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Backpacking Fitness

Leg Blasters Are the Ultimate Quick-hit Hiking Workout

Build strength for loaded backpacking hill climbs and descents.

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This series of four exercises helps build strength for both ascending and descending with a heavy pack, and is excellent for strengthening muscles required for ski touring. Done together, they’ll work your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors. If you’re looking to get maximal efficiency out of our workout, leg blasters are for you: In just ten minutes, this workout will tax your leg muscles. Do them when you don’t have time for a full gym session or training hike, and be sure to prioritize recovery—you will be sore. Incorporate leg blasters into your training routine three times per week, resting every other day. Begin with half leg blasters (cut all of the reps listed below in half) with a full minute of rest between sets, working your way up to completing five full blasters with 3o seconds of rest in between.

The Leg Blaster

20 squats

Begin with your feet hip-distance apart and your spine straight. Bend your knees to 90 degrees, pushing your rear out. Keep your weight in your heels as you return to the starting position.

10 lunges (per leg)

From standing, step your right foot forward and bend your knees until your left leg is perpendicular to the ground. Your knee should touch the ground and your left thigh should parallel it. Push off from your right foot until you’re standing. Repeat on your opposite leg.

10 jumping lunges (per leg)

Start by doing a standard lunge as described above, then engage your core as you jump as high as you can. Switch legs midair to land with your opposite foot forward. Repeat on your other leg.

10 squat jumps

Start in the standard squat position, this time with your hands together at your chest. Squat deeply, below 90 degrees. Use your arms to create momentum as you explode upwards, jumping as high as you can.

Rob Shaul is the founder of Mountain Athlete Training.

Originally published 2012; updated 2021