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Backpacking Fitness

3 Exercises to Help You Prep for a Big Backpacking Trip

Go further—and hurt less—with the right preparation for a big trip.

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Focus on training your legs, core, and lower back to get the most useful benefits. Incorporate these exercises into your workout regimen (and add 30 minutes of cardio twice weekly) at least six weeks before hitting the trail to feel max improvements.

Note: Be sure to warm up properly by jogging or completing light bodyweight exercises. Cool down with stretching and foam rolling.

step ups with a weighted pack
Photo: Louisa Albanese

Weighted Step-Ups 

Simulate steep terrain and feel the burn in your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Reps 3 to 5 minutes Sets 3

  1. Wearing a weighted pack (work your way up to the weight you plan to carry on your trip), stand in front of a box, stair, or sturdy platform that is 12 to 18 inches in height.
  2. Step onto the box with your right foot, and drive through your right leg to stand on top of the box with both feet.
  3. Step down, leading with your right foot. Step up again, this time leading with your left foot.
lunges with backpack
Photo: Louisa Albanese

Weighted Lunges

Strengthen your leg muscles while acclimating to carrying a weighted pack. Reps 30 seconds Sets 3

  1. Hoist a loaded backpack (start with 10 percent of your body weight and work up to 20 percent) onto your right shoulder and hold it there with your right arm.
  2. Balancing the pack on your shoulder, step your left foot forward and drop your right knee to the ground in a lunge. Keep your chest up and core tight. Make sure your left knee doesn’t go in front of your left foot.
  3. Return to standing, then lunge forward with your right foot. Alternate legs for 30 seconds.
  4. Rest for 20 seconds, then move the pack to your left shoulder and repeat.
Photo: Louisa Albanese


Incorporate these into a weekly core routine to prep your abs and back muscles for long trail days. Reps 10 Sets 3

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms out in front of you (like Superman).
  2. Tighten your core as you lift your arms and legs toward the ceiling as high as you can. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Relax your arms and legs back to the ground, then repeat.

The Expert

Jason Antin is a mountain performance coach based in Golden, CO, and the instructor for our online course, 6 Weeks to Trail Fit.