Get Ready For Hiking Season With These Two Killer Workouts

Whether you've got long backpacking trips or day hikes on the agenda as the weather warms up, making sure you're well-conditioned will make any adventure more enjoyable. Of course, the best training for any sport is the sport itself. Want to get in better shape for hiking? Grab your favorite backpack, load it up, and get yourself out on the trail. Mimic the activity as closely as possible. But if you can't get out as often as you'd like, hitting the gym with a few targeted workouts can help you increase your level of fitness for your next outdoor adventure.

This winter, we looked at eight exercises for stronger, more stable hiking. Putting them and other related movements together in specific combinations will help you prep for the long hauls on the trail. Both of these workouts are designed to be done with equipment available in most gyms, and in case you're short on time, both can be completed in 30 minutes. Both follow a similar format -- moderate to heavy lifting, accessory conditioning work, and cardiovascularly taxing intervals. Using an EMOM (every minute on the minute) format for some of the accessory and interval work will help keep you on time and keep the blood pumping.

Workout 1 -- Squats, Lunges, and High Intensity Sprints

  • Warmup -- 5:00 of light cardio, include mobility for hip flexors, quads, calves, ankles, hamstrings

  • In 10:00, warm up to 3x5 (three sets of five) squats at a moderate/challenging weight

  • 10:00 EMOM - 10 alternating weighted lunges

  • 10:00 EMOM - Sprint for 30 seconds, Active Rest for 30 seconds

This workout is designed to focus on leg strength, power, and overall endurance. Start by making sure the parts of your body we're targeting are warmed up by focusing on mobility and stretching after five minutes of light cardio (biking, jogging, or rowing, for example).

Hiking Workout

Lift: Once you're warmed up, it's time to squat. Back squats aren't just a fantastic leg strengthening exercise; having weight on your back is something you'll deal with regularly on hikes and backpacking trips. Being able to stabilize your core and move mindfully when you're carrying a heavy load is key. In the first ten minutes of your 30 minute workout, start without any weight on the barbell, and gradually build up to a weight you're able to do for three sets of five repetitions, but that is challenging. Use a spotter at all times. Revisit tips related to setting up to squat, proper form, and proper execution here.


Accessory: After you're done with your squats, you'll transition to another ideal leg strengthening exercise, but one that focuses on one leg at a time. You can lunge with a barbell on your back or holding individual weights in each hand. Both methods require core stability, which is what we're looking for. Complete ten alternating repetitions every minute on the minute for ten minutes, 100 lunges in total. The first time you try this, be conservative with the weights for the first minute or two. The repetitions add up quickly. Revisit tips related to dumbbell lunges here.

Conditioning: For the last part of the workout, choose any cardiovascularly taxing movement for a ten minute work/rest interval. Running, rowing, climbing stairs, and biking are all great options. Use the first 30 seconds of every minute as active recovery, i.e. walking if you choose running as your movement, and the remaining 30 seconds should be an all-out sprint. Cool down with five minutes of light cardio.

Workout 2 -- Overall Posterior Chain and Single Leg-Focused Exercises

  • Warmup -- 5:00 of light cardio, include mobility for hip flexors, quads, calves, ankles, hamstrings

  • 10:00, 3x5 (three sets of five) deadlifts at a moderate/challenging weight

  • 10:00 EMOM - 10 alternating box step ups

  • Tabata squat jumps (4:00), rest 2:00, Tabata walking lunges

This workout is designed to focus on balance, stability, core strength, and to get your heart rate up. As with the first workout, get yourself warmed up and stretched out. Include five minutes of light cardio.


Lift: Once you're warmed up, start this workout with conventional deadlifts. They're generally seen as a back exercise, but deadlifts are an ideal way to engage your entire posterior chain, including your hamstrings and glutes, as well as to increase core stability. You'll need a barbell and a collection of plates for this exercise. For the first ten minutes of this workout, beginning with a very light barbell, build up to a weight that is challenging for three sets of five repetitions.

To deadlift properly, begin by standing centered in front of the barbell with the barbell on the floor nearly touching your shins. Keep your weight evenly distributed throughout your toes, midfoot, and heels. Bend down and grasp the barbell with your hand slightly outside of your knees. For most people, a 45-degree bend in the knee is a good starting point. Take a deep breath and tighten your entire back, making sure your back is flat and your lats are engaged. Start and end every repetition this way. Push through the floor and pull the bar off of the floor, keeping it as close to your body as you can. Open your hips and knees at the same rate, keeping your back and torso tight. Breathe out as you stand up. Return the barbell to the floor the same way.

leg workout for hiking

Accessory: We recommended box step ups here as an ideal exercise for hiking because they mimic walking uphill. Though you can do these with dumbbells in each hand, if you'd like to mix it up, load up a backpack. Choose a box that's at a height equivalent to a big step you'd climb on the trail. Just above knee height is a good starting point. Complete ten alternating repetitions every minute on the minute for ten minutes.

Conditioning: The Tabata interval method is designed to increase your aerobic capacity using short, extremely intense intervals. Instead of equal work/rest intervals used in the first workout, Tabata intervals involve 20 seconds of intense, all-out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest for eight full rounds, resulting in four minutes of total work. I've used this method for everything from pushups to situps, lunges to squats, and everything in between. In this case, your first four minutes should include 20 seconds of squat jumps and ten seconds of rest for eight intervals. Rest for two full minutes, then begin a second four minute round that includes 20 seconds of walking lunges and ten seconds of rest for eight intervals.

What are some of your options for getting your leg strength and endurance up for hiking and backpacking when you can't be out on the trail? If you give these a try, we'd love to hear from you!

Team Sierra blogger

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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