3 Exercises to Train for Carrying Heavy Packs

Whether you need to carry a full load of winter gear or just an extra camp chair, train your muscles to take the weight with these three exercises.
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We’re all about going fast and light, but sometimes you just need more stuff. This is especially true in the winter, when pack weight for a weeklong trip can tip the scales at 50 pounds. Maintain pace under the load and prevent next-day soreness with these power- and stability-focused exercises. For maximum benefit, do them twice per week, starting eight weeks in advance of your next heavy hike.

The Expert: For two decades, Corey Crane has worked with NFL and NCAA teams as a strength and conditioning coach. In his spare time, he works on knocking off big sections of the Appalachian and Continental Divide Trails. His trail name is Motel. 

You're Doing it Wrong: Don’t Rush It

Training with fast, jerky movements might seem more effective, but it actually increases the stress on your bones and joints and inefficiently loads the muscles. “I recommend focusing more on the eccentric phase of each rep—when your muscles are lengthening,” Crane says. That means hinging slowly to the floor during Romanian deadlifts or lowering slowly off the box after a step-up, moves which offer the added benefit of training your muscles for long descents. Crane recommends taking two to four seconds to perform the eccentric contraction (lengthening phase) of every rep. “This will help minimize muscle soreness you feel the next day after a long hike with a heavy pack,” he says.