How To Get In Shape For Hiking?

Rilor Staff
Update: April 12, 2021
Table of Contents

How to get in shape for hiking? Are there any foolproof and effective methods to get in your prime condition for your next big outdoor hike? 

If you're anything like me, you hike because you love nature, you love all the exercise and fresh air, and you love to escape everyday stress. 

But if you're anything like me, you also love to eat. And it doesn't take more than a mile or two up the trail to realize that being in shape for hiking means more than just being able to walk all day. You need a fair bit of stamina to keep up with your friends, and you need to be lean enough not to topple over when you're trying to scramble to the top of a ledge.

Of course, we are here to ensure that you will not quickly get exhausted on your trip. Fortunately, it is not that difficult to do. 

How To Get In Shape For Hiking?

We all want to get into shape as fast as possible, but finding the right workout for you isn't always easy. Some of us love running; others like to take a more balanced approach, while some prefer to exercise at home. What works for one person may not work for you since our bodies respond differently to different workouts, depending on genetics and other health factors. 

Here are some of the routines that you can do to prepare your body for any hiking excursion.

Weight And Strength Training For Hiking

As an avid hiker knows, you need to be in good shape to be able to do long hikes. Weight training will allow you to hike longer distances without becoming tired. Of course, you have to ensure that you can carry your pack, alongside your body weight. 

If you are a little flimsy, you will not handle such a task, especially if you are going to deal with sharp steeps and high inclinations. I can already imagine the rigor!

It is a common hiking challenge to get comfortable carrying a backpack, which can be tricky for beginners. One of the most important things to consider when training yourself to have a backpack when hiking is that your body needs time to adjust to carrying a backpack. And for this, you will need to start small. First, try wearing a backpack when you go grocery shopping. Then, try carrying the backpack to the bus or train station. If you start to experience any pain, stop, and take a break.

Furthermore, focus training on the following muscle groups and areas: 

  • Shoulders - While training for a hike, you want to work on both your upper and lower body.  Hiking is generally regarded as a lower body exercise, but strong shoulders are necessary to carry your pack and protect your back. Strong shoulders will also give you better posture and make you more efficient on the trail.  
  • Neck - You may not know this, but your neck is another part of your body that can be strengthened for hiking. When hiking, you will inevitably encounter situations where you need to utilize your neck muscles for stabilization.  For example, when hiking down a steep slope, you will have to keep your head and neck steady for balance and control. 
  • Upper back - If you've ever gone hiking into the mountains, you might have noticed that your upper back (the area between your shoulders and your neck) is the sorest part of your body. This is caused by hiking with a backpack, which requires you to carry more weight on your upper back. The solution is simple: a solid upper back workout.
  • Lower back - For many hikers, the lower back is the limiting factor for carrying heavier backpacks.  It takes years to develop the upper back muscles to a point where a bag can be carried without pain and fatigue. It's not just a matter of doing a few workouts with a heavy load; you must train your upper back for hiking regularly.
  • Abdominal muscles - The best way to get a great stomach for hiking is to first concentrate on building up your upper body and core strength. After you have a strong upper body, you can begin to train your abs directly, ready for hiking in the mountains. The first step is to build up your overall strength, and after a few months, start focusing on stomach exercises. Ensure you are using weights that are challenging for you and that you are increasing them as time goes on.
  • Legs - For hikers, nothing is more important than building up leg muscles. You wouldn't build a house without learning how to hammer the nails or lay bricks, and if you want to enjoy hiking, you should build strong, healthy legs, too. Generally, hiking, as a sport, trains you to keep your pace for an extended period and ascend and descend steep inclines. 

Here are some of the recommended routines that you can do:

Strength Training For Legs: 

  • Glute bridges - 10 times
  • Reverse lunges - 10 times (per each side)
  • Squats - 30 times
  • Step-up - 10 times (per each side)
  • Side lunges - 10 times (5 for each side)

Strength Training For Abs - Crucial For Hikers

  • Bird dogs - 20 times (10 for each side)
  • Overhead reaches - 15 times
  • Superman - 15 times
  • Side planks - 15 times

Strength Training For Upper Body

  • Shoulder retractions - 15 times
  • Cat cows - 10 times 
  • Pike push-ups - 10 times
  • Planking - 30 seconds
  • Push-ups - 15 times

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise, such as running, including hiking, is one of the best ways to keep your body strong and healthy. It will help you with your hiking because it makes your cardiovascular system more efficient. It will also help you lose weight, allowing you to hike longer distances. 

If you do not have enough energy, you may not be able to climb the mountain you are planning to climb. That is why aerobic is so essential: it helps us to save our energy. 

Endurance Training For Hiking

Hiking is a great sport and activity that is enjoyed by millions of people every year. However, just because you like to hike, it doesn't mean that you are fit enough to do so safely. Anyone who hikes with little or no training is more likely to sustain an injury due to hiking. 

You can do several things to get into shape and improve your hiking ability before you head out on the trail, and regular endurance training is one of the most important. One way or another, you have to ensure that you can survive the entire duration of the hike. 

Here are some of the exercises that you can do to enhance your stamina. 

  • Running and walking - Before you hit the trail, you have to do highly similar routines, such as running and walking. Both of these exercises can help you strengthen your endurance. They are easy to do; you can do them anywhere, too. There are various running and walking programs that you can follow. Look for something that can suit your needs. For starters, running two times a week should be already enough. On the weekends, try to do long walks. Every week, increase the regimen by around 10%. 
  • Hill intervals - It would also be great if you include high-intensity training in your workout. For the purpose of preparing yourself for a hike, this would require you to find an area that is filled with short inclines. Once you found the perfect spot to train, gear yourself with your usual hiking equipment. After that, start making several repetitions. Walk the incline as fast as possible. Descend after you reached the top, then repeat the process again. 
  • Increase the frequency of your workouts - One of the best ways to enhance your endurance is to increase the number of times you do your workouts. The more you get your body active, the more it gets conditioned for the hike. This principle is applied by athletes. It is not enough that you take long runs and walks. You also have to do short but regular routines. Continue doing these things for months, and you will experience a leap in your endurance. Keep in mind that they don't even have to take two to three hours. 
  • Breathing exercises - Breathing exercises are an essential part of any hiking workout. When you're hiking at altitude or in a hot environment, your breathing can become shallower and quicker than is right for you. In fact, you might not even realize you're doing it, which can lead to sickness or injury. But there are several simple breathing exercises you can do to help relax your breathing and return it to a more regular rhythm that will help you feel better. 

One of these is by pulling the air to your lungs via your diaphragm. Do this routine a few times per day. Specifically, breathe with your noise while one of your hands is pressed against your abdomen. While doing this routine, it is essential that your chest shouldn't move at all. 

  • Be mentally prepared - You can be 100% physically prepared to hike for your next big trip, but if you don't know how to be mentally prepared for hiking, you could still be setting yourself up for failure. It's all about knowing what to expect when you're out on the trail and if you are or aren't prepared for certain situations. 

Your mindset is vital for any outdoor activity. You have to learn how to be comfortable leaving your comfort zone. You have to prepare yourself to overcome new challenges and reach new goals. Hiking will take you to the limits, and it will require sheer will power to pursue such a feat!

Start doing those exercises I listed here. I know they are difficult, but they can help in building your mental toughness!

Uphill Vs. Long Hike

You can also hike as a form of hiking. I mean, the best way to train how to hike is to hike. Exposing your body to the conditions of hiking is an efficient conditioning method. It helps prepare your muscles and bones for the possible ordeals of the trip--especially if you are hiking on harsh areas or technical terrains. 

At this point, you have to realize that experience is the key to a successful hike!

Now, you have two routes here: uphill and long hike. Both of these hikes have their respective perks and advantages.

Uphill hiking is an essential training approach for those hikers who are planning to take routes filled with multiple hills and climbs. It is not easy to conquer these areas if you are not trained to do it. You have to build the essential skills to complete the course. Furthermore, uphill hikes improve your balance and strength. 

Meanwhile, long hikes are crucial for people who are going on an extended expedition. Some hiking routes out there require several days to finish. Hence, the key here is building your stamina and strength. You should have the endurance to shove exhaustion away; at the same time, you also need to be strong enough to carry your hiking gears, which are mostly loaded in your back. 

Regardless of your choice, both uphill and long hiking requires you to have proper training. Therefore, the exercises that I recommend above should become mandatory already. Doing them will also prevent potential accidents and injuries while you are hiking.

Training Schedule For Beginners

A training schedule for hiking is a necessity to increase your stamina and endurance when you want to hike mountains and terrains for an extended period. 

I suggest that you allocate eight weeks of training before your major hike. If it is your first hike, then you can extend the preparation time to 10 to 12 weeks. The longer you can prepare, the better. 

Here is a recommended regimen that you can follow:

  • Two days (non-consecutive) for strength and endurance workouts.
  • Two days (non-consecutive) rest days; if you need that you need more days, then do so. 
  • Three days (non-consecutive) cardio workouts; do these sessions until two weeks before the big day.
  • From cardio workouts, switch to long hikes in the last two weeks before your hike; each of them should last an hour. Make sure that you are wearing a weighted backpack. You can also mix a long hike to your strength and endurance training.
  • Two days before the hike, you should rest already.

Exercises To Get In Shape For Hiking

Before you train, consider the following suggestions:

  • Make the exercises tailored for you; if it is too much, don't do it. 
  • Don't continue exercising if you are experiencing unusual pain. If your body is sore after exercising, rest for a couple of days.
  • Exercising is not a race. Hence, it is alright if you do it at your own pace. After you get used to it, you can increase its frequency and repetitions. Adding resistance after a couple of weeks should be doable.

Warming up

Warming up before exercising is not only crucial for performance, but it's also essential for preventing soreness and injury. Warming up increases blood flow and prepares our muscles for the work that's ahead. While there are a number of ways to warm up, the most important takeaway is that you should warm-up before your workout.

For hiking, the warm-up should consist of brisk walking for 5 to 10 minutes. 

Before you exercise, make sure that you do breathing exercises. It will help you regulate the air in your body. Rest for a minute after you completed a set before you repeat it again. 

Exercises should also be done in succession. It should be one at a time.

Hip roll

One of the best and most efficient methods to get in shape for hiking is regularly engaging in a hip roll exercise. The benefits of a hip roll exercise for hiking is that it strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, and core. These are the muscles that you need to be strong so that you can hike safely.

Jump squats

A jump squat is a simple exercise, but it can provide profound benefits on the trail. While hiking, jumping squats can strengthen the muscles you'll use the most, like your quadriceps and calf muscles. They also help you achieve a full range of motion and build endurance. By improving your fitness, you're reducing the risk of incurring an injury while hiking.

Step up workout

Step up exercise for hiking is one of the easiest forms of exercise you can do. It only requires you to use your own body weight, and you can do it anywhere you want. It also increases your calorie burn, so you'll get even more out of your hike. All in all, it's a win-win situation. Step up exercise for hiking is actually simple. You just need to find a small staircase where you can climb repeatedly. 

Heel down workout

Heel Down Exercise is an exercise that lets you practice your hiking techniques. This type of exercise's primary purpose is to teach you the proper hiking techniques before you go out and hike. It is also a fun way to hike without really hiking. 

Hip clock

While hiking, a hip clock exercise will help you to keep a steady pace and pace yourself during the hike. This is essential to reach your destination comfortably. If you are hiking in a group, failing to maintain a steady walking pace can make the hike more difficult for others. Practicing this exercise will help you pace yourself during your hikes and keep you and your hiking buddies from tiring out too soon.

Bridge with hamstring curl

Bridge with hamstring curl exercise is a moderately difficult exercise, which combines two exercises – known to be the most effective at strengthening the gluteal muscles – that are often used for bodybuilding workouts. The bridge is a very popular exercise used in Pilates, yoga, and other stretching exercises, while the Hamstring Curl is performed in a weight lifting contest.

Tips For Getting In Shape While Hiking

Hiking is an incredible way to unwind and experience nature, but if your body isn't in the right shape, hiking can be brutal. If you are in reasonably good shape, hiking can be an enjoyable way to get some exercise and see the wonders of the natural world. If you aren't in condition, hiking can quickly become a painful experience.

Here are some tips that you should follow to get your body and mind in their top condition before your hike. 

  • Allocate adequate time to prepare
  • Improve your cardiovascular health
  • Strengthen your legs
  • Make sure your back is strong and durable enough to carry a loaded backpack
  • Never ignore your core
  • Learn exercises that improve your balance
  • Be mentally prepared


I can't emphasize enough the importance of how to get in shape for hiking. Failing to prepare will make you extremely prone to injuries and accidents. In fact, being out of shape will prevent you from completing a trail. 

Getting in shape will provide an excellent foundation for handling the physical rigor of hiking. It will allow you to focus more on enjoying the views. It also lets you set a faster pace. The more fit you are, the easier hiking will be for you!

I hope you find this guide helpful. For other inquiries, feel free to ask me in the comment section below.

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