3 Circuit Workouts to Prepare You for Hiking Season

With the winter season almost behind us, it's time to start thinking about spring and summer hiking and backpacking adventures. Whether you're looking to continue making good on fitness New Year's resolutions, to jump start your preparation for spring hiking and backpacking, or if you're just looking to get your sweat on in a different way, we've got a few circuit workout ideas for you.

Work/Rest Hill Sprints (30-40 Minutes)

It sounds simple, but if you're looking for a cardio boost that'll up your power output on hikes and backpacking trips, hill sprints are remarkably effective. Long, steady-state jogging has its benefits, especially if you're working on training your body and your mind to be in motion for extended periods of time, but if you find you don't enjoy running long distances or if you're looking for a way to switch things up, try work/rest sprint intervals. Sprinting gives you an opportunity to increase your power, speed, strength, and has different metabolic advantages. You'll also get cardiovascular and lung capacity benefits. It's also, in my opinion, more fun than long, slow runs!

Try It: 2 sets of 7-10 rounds, sprint 100m uphill (about 20 seconds), walk back to start

Warm up with 5-10 minutes of light cardio, like jogging or an easy ride on a bike. The most important part about this workout is making the most of every sprint interval, and you'll want to be loose, even sweating a bit before you start. Whether you're on a slight incline or a steep hill, really push yourself on the sprint portions, and take your time on the walk back to your starting point. After completing 7-10 sprints, take a two minute rest and repeat. If you're really up for a challenge, complete 15-20 of these hill sprints with no break in the middle.

Full Body Circuit EMOM (32 Minutes)


If you have a short attention span like I do, it can be tough to find a workout that'll get your heart pumping without boring you too quickly. As effective as workouts like hill sprints are, I love finding ways to mix up my cardio training, especially if I can get weights involved.

We use EMOM (every minute on the minute) style training almost daily at my CrossFit gym as a way to train different systems in our bodies and to train different movements, all at once. And depending on the way the EMOM is set up, the faster you move on each exercise, the more rest you get. Proceed through minutes 1-4, then repeat until 32 minutes have passed.

Try It: 32:00 EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute) of squats, push-ups, step-ups, & plank holds

Minute 1: 20 squats, bodyweight or with a medicine ball. To properly execute the squat, stand with your feet hip width apart and your toes turned slightly outward. Begin the movement by pushing your hips back and lowering down as if you're about to sit in a chair, keeping your weight on your mid-foot. Make sure you reach full depth by allowing your hip crease to pass below your knee. You can do these without weight, but if you're looking for an added challenge, grab a medicine ball and hug it to your chest while you squat, working on keeping your eyes and chest up. Click here for a video.

Minute 2: 10 push-ups. Get into a high plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders and elbows fully extended. Maintaining rigid alignment from your heels through your hips and all the way to your shoulders, and keeping your elbows close to your sides, lower down and touch your chest to the floor. Push back up and fully extend your elbows. If you can't make it through the full range of motion without losing tension in your core, or without touching your chest to the floor and extending your elbows, try going to your knees. Click here for a video.

Minute 3: 10 alternating, 20 total, weighted box step-ups. Want to make those big, high steps you take on the trail easier? This exercise will help. Choose a box height that mimics a high step, and complete one step up on each side for a full repetition. Weight these by holding a dumbbell in each hand for an added challenge. Click here for a video.

Minute 4: 30-second plank hold. Get into a pushup position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders, and imagine pulling your bellybutton toward your spine to maintain tension in your core. It's called a "plank" position for a reason; keep your body in a nice, straight line for the entire 30 seconds. Drop down to your elbows if you're more comfortable there. For an added challenge, and only if you're able to keep tension in your core, try lifting one foot off the ground. Click here for a video.

Tabata Interval Training (16 Minutes)

High knees

The concept of high intensity interval training (HIIT) isn't particularly new, but when it comes to effective methods for executing the concept, the Tabata method is as good as it gets. It's eight rounds of ultra-high intensity movement for 20 second followed by 10 seconds of rest for four total minutes of work.

The methodology, named after Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata, is simple, but if it's done right, you'll absolutely feel the burn. It's only four minutes, but if you're not absolutely toast after those four minutes, go harder next time. I love the Tabata method because you can apply the concept to any movement.

Try It: Tabata High Knees, 2:00 break, Tabata Mountain Climbers, 2:00 break, Tabata Burpees

Remember, make sure you complete each Tabata series at full intensity, and earn the two minute break in between each round. Do eight rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 second off of high knees (click here for a video), rest two minutes, do eight rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off of mountain climbers (click here for a video), rest two minutes, then do eight rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off of burpees (click here for a video).

Of course, all material in this article is for informational use only. It's always a good idea to perform weightlifting movements with a partner and/or spotter. Any exercise you read about on this site are to be attempted at your own risk. Enjoy and have a great spring season!

Want more workouts to power your outdoor fun? Give these a try:

Get Ready for Hiking Season with These Two Killer Workouts

30-Minute Glute Workout to Power Your Outdoor Adventures

20-Minute Total Body Outdoor Workout

Work it Out: Eight Exercises for Stronger, More Stable Hiking

Team Sierra
posted by
Katie Levy
Blogger at Adventure-Inspired
Katie Levy is a self-proclaimed outdoor adventure addict and loves sharing her passion for playing outside with anyone willing to listen. Though currently based in Philadelphia, spending her formative years in upstate New York and two years in Alaska fostered a lifelong passion for the outdoors. After 13 years as a competitive swimmer, she followed that passion on backpacking trips in the Adirondacks, on sub-zero winter hikes in the Chugach Mountains and up Mount Rainier. These days, if she's not out on the trail, you'll find working on her other passion, Adventure-Inspired, or getting her WOD on at CrossFit Love. Team Sierra bloggers receive promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post.
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