Trails with extreme elevation gain require you to have a solid baseline of strength if you want to get up (and down!) the mountain safely and injury-free. So, in addition to hiking, we recommend adding some basic strength training into your schedule.
When most of us exercise, we usually only move in the sagittal plane (moving forwards and backward). But hiking is never done in a straight line. You are constantly stepping around rocks, turning to go down switchbacks, stepping to the side to go around other hikers, etc. To prevent injury and to help strengthen all of your muscles and connective tissue, it’s important to train in all three planes of motion. So whether you’re stuck at home training or just want to supplement your hiking with some strength-based exercises, we’ve compiled a list of ten exercises that will help get you moving in every plane of motion.
However, if you’re new to exercising and/or have existing injuries, please consult a personal trainer or doctor before integrating strength training into your workout routine.
TOP 10 GYM OR AT-HOME EXERCISES
1. BOSU BALL SQUATS
Bosu balls are a great tool to get the ankles and knees ready for hiking. As you work to balance on the shifting ball, you use small, supporting muscles to stabilize your joints.
To perform a Bosu squat, place the ball with the curved (blue) side down. Ideally, you’ll want to stand close to a wall or beam that you can use for support. If you’re a beginner, start with simple bodyweight squats on the ball. Start with your shoes on. If you feel ready and want to activate muscles in your foot, then go barefoot.
Variations: When you feel comfortable on the Bosu Ball, you could try standing with one foot in the middle. Then, grab your gym buddy and play catch with a tennis ball. If you feel the strong burn in the arches of your feet or your calves, you know you’re doing it right.
2. PLANK AND SIDE PLANK
Before a big hiking trip, you’ll want to strengthen the core muscles so you are prepared to support a heavy load. And planks are one of the best ways to do this. Planks are a full-core (and full-body) isometric exercise that targets the muscles that support your spine and stabilize your low back. But more than that, you’re working out your chest, arms, shoulders, and legs, as well.
Get into a plank position with either your hands or forearms directly under your shoulders. (If you have any wrist trouble, we recommend the forearms.) Squeeze your glutes, engage your core, and press out through your heels to activate your entire lower body. Keep your neck level with your eyes straight forward. Hold for 30 seconds. As you get more comfortable, hold the plank for longer, while always making sure to keep good form.
Side planks are great for strengthening your side body. Again, place either on your left hand or forearm directly under your left shoulder. While your legs are straight and in line with your body, press into your arm or hand to lift onto the edge of your left foot. Raise your right hand towards the ceiling and engage your core. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
Variations: As you progress, you could try more difficult plank variations. such as using a TRX or bench to support your feet on an incline. Or, you could work your balance by holding a plank with your forearms on a stability ball and your feet on the floor. Last, you could hold a traditional plank while lifting opposite limbs (left arm/right leg) and alternating.