Back Pain Is a Backpacker’s Worst Enemy. These Exercises Fight it.

Does your back feel beaten-up after a long day toting a pack? These simple tactics from trainer and guide Jason Antin can help fight the pain.

Photo: Backpacker

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Your back does a lot for you on the trail: Besides helping you tote your gear, its muscles stabilize your core and help you balance, guarding against stumbles and falls. Injuring it is a quick way to make an otherwise fun trip into a teeth-gritting, fist-clenching, painful ordeal.

How to fight it? Lightening your pack is a good start—after all, the more weight you’re toting, the more strain you’re putting on your body. But working back-strengthening exercises into your weekly routine is even better. By prepping the load-bearing and stabilizing muscles in your back in advance of your hike, you can alleviate the stress from old injuries and prevent new ones.

To learn how, we turned to mountain guide and personal trainer Jason Antin, who shared these back-strengthening exercises as part of our Six Weeks to Trail Fit course on Outside Learn. Below, he runs through three exercises designed to help tune up your back. (Is your interest piqued? Outside+ members can access the full course right now.)

One-Legged Romanian Deadlifts

Besides teaching your lower back to stabilize under load, this balance-heavy exercise can add muscle to your hamstrings and glutes–both essential for hikers.


Bird Dogs

This no-weight exercise strengthens your core and can help relieve lower back pain from long days toting a pack.


This simple exercise strengthens your lower back, glutes and hamstrings. It’s also a great counterpoint to ab exercises like crunches or Russian twists.



From 2023