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Backpacking Fitness

This Tempo Workout Is the Secret to Staying Trail Fit in the Offseason

This tempo workout strengthens your tendons and ligaments while creating long-lasting muscle endurance for injury-free hiking in season.

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During the winter, focused training can help ensure your next hiking season will be even better than the last—and help snowsport performance, too. Tempo training allows you to zero in on issues like shaking quads on descents, sore glutes after ascents, or tender calf muscles. Complete the following workout once or twice a week.

3 1 2 0 tempo work

Tempo Training

This workout method slows down each repetition, putting your muscles under tension for longer periods of time. Tempo training builds strong tendons and ligaments while boosting muscle strength and endurance. Every exercise movement includes eccentric (lowering), concentric (raising), and two isometric (contraction without movement) phases. Tempo training focuses on the eccentric—or elongating—part of the movement to create positive physical stress that makes you stronger over time. This type of movement can cause increased muscle soreness, so use less weight than you typically would for each exercise.

This “code” indicates how many seconds you should spend in each phase of an exercise, and applies to all the following movements (except the warmup). Pay attention to the phases for each exercise. The zero indicates that there is no rest in between reps.

Warmup (Repeat three times)

10 Jumping jacks

Stand with for feet together and your arms at your sides. In one motion, jump so your feet land shoulder-width apart and move your arms out and over your head. Return to starting position and repeat.

10 Bodyweight squats

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and bring your butt toward the floor while maintaining a braced core and an upright torso. Squeeze your glutes and return to standing.

10 Good mornings

Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent slightly. Keeping your core tight, hinge at your hips, allowing your torso to move forward. Once your torso is parallel with the floor, squeeze the back of your legs and glutes to stand.

woman doing goblet squat in gym
(Photo: yacobchuk via Getty Images)


Perform two sets of eight repetitions of each exercise for four weeks, then increase to three or four sets of 10 to 12 repetitions. Pay attention to the 3-1-2-0 timing as you progress.

Goblet squats

Grab a 20-pound kettlebell or dumbbell and hold it close to your chest. With an engaged core, bend your knees and bring your butt toward the floor for a count of 3 seconds. Hold for 1 second, then, maintaining an upright torso and active core, squeeze your glutes to return to standing over 2 seconds. Avoid letting your knees move inward during the squat.

Romanian deadlifts

Holding two 20-pound dumbbells or a barbell against your thighs, place your feet hip-width apart with your knees slightly bent. Keep your back straight by squeezing your shoulder blades together (don’t shrug) and bracing your core. Pushing your butt back, hinge at the hips and lower (3 seconds) until the weights are just past your knees. Keep the dumbbells close to your legs the whole time. Hold, then push your hips forward and squeeze your glutes to rise to standing (2 seconds).

Bulgarian split squats

With a 10-pound dumbbell in each hand, stand about 2 feet in front of a bench, facing away from it. Place your right foot laces down on the bench, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart. Your left foot should be far enough from the bench that you can lunge comfortably. Tighten your core and lower (3 seconds) into a lunge until your left upper leg is about parallel to the floor (1 second). Press through your foot and use your glutes to return to standing (2 seconds). While performing this movement, do not let your left knee move inward; keep it aligned with your left foot.

woman doing calf raises outside
(Photo: Michelle Pearl Gee)

Single-leg straight-knee heel drops

Place the middle of your left foot at the edge of a step, with your heel hanging off. Keeping your left leg straight, raise your heel as high as possible, coming onto the ball of your left foot as with a calf raise (2 seconds). Slowly lower your heel down (3 seconds) below the step before rising back to the start position. Since the focus is on the lowering phase, you can use your right foot to help raise to the top position if needed; just transfer the weight back to the left leg before lowering. Use a handrail or wall for support. Hold a 10-pound dumbbell to increase the resistance for this exercise. Complete one set on the left before switching to the right.

Single-leg bent-knee heel drops

Repeat the previous exercise, this time with your standing knee bent.

Hip thrusts

Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Rest the bottom of your shoulder blades against a workout bench. With a 45-pound dumbbell or kettlebell centered on your hips, squeeze your glutes and raise your hips (2 seconds) until your torso and upper legs are parallel to the floor. Keep your core tight and look toward your knees with a slight chin tuck in this top position (1 second). With control, lower back to the start position (3 seconds). Emphasize strong glute contraction throughout the movement.

woman doing a downward dog
(Photo: Cavan Images via Getty Images)

Cooldown (Repeat three times)

Couch stretch

Stand in front of your couch as if you were about to sit. Standing on your right foot, place your left knee on the seat cushion and your shin against the backrest with your left toe pointed toward the ceiling. Keep your hips square and your left leg lined up with your body. Maintaining an upright torso, squeeze your glutes and tighten your core. You should feel the stretch in your left hip and quad. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.

Downward dog

Start in a plank with your hands and feet slightly wider than shoulder-width on the floor, then raise your hips toward the ceiling. Your feet and hands should be far enough apart to create about a 90-degree bend at your hips. Press your heels toward the floor while pressing through your hands to bring your chest toward your legs. Hold for 30 seconds.

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