Build muscle by mimicking on-trail challenges in the gym.
Since a trail is rarely flat or free of debris, it’s pointless to train your muscles to work only as if they’re going to propel you along in a straight line. In this workout, Goldberg incorporates plyometric exercises to shore up the connective tissue in your joints, develop the neural pathways that improve balance and agility, and build explosive muscle that you can tap to scramble over a boulder or check a slide down a muddy embankment.
Start with a 10-minute warm-up walking or running on a treadmill set on a steep incline (20% or higher), or do some easy hill repeats or stadium steps. Complete all of the sets for each exercise before moving on to another. This ensures that you fully exhaust your muscles and reap maximum gains.
Start with a deep forward lunge with your right foot and then come back to standing. Continue lunging with the same foot as if you were stepping on the numbers of a clock face, facing forward the entire time. Work your way around until you’re in a reverse lunge with your right foot in the 6 o’clock position. Repeat with your left foot and work your way clockwise from 6 o’clock around to 12 o’clock. Slowly lower yourself into each lunge, then quickly spring–but don’t jump–back up to standing. Do 4 sets.
Why they work Lunges heighten your sense of balance as they build your quads and glutes. "By working your way around a circle, you develop your body’s ability to handle diagonal and lateral steps," says Goldberg. "That’s the kind you’d face on a steep and tricky switchback."
Accelerate it Alternate speed lunges, working your way around the circle as quickly as you can without losing control, with weighted lunges, where you hold 10 pound. dumbbells in each hand. Reverse directions with each set (i.e. work clockwise in the first set, counterclockwise in the next).
One-Legged Calf Raises
Lay a 45-pound weight plate or a roughly 2-inch-thick board or platform on the ground. Stand on the edge on one leg. Lift yourself onto your toes and slowly lower yourself back down until your heel rests on the floor. Repeat. For more intensity, hold a dumbbell in one hand (as much as you can manage while holding your body straight). Do 25 reps on each side. Repeat 4 times.
Why they work "Take a look at the calves of a mountaineer. They’re huge," says Goldberg. "That’s because mountain climbing taxes those muscles like no other activity." Using a plate or board ensures that you get full range of movement in the exercise while reducing the chances of an over-extension injury from doing this exercise off a high step.
Accelerate it After you complete the calf raises, do a set of one-legged hops back-and-forth across an imaginary line on the floor. Complete 100 per leg. Not only will you feel the burn in your calves, you’ll also strengthen the connective tissue in your ankles and knees and reduce your chances of a sprain on the trail.
Hanging Hip Flexors
Hang from a chin-up bar with your legs dangling straight down. Bend your knees and lift them toward your chest while crossing your knees to your left side. Lower back down over a three count. Lift your knees again, this time crossing them toward your right side. Do 2 sets of 15.
Why they work After six hours on the trail, you’d be surprised how much fatigue in your hip and lower stomach muscles can slow your walking pace. What’s happening: Your stride gets shorter as you tire, and you slow down. This move strengthens your hips, lower abdominals, and oblique muscles, keeping you on pace.
Accelerate It Hold a basketball (or harder yet, a medicine ball) between your knees. You’ll scorch your adductors and other smaller hip muscles during the drill–plus the added weight helps carve your abs.
Lie on your back, hands behind your head, elbows wide. Lift your shoulders and twist your torso while you straighten the opposite leg. Keep toes flexed. Do 2 sets of 30.
Why they work According to a 2001 study conducted by the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University, the bicycle crunch remains the most effective abdominal exercise around. It hits your legs, upper and lower abs, and obliques quickly and in concert, giving you the hair-trigger support needed on steep, tricky downhills where good balance and torso control keep you upright.
Accelerate it Follow up with two sets of 20 old-fashioned sit-ups.
Stand next to a bench-press station with the barbell set on the highest point of the rack. Grab the bar with arms shoulder-width apart, hands centered. Squat down and jump up onto the bench while keeping your hands on the barbell. As you jump, keep your head up and your abs engaged, and attempt a light landing on the bench. Pause, and then jump down to the other side. Reverse the sequence to complete one rep. Do 4 sets of 5 hops.
Why they work In addition to the quad strength you gain from the jump, the bent-over position activates your lower and upper back as you pull your legs over.
Accelerate it Jump completely over the bench in one motion and back again. Want even more? Nix the barbell, stand up straight, and jump from side to side over the bench.
Start by doing one classic jumping jack. On the next hop, split your legs and opposite arms forward and back. Hop back to the start, do another regular jack, then repeat the forward/back leg split on the opposite side. Four jacks (two regular; two modified on either side) equals one rep. Do 2 sets of 25.
Why they work This mild cardio workout builds agility and explosive strength through a complex sequence of jumping that fine-tunes coordination. The more coordinated the body, the more efficiently it moves. Take it slow until you can do one set fluidly.
Accelerate it As your coordination improves, jump higher and faster to build cardio strength, and work your way up to 100 reps. Done that? Slow down and drop into a full lunge each time you step forward. It’ll add a strength and balance component.