in this instance, you have a slight raise under your heel.
This replicates very closely the angles associated with downhill hiking, and it can do wonders for getting your legs strong, stable and pain-free for descents.
Here is a short demonstration:
#2 The Forward Lunge
Hikers generally love lunges. And with good reason! They are challenging, specific, and they feel good!
And when it comes to downhill hiking, if you put a little bit more thought behind your lunges, you can get some incredible benefits.
Specifically, forward lunges are great to help here. This involves stepping forward, dropping down into a lunge and returning up to starting position. The key here is to keep a slow and controlled descent in each rep (and not just drop down). This approach will do wonders for descents.
Now when you have mastered this exercise, the next step up is something called the 'deficit lunge', which involves you standing on a small plate or step, and doing the same thing. This raised starting position will add some extra range to the exercise, will change the angles to replicate downhill hiking and it a serious challenge!
*If you suffer from knee pain while hiking, you definitely need to work up to this exercise.
Now there is a lot more that goes into best preparing a hiker for downhill hiking (such as mobility, muscular endurance, antagonist strength etc.) but master these two exercises, and you will notice a significant difference!
If you did struggle with downhill hiking, and you needed some help putting together a comprehensive program to overcome this issue (and get fit, strong and resilient in the process!) you can find me 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.