Preparing Your Body for Hiking

Exercises and Stretches for Hiking

The major muscle groups involved in hiking are your quadriceps and glutes, which work together with other smaller muscles that stabilize your hip, knee, and ankle joints. Before getting out on the trail, it is important to make sure these muscles are conditioned for the kind of activity you will be putting them through. Below are a few stretches and exercises to get you ready for the trail. But before you do your exercises, make sure your body is warmed up by just walking around for a few minutes.

man doing warm-up

Single Leg Balancing

Hiking trails usually have uneven and sometimes unpredictable walking surfaces, so ankle stability is key to making sure you don’t roll or sprain your ankle. This exercise will strengthen the muscles in your lower leg that that hold your ankle joint in place. Start by simply standing on one leg without holding on to anything for balance. If this is too easy, you can place a pillow on the floor to make balancing more difficult.

man standing on one leg

Bridging and Side Raises

When hiking uphill, your glutes do most of the work required. These exercises focus on the glutes, but will also help to strengthen your abdominal muscles and other muscles around the hip.

To perform the bridging exercise, lie on the floor and slide your feet towards you until your knees are at about a 90 degree angle. Then, lift your hips up until your torso, hips, and knees are in a straight line. Slowly lower your hips to the ground and repeat. If the two-legged exercise feels too easy, do the exercise as shown in the second picture with one leg.

man performing bridging exerciseman performing one-legged bridge exercise

For the side raises, lie on your side and keep your legs straight. Then raise your top leg up until your raised foot is about 12 inches above the foot on the ground. Slowly lower your leg back down and repeat with both legs.

man doing side leg raise exercise

Stretches before you begin

Quad stretch

Standing upright, raise your foot up behind you to a point where you can grab it with the hand on the same side of your body (left leg with left hand; right leg with right hand). Stabilize yourself against a wall or countertop if needed, then hold your leg in a flexed position for 30-45 seconds and repeat for the opposite leg.

man stretching quad

Hip side stretch

Standing upright, place one hand on your hip and bend sideways at the waist while keeping your chest facing forward. While bending, reach over the top of your head with your free hand. You should feel a stretch in the area between the top of your hip and your bottom rib. Hold this position for 30-45 seconds and switch sides.

man stretching hip

And with that, you are ready to hit the trails!

man giving high five