Training for Hiking: Top Tips and Exercises

So you’ve decided to embark on your first long-distance hiking trip? Hiking can be an incredibly enjoyable experience, provided you are well prepared, and you have trained for it. If not, you will risk injury to your muscles, and the whole experience will not be very enjoyable at all. Long-distance hiking, in particular, can be a very intense experience and does require a lot of training and preparation beforehand.

Ensuring you have a plan of what appropriate gear to buy, and what your training schedule will be, will help to make your hiking journey as smooth as possible. Hiking can be incredibly stressful for your body, and there are many factors you need to think about before you embark on your trip.

You need to be mentally strong enough to deal with things such as hunger, tiredness, and sore muscles, while also physically strong enough to successfully complete the hike without injury. You want to be able to enjoy the amazing views while on your hike, and not worry about the pain in your ankles!

It can be confusing and daunting, knowing where to start when planning your training for a hike. If you have never done anything like this before, then it can be difficult to know what to do and when to do it. Here we have listed the top tips to think about when starting to train for your hike. We have also compiled a list of the best exercises to do to ensure that you have successfully strengthened the main muscles that will be used while hiking for long periods.

If you follow our top tips and incorporate our best exercises into your training routine, we do not doubt that you will be completely prepared for your long-distance hike. By sticking to what we have advised, you will be assured that your hike will be as successful, safe, and enjoyable as possible. Instead of worrying about joint aches or muscle tiredness, you can take in the amazing views and enjoy the company of close family and friends!

Top Tips

Cardio Training

Sportsman doing some cardio training

Cardio is one of the best things you can do when you are training for hiking. It’s also one of the easiest exercises to prepare. You can choose what style of cardio training is best for you. If you enjoy hitting the gym, then the treadmill and the stationary bike will be great choices for you. You can always choose to take long walks and run outside or around the city. The most important thing to remember is to get your heart rate up. This will help you build up your physical fitness and lung capacity to be ready for that long hike. Aerobic exercises are also a great way for you to fit your cardio into your schedule.

Exercises such as dancing, spinning, kickboxing, and HIIT will up your physical fitness. They are also a lot of fun!

Increasing muscle strength

Although cardio is important for training for a long hike, having a lot of strength in your leg and core muscles are equally as important. Strong leg muscles will ensure that you will be able to hike for longer periods without causing injury. A stronger core will ensure that you can carry your backpack easier without interfering with your hiking ability. Having stronger core muscles will also improve your balance so that you are much more stable while hiking on uneven and difficult terrain.

Mental Training


Physical training for a long hiking trip is very important, but some would argue that your mental training is equally important for this. Long-distance hiking, particularly if it’s over difficult terrain, can take a strain on your mental health. You’ll have to deal with tiredness, sore muscles, hunger, and perhaps other negative effects from the weather, such as sweating, sunburn, or the cold.

To ensure you will be able to continue your hike, you need to be mentally strong to withstand these obstacles. It will be able to think about the long-term goal of completing the hike successfully. It may also help to think of short-term goals to break it up. If you practice this line of thinking, then it will help you tremendously while you are out on your hike.

Stocking up on your hiking gear

Travel items for hiking tourism still life over wooden background

Having a good variety of gear for your hike is also important. Ensure that you think about the length of the hike. Also, consider the type of terrain that you’ll be hiking over. This will help you decide what kind of gear you will need for the duration of the trip. If you need to take a tent with you, ensure that it’s light enough so as not to weigh you down too much while hiking. You should also practice setting up the tent a few times before you leave for your trip.

Think about if you are wet, cold, and extremely tired while trying to set up a tent for the first time! You also need to ensure that you will be set up in time for nightfall. A lot of people like to use trekking poles to help with knee or ankle injuries. Trekking poles can also help if you have any balance issues while hiking on uneven terrain.

Ensure you find a pair that is an appropriate size and weight for you, and that will be durable enough to withstand outside elements or difficult terrain. Before you embark on your long hiking trip, you should also practice walking with the hiking poles a few times to make sure you are comfortable using them.

Finding an appropriate pair of hiking boots is vital. A good pair of hiking boots will ensure that you will not only be comfortable walking for long periods but also that you will not injure your foot or ankles if you are walking over uneven terrain. You should try and buy your boots at a professional store where they have trained employees who can best advise you on what style you would need for your feet and your hiking trip.

Stick to a training schedule

Having a training schedule will ensure that you can plan each exercise accordingly on what day.

Having a plan will help you stick to your training while also ensuring you have a good mix of exercises throughout the week. It is recommended that you start training eight weeks before your hike if you are not a usual hiker. Ensure you have at least four cardio sessions in a week, two (nonconsecutive) days of resistance training, and a rest day. Rest days are equally important for allowing your muscles to repair so you can continue training with no injury. You should not be training at all one or two days before your trip.

How to avoid injury while hiking

close up of knee support brace on leg of a traveler man during hiking outdoors in nature

There is no denying that causing injury to your muscles is a serious concern when hiking. One of the most common injuries while hiking is ‘hiker’s knee.’ Hiker’s knee usually occurs when the hiker is walking downhill for long periods.

Downhill walking causes repeated pressure on your body, which can, in turn, give you injury in your knees. Anyone who has ever experienced a hiker’s knee will know it’s not pleasant and will you cause you a lot of pain.

Hiker’s knee is definitely something you will want to avoid. The best way to avoid this is to ensure you have exercised and trained enough in advance.

You can also try various exercises with ankle weights attached to your ankles. This will help to strengthen your joints like your knees and ankles to ensure that injury is less common. Using trekking poles will also help immensely while you are hiking downhill.

Avoid Altitude Sickness

While hiking over mountain terrain, altitude sickness is very common and can cause a lot of disruption to your hiking journey. If you become very ill with altitude sickness, you may have to stop your hike altogether! To help combat altitude sickness on your journey, ensure that you will acclimate yourself to the elevation slowly. Once you reach a certain level, take it slowly and don’t rush to get to the top. This will cause you to become very ill. Ensure that throughout your trip, you are drinking plenty of water and eating a lot.

If you feel the symptoms of altitude sickness are very serious, then you must go to a lower elevation and have some water and rest before you continue your ascent up the mountain.

Train on similar terrain

Skyrunner athlete runs uphill against sunset or sunrise sky and sun. Skyrunning concept

Before you embark on your trip, you must hike on similar terrain to the terrain you will be hiking on on the day. You should start with shorter journeys and work your way up to a similar distance that your long hike will be. Ensure you research what the terrain will be like. This will help you physically and mentally prepare.

All terrain is different, and you will need to be aware of what you will be getting yourself in for before you start your long-distance hike! It will help you decide what kind of hiking boots will be necessary, and also what kind of exercises and training you should be focusing on more. Being completely prepared for the type of hike you will be embarking on beforehand will set you up for the most successful and enjoyable experience that you can have.

Top Exercises


Deep squat. Side view of young beautiful woman in sportswear and piercing doing squat while standing on the sport ground in the park.

Squats are a great exercise for building and strengthening your leg muscles. Having stronger leg muscles will ensure you can hike for longer periods without injury or discomfort. You could also add in a jump and perform jump squats. This will develop your leg muscles even further.

You can begin this exercise with your feet shoulder-width apart. When you are ready, squat down and ensure your legs are parallel to the ground.

Push through your heels and perform a small jump. Ensure you land softly so as not to injure your ankles. Repeat this exercise in sets.


Step-up exercises will help you train and practice for mountain hiking, or hiking over uneven terrain.

This is a very important exercise in ensuring you’ll be ready for the hike. It will build the endurance and strength in your core leg muscles. You can practice this with a sturdy box on the ground, or you can use your stairs at home! The Stairmaster at the gym will also assist you with this exercise. The Stairmaster will help you strengthen the muscles in your legs, and will give you cardio practice too. You should aim to exercise on the Stairmaster for at least 20 minutes every time you visit the gym. Find an appropriate pace for you. Remember, when you are hiking, you won’t be sprinting, so there is no need to do this on the Stairmaster! Again, if you do not have a gym membership, you could also practice this on your stairs at home.


Woman lunging outdoor

Lunges are another excellent exercise to help strengthen your muscles. Lunges are particularly great for practice going downhill on difficult terrain, which can cause a lot of injury to your knees. You can practice this by finding a gradual hill to walk down. You can then do lunges downhill. Ensure your upper body is straight and relaxed and that your front knee is bent at a 90-degree angle so as not to cause injury.

Kettlebell exercises

Using a kettlebell or any type of weight will allow you to grow your muscles at a much faster rate than if you were just to use your body weight. Using a kettlebell while practicing squats, for example, will be a great way to incorporate weight lifting into your training. Ensure that you begin with a light weight, so you do not injure yourself. Once you have practiced enough, then you can begin to raise the intensity and weight of the kettlebells. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold the kettlebell with both hands. Keep your spine straight and stick your butt out slightly. Gently lower into a squat until you touch the ground with the kettlebell. Repeat this exercise in sets.

Bridge Exercises

Young attractive sporty girl doing bridge exercise during yoga practice on autumn street

Bridge exercises will target your glute muscles, which are also very important to train when preparing for a hike. They will also engage your core muscles. You may also try different variations of bridge exercises, for example, a bridge with a hamstring curl. For this particular exercise, you will need an exercise ball. Lie on the ground with your arms rested by your side. Extend your legs and rest your heels on the exercise ball. Pull your feet back (with the exercise ball) and squeeze your glute muscles.


Planks are the best exercise for targeting your core muscles. You can also practice different variations, such as the side plank.

Banded Walking

Resistance band exercises with fabric elastic equipment. Crab walk squat exercise fitness woman training at gym

Banded walking will help you build and strengthen your leg muscles. Using a resistance band, place the band above your knees. Ensure there is enough tension in the band when you spread your legs to hip-width apart. Put your hands on your hips and tighten your core muscles. Then walk sideways while maintaining the tension in the band.

Hanging Knee Raises

These exercises are one of the best exercises for strengthening your core. They may be very difficult at the start, but with enough practice, you’ll be able to do these in sets in no time. Having a strong core will be vital to ensure your balance, and you can carry all of your gear throughout the entire trip without forfeiting your energy. Find a pull-up bar at the gym, or purchase one for your home, and hang from it with your arms extended. Using only your ab muscles, lift your knees towards your chest. Ensure that when your knees are coming back down, that you are only using your ab muscles. Do these exercises in sets.

Don’t forget to stretch!

Attractive young man stretching in the park before running at the sunset focus on shoes

You need to ensure that after completing all these exercises in your workout that you stretch correctly afterward. This will ensure that you will not injure your muscles before your long hiking trip! Ensure that you spend 5 to 10 minutes after your exercise routine to stretch the muscles that you were using. Stretching will also improve your flexibility and balance. This will have a great effect on your ability to hike for longer periods.

By using all the tips and exercises given to you in this article, you will be able to enjoy your long hike without discomfort or injury. You will be able to take in the amazing scenery, and the great company if you are hiking with friends, without constantly thinking about muscle pain or tiredness. You should be exercising six times throughout the week, a mixture of cardio and resistance training to ensure your physical fitness, endurance, and muscles will be able to withstand the difficult obstacles of hiking.

Remember that mentally preparing for the hike is just as important as physically preparing. Think about your short term goals while on the trip, and your long-term goal of successfully completing the hike. Envision the amazing feeling afterward when finishing the hike! Ensure that you have thought about your route and the type of terrain that you will be hiking over. This will help you physically and mentally prepare your body, and to make sure you have all the appropriate gear with you. Good luck, and enjoy your hiking trip!

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