Have you ever stood steadily at the edge of the summit and taken a mental picture of the magnificent scenery from eagle’s view? When you basked in the light and wind and self-satisfaction, knowing what it took to conquer all the steep inclines to reach the peak of your hiking adventure.
Uphill hiking is a tough challenge. The higher you hike, the stronger the gravity hits you. Sweaty face, stiff shoulders, tired legs, and exhausted lungs.
Of course, you don’t want these unpleasant pains to ruin your journey. So, prepare yourself. This article will show you which exercise helps prepare for uphill hiking – the key for anti-exhausting uphill hiking.
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General Overview of Hiking Uphill
Hills and slopes are fundamental features of hiking trails in nature. And most trails usually end at the top of a hill or a mountain, rewarding hikers with breath-taking scenery and immense self-satisfaction. Thus, hiking uphill is common in hiking adventures, especially in mountain hiking.
Hiking uphill is not a casual stroll in the park. It’s more intense and arduous. Many hikers have a hate-love relationship with uphill hiking. Because even though constant ascending the mountain is brutal, you will also receive many benefits from up hikes.
The high-intensity of up hike boosts heart rate and builds up a stronger heart. It also reduces triglyceride levels, a risk factor leading to heart problems. The hike up will burn about 60% more calories than when you walk on flat ground. And it also improves your metabolism.
For these reasons, uphill hiking is a wonderful sport. You can get control of your body weight, improve your body’s strength and health. A strong body means a lucid mind.
Before embarking on your adventure, check out the trails’ information and take a look at the cumulative elevation gain number. It gives you the first glimpse at how much you need to ascend on the entire trail.
An elevation gain of a moderate trail is 90m-144m per km. The smaller gain value is for easy trails, and the larger gain value is for difficult trails. You should choose your hiking trails wisely based on your skills and ability.
General Overview of Uphill Hiking Training
When you prepare for your adventure, hiking training is an essential part. You need to train every day to increase your body’s strength and stamina. Before hitting the trails, you should be in good shape.
But simple exercises in a normal hiking train won’t be enough if you are hiking on trails with steep hills and slopes. Hiking uphill is a form of intense concentric exercise. Your leg muscles contract while moving upward, against the force of gravity. This can easily cause muscle tension and fatigue.
For this reason, besides working on your endurance with aerobic and cardio training, you need to take specific types of exercise to strengthen your legs. Strength training is the most crucial part of uphill hiking training.
It’s best if you can start your uphill hiking training three months before hitting the trails. Just make a workout plan for your journey and incorporate it into your daily hiking training. You can make your own training plan based on your needs and time.
Another choice is to head to the gym and ask a personal trainer to create a scientific and practical training plan for you. He or she can also give you a tip on a diet that is helpful for your training and health.
Whether you choose to train at home or the gym, alone or with friends, train on a daily basis. Only regular training will help your muscles get used to the intensity of up hike. Especially when you barely take exercises and aren’t fit for hiking yet, you will have to push yourself even harder.
Top Four Exercises To Prepare for Uphill Hiking
Uphill hiking training might sound intimidating at first. But it actually involves several exercises that are really simple and easy to do at home anytime.
Now, let’s start with the top four exercises to boost the strength of your lower body.
When it comes to the basic and effective lower body and core exercises, squat jump is always on the top. What you need to do a squat jump is your body, a stable surface, and a pair of sport shoes.
You will need to use your whole core and lower body to make a jump. And even when you’re at home, find a spacious and flat place to ensure your safety. Don’t jump with bare feet, sport shoes will protect your toes during the landing.
Now it’s time for a jump squat:
Step 1 – Starting position:
Take your feet shoulder-width apart. Your legs need to be straight. Don’t cave in or bow out your knees. Stand tall
Step 2 – Squat position:
Lower down your hips while pushing them back. Your thigh and your lower leg form a 90-degree angle. You are only moving your hips and not your back. Always keep the bottom of your chest higher than the hips.
In this position, press down and jump up.
Step 3 – Landing position:
Land slowly while rolling the force through your feet, toes, and heels. Your landing position is similar to the squatting position, but your chest bottom is now on the same level as your hips.
Before the next jump, raise your chest and back to the squatting position. Shift your body weight from your toes to your heels before taking off.
Do a set of 10 or 15 jumps at a time. You can do 2 to 5 sets with a small break in the middle. Just start with the number you can bear, don’t overdo yourself and hurt your muscles.
Jump squat is easy, but you need to grasp the basic squat and landing mechanics if you want it to be effective. Especially during the landing, don’t land and stop abruptly in the upright position, or else your joints will take all the shock.
Breath out when you jump up and breath in when you land. You can also combine the jump with your arms to create a more upward force, making you jump easier in the beginning. Then when you get the gist of the exercise, switch to jump armless by locking your hands behind the head. You take away the assistance and force your legs to work harder. They’ll get more robust in no time.
Jump squat is a fundamental building block exercise, meaning that you can be creative after you master the basic technique. You can do fast squat jumps, or jump with legs coming together or hand clapping before landing.
If you need visual instruction, check out this excellent video:
There’s a sexy dance move called hip roll, but it’s not what you will do for uphill hiking training. Don’t get confused by the name.
Hip roll is a type of exercise you can do to boost the strength and flexibility of your hips and glutes. It also helps with your balance. And again, just like a squat jump, it’s a piece of cake. You can do it in standing position or lying on a yoga mat.
Let’s start with a hip roll exercise while standing.
- Step 1: Stand on one leg. Let’s start with standing on your left leg. Place both hands on your waist.
- Step 2: Lift your right back and move it back while leaning forward. Make sure you raise your right leg off the ground. Keep your back straight.
- Step 3: Roll your hips to the right side. Keep this position for 3 seconds
- Step 4: Roll your hips back while still keeping your right leg in the air. Then slowly put your right leg back on the ground.
- Step 5: Switch to standing on the right leg and start all over again.
You should make a set of 10 hip rolls for both sides. And do 3-5 sets at a time with a small break in the middle. At first, it will be hard to keep balance on one leg, you can hold onto a chair. Or you can raise your leg but keep the toes on the ground. Don’t worry. You’ll improve your sense of balance and your legs’ strength gradually.
You can also lie down on a yoga mat, or a clean surface to do hip roll. This helps to release tension from your lower body while strengthening your glutes.
- Step 1: Lie down on your back. Open up your arms and place them on the ground.
- Step 2: Raise your leg and make a 90-degree angle at your knees.
- Step 3: Rotate your legs from left to right. Slightly lift your lower back off the ground while rotating. Make sure to maintain the 90-degree angle from your ankle to knee to hips.
Try to do 15-20 reps on each side at a time. If you feel like you’re bored with this easy exercise, try to cross your arms in front of your chest. Now, without any momentum, it’ll take you a bit more effort to lift your legs to 90-degree and rotate them without touching the ground.
Here is a nice video showing you how to do hip rolling exercise while lying on the ground:
Step up exercise comes closest to uphill hiking movements. You will need a step, or a sturdy small chair or a wooden box, around 20cm high and 20cm wide, for you to step on. Now let’s start.
- Step 1: Standing upright with legs hip-width apart. Your toes should be about 5cm away from the step.
- Step 2: Lift your right foot and put it entirely on the step. This position will make your right knee bent. Make sure that your hip, knee, and ankle are in a straight line
- Step 3: Step up with the left foot, using the force from the right leg. Keep your body in the upright position.
- Step 4: Step down with the left foot.
- Step 5: Switch leg and start again.
Step-ups are simple. But you have to stick to the basic techniques to achieve the best result for your lower limbs, like your hamstrings and glutes and your core.
There are three things to keep in mind. First, align your hip, knee, and ankle. Second, use the front leg on the step to lift your body up, not the back leg on the ground. And third, keep your body in an upright position, don’t lean forward when you step up.
Here is a lovely demonstration for step-ups:
There are many types of stretches used for specific muscles. After stretching, your body will become more flexible, helping you to lower the risk of injuries during the strenuous uphill hike. Now, let’s start stretching your legs.
Quads or the quadriceps are the large muscle at the front of the thigh. They allow the knee joint to stretch out and the hip to bend.
- Step 1: To start, stand upright on a flat surface and take your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step 2: Stand on your left foot while using your right hand to pull your right foot up behind your back, touching your hip.
- Step 3: Keep this position for 15 seconds.
- Step 4: Return to the starting position. And start with the other leg.
Try to increase the holding time after each stretch. It might be difficult to keep balance, so hold on to a chair or a wall. You will get better at balancing yourself on one leg gradually. Here’s a good instruction for quad stretch:
The hamstring is the tendon behind the knee. It connects the upper leg’s muscles to the bones of the lower leg. Basically, the hamstring muscles control the hip and knee movements.
You can do hamstring stretches with either two legs or one leg. Let’s start with the easier one: two legs
- Step 1: Sit on a flat surface. Putting both legs in front of you.
- Step 2: Lean forwards. Stretch your arms straight and touch the toes with the fingertips.
- Step 3: Hold for 15-30 seconds.
Once you feel your legs are ready for the next level, try to do a hamstring stretch with one leg.
- Step 1: Sit on a flat surface with legs crossed and touch the ground.
- Step 2: Straighten one leg and place it in front of you. The foot of the other leg should touch the thigh of the straightened leg.
- Step 3: Lean forward until you can touch the toes with your finger.
- Step 4: Hold for 15-30 seconds. Then repeat with the other leg
When leaning towards your toes, you have to keep your back and your knee straight. If your fingers cannot touch your toes, don’t rush. Wrap a towel around your feet, and you can hold onto it while leaning forward. The point is to feel the stretch on your hamstring and your back. Here is an excellent demonstration for hamstring stretch:
The calf is the back part between the ankle and the knee of the leg. You can move forward thanks to the calf muscle pulling the heel up.
- Step 1: Stand in the upright position with legs about shoulder-width apart against a wall.
- Step 2: Step one foot forward and lean your whole body forward. Place our hands on the walls. Hold for 15 seconds.
- Step 3: Bend the knee of your back leg while pushing down the heel. Hold the position for 15 seconds.
- Step 4: Back to the starting position and repeat by switching legs.
There are only two things to keep in mind. One, in step 2, your front leg’s knee is bent, but keep your back leg completely straight. And then, later when you move to step 3, both knees are bent. And two, your weight is on your back leg. If you’re still uncertain, check out this video:
Gluteus muscles are around the hips and your behind, which help move the top of your leg. There are many ways to do glutes stretches, but let’s choose the simplest and most effective one.
- Step 1: Lie down on a flat surface or a yoga mat. Bend both your knees and place your feet on the ground.
- Step 2: Place your right foot over your left knee. Your right leg should make a 90-degree angle at the knee.
- Step 3: Lift your left foot off the ground. Use both your hand to hold onto your left thigh from behind.
- Step 4: Pull your left thigh towards your belly until you feel a stretch at your glutes. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
- Step 5: Return to the starting position and switch legs to start over again.
Here is a wonderful demonstration for you:
Back and Abs stretch
This type of stretch will boost your abdominal strength. That’s what you need for hiking uphill.
- Step 1: Lie down on your stomach on a flat surface. Prop up with your elbows.
- Step 2: Slowly straighten your elbow to go into the push up position. Keep your leg entirely on the ground. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Step 3: Push your upper body up by completely straightening your arms. This will arch your back. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Then return to the starting position.
While doing a back and abs stretch, you need to make sure your legs, especially feet completely stick to the ground. Doing it right, and you can feel a stretch on both your back and abs. Here is a good demonstration if you need:
All four exercises are not overly complicated. But if you still feel reluctant and need the motivation to start, take your water bottle and head to the local gym. You’ll find it much more productive there. And you also benefit from professional instructions from your personal trainer. And in case you suffer from severe ache or pain after taking these exercises, consult your trainer or your doctor.
Rules for Uphill Hiking Workout Plan
Even though you can use hiking poles to assist you while hiking uphill, you still need to train yourself carefully for this situation. An uphill workout plan is necessary. But it needs to be made in a logical and scientific way. A bad plan can backfire.
For uphill hiking training, you need to pay great attention to lower body workout, such as hips, abs, hamstring and glutes. It’s no use taking individual exercise for each muscle for a week and then switching to other exercises. But it’s also not a good idea to do all types of exercise in one single day.
The best plan lets you train different muscles on different days and only a few muscle groups per day. So, your muscles won’t be overtrained, and can get some rest.
Besides the top four exercises, you should incorporate walking, running, cardio training, and other activities for general hiking training. They help you to build up the whole body’s strength and stamina. For uphill hiking, your legs are important, but they are not the only body part you need.
Why Prepare for Hiking Uphill?
You don’t always have to hike uphill during your journey. But most of the time, trails in nature have hills and slopes. And if hiking’s your passion, you will want to challenge yourself with difficult and strenuous trails with significant elevation gain.
And on the summit, what’s waiting for you is more than just beautiful scenery or fresh air. It’s a great sense of achievement, pride, and satisfaction towards yourself – a brilliant mental health boost. That’s why people love climbing high – for all the tangible and intangible rewards.
But hiking uphill is an arduous activity. If your body isn’t in good shape, you will risk getting injured and have to cut your adventure short. For this reason, it’s important to prepare for hiking uphill. And start at least three months before your journey for the best result.
Do I have to finish a lot of exercises before hiking uphill?
No. You are well-prepared if you stick to the top four hiking uphill exercises: jump squat, hip roll, step-ups, and stretches.
Are there any tips to help prepare for uphill hiking?
Take specific exercises to strengthen your lower part, which is important for hiking uphill. Make sure you get the basic technique of each exercise correctly so you won’t hurt yourself. Train regularly, but don’t overtrain.
Should I prepare for hiking uphill at a local gym center?
You can if you want. Going to a local gym can give your more motivation to train. Professional trainers there can also help with your workout plan and training techniques.