training for hikers

Training for Hikers: How to Get in Shape for Your Next Trek

Do you have a big hike coming up? Are you a little nervous about the strenuous activity that’s ahead of you? In order to handle a tough hike, your body has to be in good enough shape to handle tough climbs and walk miles while carrying weight on your back. Your strength, endurance, and balance need to be on point – queue in training for hikers .

Therefore, before you head out for your big hike, it’s very important that you get in shape. 

Check out this training for hikers’ guide to learn how to get in shape for your next trek. 

1. Create a Training Schedule 

First things first, you need to create a training schedule. 

The type of training schedule you create will depend on the type of hike you’re doing.

Are you planning on completing a strenuous day hike that leads you to a mountain summit? Or, are you planning an overnight hike through the wilderness? Or, maybe you want to take part in a long, multi-day trek?

For all these types of hikes, you’ll need to be in good physical shape. However, there’s a major difference between training for a long-distance backpacking trek and training for a one-day hike. 

As long as you’re in okay shape, you should be able to complete a one-day hike. 

Long-distance hikes and overnight hikes, on the other hand, are a different story. 

Training for these types of hikes will require much more than a basic level of fitness. For these hikes, you’ll need to put together a workout routine. 

Here’s what your workout routine should accomplish:

  • Increase strength in the main muscles that hikers need, specifically in the core and in the legs
  • Improve cardiovascular endurance
  • Improve balance (especially important if you’re going to be hiking on rocky terrain)

Your workout schedule should start approximately eight weeks before the big hike. Here’s what the training schedule should generally look like:

  • Three non-consecutive days of cardio training
  • Two to three non-consecutive days of strength training
  • Two non-consecutive days of rest

Now, let’s look at what you should do in terms of strength training and cardio training. 

Strength Training 

As we said, you want to do two to three non-consecutive days of strength training. 

While your training should focus on strengthening your whole body, you’ll particularly want to focus on strengthening your core (this includes your back) and your legs. 

Here are some of the best exercises to do:

Jump Squats 

Squats are an excellent all-round exercise that work to target the thighs and butt. 

Adding the jump to the squat can help you develop even more power in your legs. Here’s how you execute a jump squat:

  • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and lower into a squat 
  • Keep your feet flat, knees over your toes, and chest up
  • Push through your heels as you come up through the squat and explode into the air
  • Land softly and immediately do another one. Repeat 15 to 20 times

Hip Roll 

If you plan to carry a pack during your hike, most of the weight will be resting on your hips. 

This exercise will help to strengthen your glutes as well as the other muscles that support your hips. Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand on your left leg with your right leg slightly off the ground and lifted behind you
  • Keep your back straight and lean forward with your hips
  • Rotate your hip away from your standing foot while keeping the right leg in the air 
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times on each side

Squat Curl to Overhead Press 

The squat curl to overhead press is an excellent exercise that incorporates the entire body. 

Here’s how to perform it:

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand with your arms at your side and feet shoulder-width apart
  • Squat down as you press your hips back, as if you’re about to sit in an invisible chair
  • As you power back into the standing position, curl the dumbbells, and then press them overhead
  • Return to the starting position and repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times

Step Up Exercise 

Hiking involves taking a countless number of steps, which is why the step-up exercise is so effective for your training. 

To perform this exercise, you’ll need some sort of box that you can stand on. 

Here’s what to do:

  • Start with the right foot on the floor and place the other foot on the box
  • Step up until your right leg is close to straight and pause for a moment at the top to maintain balance
  • Return to starting position and repeat 10 to 15 times
  • To make this exercise more challenging, you can add weights to each hand

Side Plank With Leg Raise 

Planking is one of the best exercises to do if you’re looking to strengthen your entire core. 

This exercise is great because not only does it work your core, but it also works your arm and legs. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Lie on your right side and hold yourself up with your elbow under your shoulder
  • Your right arm should be perpendicular to your body while your left arm rests on your side
  • Raise yourself into a plank as you tighten your core
  • Once you’re in a plank position, raise your left leg slowly up and down ten times
  • Make sure you keep your hips still and legs straight as you perform each rep
  • Do the same thing on the other side for ten reps

Bridge With Hamstring Curl 

This is a great exercise to improve your balance and engage your core muscles. You’ll need a medium-sized exercise ball to perform this exercise. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Lie on your back with your arms at your side and rest your heels on top of the exercise ball
  • Roll the exercise ball towards your butt as you tighten your abs and glute
  • Stop rolling when your knees are at about a 90-degree angle
  • Extend the legs straight and roll the ball away
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times

In addition to these exercises, here are some other strength exercises that will get you in great shape for your hike:

  • Burpees
  • Push-ups
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Side steps
  • Curtsy lunge
  • Crunches

Cardio Training 

As we said earlier, cardio training is just as important as strength training in preparation for a big hike. 

Here are some great cardio exercises you can do to help improve your endurance:

Also, you should do some practise hikes before you head out on your big hike. When doing hiking workouts, you should start by hiking on flat terrain if you’re just starting to get in shape. As your fitness levels improve, you should choose hikes that have more of an incline. 

And, you should also practice for the real thing by bringing a pack with you on your practice hikes. For your first few hikes, your pack should only contain the basics you need to get through the hike (water bottle, jacket, etc).

However, as you get in better shape, consider adding more weight to your bag. This will help prepare you for the real thing. 

If you don’t have hikes in your area that allow you to walk at an incline, then we suggest finding some stairs to run on. 

The goal with your cardio workouts is to push yourself to the point of fatigue. However, you want to avoid pushing your body to the point of exhaustion, as this will just be counterproductive. 


Because you’re going to be working out a lot in preparation for your hike, you need to make sure that you’re fueling your body appropriately. 

Here are some foods that you should incorporate into your diet:

  • Oatmeal: Oatmeal is high in fibre and contains plenty of healthy carbohydrates
  • Eggs: Eggs are a great source of protein and make for a great pre- or post-workout breakfast. Keeping hard-boiled eggs around the house is also a great idea for when you’re in need of a quick, healthy snack
  • Fruits: Berries, oranges, bananas, and apples are especially good for hikers. Be careful of fruit juices though, as these usually contain a high amount of processed sugars
  • Vegetables: You should aim to fill half your plate with veggies for lunch and dinner. Dark leafy greens, avocados, carrots, beets, peppers, onions, and mushrooms are all great choices
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butter
  • Lean proteins: These include chicken, turkey, and seafood. If you’re a vegetarian, then you can eat tempeh, tofu, or beans

Your diet for your hike should be rich in protein, fibre, and healthy carbs. Also, make sure that you refuel quickly after each workout so you can gain muscle for your hike. 

Training for Hikers: Are You Ready for Your Big Hike? 

Now that you’ve read this training for hikers guide, it’s time to get ready for your big hike. 

As we said earlier, you should start training at least 8 weeks out, but the sooner you start, the better. 

Also, don’t forget that you’re also going to need the right gear for your hike. Trekking poles are especially important. Check out this guide to learn about the best black diamond trekking poles. 

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