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Backpacking Fitness

5 Hiking Workouts to Help You Crush the Trail

Get a headstart with these workouts that hit every major muscle group.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Your trail time is precious. Why waste it getting in shape? While it’s possible to hike yourself into backpacking form, coming into your first big trip of the year with a strong fitness base will let you enjoy every minute you spend on the trail rather than huffing and puffing your way through the steeps and nursing sore shoulders once you’re in camp. These 5 expert-designed hiking workouts are made to hit every part of your body, providing the strength and endurance you need in order to feel strong and comfortable on the trail. Work them into your routine, and get ready to slay the hiking season.

Base Fitness: 11 Bodyweight Exercises to Train for Hiking

A man works out on a yoga mat.
Bodyweight exercises can be performed anywhere, no equipment required.
Isak Kvam

Bodyweight exercises like push-ups and unweighted squats are a simple way to start building muscular strength without risking injury. Even better, they don’t require any special equipment, meaning that you don’t need to go looking for free weights or spend money on a gym membership in order to start building up your muscles. These 11 exercises hit every major muscle group. Read the article for free now

Cardio: 4 Ways to Build Lungs of Steel (Without Running!)

A woman with a backpacker running up stairs in a city.
Strong cardio will help you power up the trail.
(Photo: D Scott Clark)

Running—on roads, trails, or treadmills—is an easy way to build up your breathing and get your heart ready for the rigors of backpacking. If that’s not your cup of tea, however, you have other options. These circuit exercises come together with simple equipment (dumbells, a suspension trainer, plyo boxes and balance balls) and will give your entire cardiovascular system a workout. Read the article

Legs: The 6 Best Leg Workouts to Get in Hiking Shape

Man doing skater jumps
A focus on leg strength is key to any good hiking workout.
(: Adam Mowery)

For obvious reasons, your legs are key on a backpacking trip. Transform those stems into bonafide off-trail crushers by picking the right workout for you. These 6 workouts are designed for various levels of fitness, from straight-off-the-couch conditioning to bulletproofing for high-mileage days. Read the article

Arms and Core: 5 Upper Body Exercises for Backpackers

A group of hikers crosses a snowfield in the Pyrenees.
Hikers shouldn’t neglect arm and core strength, which helps with carrying a heavy pack.
‘Kitty Terwolbeck’

Your arms may not be the first body part you think of when you think of hiking, but whether for lifting heavy packs or just stabilizing your core under a heavy load, backpackers need strong upper bodies too. These exercises, from deadlifts to dips, will help you build the kind of functional fitness that will keep you injury-free and comfortable on long excursions. Read the article

Knees: Knock Out Knee Pain With These 3 Exercises

A hiker ascends a trail toward rocky mountains.
Strong knees will help you avoid injury over a season of hiking.
(: Jan-Niclas Aberle)

All the strength in the world is no good if you get injured, and for backpackers, knees are a common weak link. The good news: You can reduce the chances of suffering a trip- or season-ending injury by strengthening the muscles that stabilize the joint. These 3 exercises from physical therapist assistant and personal trainer Lee Welton are a great place to start. Read the article

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