3 Exercises to Prevent Back and Shoulder Pain

Those familiar aches that arise from hauling a heavy pack can force you into bad posture and take all the fun out of hiking. Fight load fatigue by strengthening the muscles that surround your spine, hips, and shoulders
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Potato chip

Potato chips

Potato Chips

Develop your postural muscles, which help resist the backward pull of a weighted pack.

Reps: 20 Sets: 3

1. Lie on your stomach, resting your head in a comfortable position. Reach behind you and touch the backs of your hands together (or as close as you can get) over your lower back, with your thumbs up.

2. Engage your core muscles and raise your hands away from your sacrum as high as your shoulders allow. Lift your legs off the ground a few inches, keeping your knees straight. Raise your head slightly, eyes focused forward.

3. Hold for 5 seconds. Release and rest for 3 to 5 seconds before repeating.

bootcamp sequence 2_

Torso Rotations with Kettlebells

Engage your core in multiple planes to simulate moving over uneven terrain.

Reps: 10 per side Sets: 3

1. Grab a pair of kettlebells, starting with a comfortable weight and building up as you get stronger to a combined amount that's slightly heavier than your overnight pack.

2. Stand with your feet a few inches apart, knees slightly bent. Tuck your tailbone under you so that your pelvis is in a neutral and level position.

3. With your palms facing in, use momentum from the kettlebells to swivel at the spine until your shoulders are facing 90˚ to the right. Return to center, and twist to the left. Stand tall and rotate only above the waist. 

bootcamp sequence 1 may

Tic-Toc

This exercise trains you to breathe properly while activating your load-carrying muscles.

Reps: 8 to 10 per side Sets: 1 to 3

1. Sit on a firm bench or plyo box (your knees should make right angles). Grab a dumbbell that feels challenging, but won’t compromise your form (10 to 30 pounds). Orient the weight front to back. Set your feet hip-width apart, distributing the weight evenly on your sit bones and feet. Check that your pelvis is not tilted.

2. Lift the weight directly overhead, arms nearly straight. As you exhale, lean slowly to the left, as far as you can without tilting your pelvis. On the inhale, return to center, and repeat to the right. 

The Expert

Kaelyn Silva, CSCS, is the owner of Pasadena Sport Science. When she’s not training others, she enjoys loading up her pack and hiking with her dogs to peak-rimmed Thousand Island Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.