How to prepare for your summer hikes

4 Aug 2023 07:47AM by Virgin Active


Got your hiking boots ready? The viewpoints are waiting for you. Yes, it’s the season we love most the perfect time to take your hikes to the next level. Early mornings, and late nights, those extra hours of sunlight where a hike just hits different. To get prepped and ready for all that summer fun, we’re here to tell you the perfect exercises that will help increase your performance on your hikes. Let’s climb into it!  


Why do I need to prep for my hike?

Before you set off, it’s important to make sure you are as prepared as possible. What do you need to focus on in your workouts leading up to the big event? The aim of doing the correct exercises beforehand is to get your body ready for the hike.

So, you need to focus on improving your muscle strength. Your body relies on strong legs and core muscles while trekking up and down slopes. You must practice exercises that will help these muscles. 

In particular, focus on training your lower back and shoulders as these muscles will be needed for the backpack. This leads onto balance.

You need to ensure you are comfortable in maintaining a stable hold while hiking on uneven grounds. And to help your body to its fullest, you should do a high level of cardio training. This will benefit you while on the hike as you’ll already be used to the intensity. 


The exercises to help your hike...

Now we’ve warmed up, we better get stuck in and tell you how to achieve the above. All set? 

1. We’ll start off strong with a Virgin Active favourite…a squat. One of the easier exercises to do, but still very beneficial. Squats are great for hikers as the exercise targets the main leg muscles including your hamstrings, glutes, and quads. These are the core muscles that are used during a hike so it’s a good idea to practice the exercise and get your legs warmed up. If you add a barbell across your shoulders while doing your squats, this will get your back ready and comfortable with carrying weights which is good preparation for your hiking backpack. 

2. Next up we have lunges. Who doesn’t love a lunge? They make you feel great afterwards. Lunges focus on each leg individually which intensifies your lower body strength. To make sure you target the hamstrings and glutes, when performing the exercise, make sure there is a bend at your hip. This will stimulate the joint angle at your hips while you climb those steep hills. You will find that practicing these types of lunges will be more beneficial while on your hike. These will also increase your power and force, helping you trek up and down those slopes. Your balance will also improve as well strengthening your core muscles.

3. Another important exercise we can’t forget, is a deadlift, you’ll be surprised how much this will help you on your hike. The exercise has a focus on your lower back and hamstrings, together with your glutes. You guessed it right; these also play a big part during your hike, so it is important to train the muscles up. Practicing deadlifts are also beneficial for steep gradients, this will prepare you for climbing different levels, while helping you maintain your balance, especially with a heavy bag on your back.

4. A big jump into cardio, one of the most important preparation exercises. During a hike you spend a lot of time trekking up hills. You need to make sure your body is ready for a high level of cardio. This can be practiced on either a Stairmaster, bicycle, or hill sprints. These are beneficial as they get your body used to exercising on a steep incline, just like on your hike. At the same time, these cardio exercises will make your climbing muscles stronger. 

5. Almost at the finish line where we round up the workout with some Pull ups. If a hike isn’t challenging enough with all the hills, speeds, and slopes, you have a heavy backpack to carry along the way. This is where your pull up exercise practice will come in handy. It’s a great exercise for your back, shoulders, and biceps. It helps to train your back to stay upright and strong while on those mountains. Not only that, but it really improves the strength in your back, reducing the strain of carrying that backpack for a long period of time. 

6. Save the best till last? The Core exercises that bring it all together, the focus on your abs. Trekking a heavy backpack with you along the way might be challenging, you’ll want to avoid pulling your shoulders into an arched position. We’re here to tell you how! Practicing ab core workouts will benefit you more than you think, they help strengthen your anterior core muscles. This will improve your balance, movement efficiency, and prevents injury. Great core exercises for this are what we call "anti-extension" exercises, which are exercises that focus on your abs and obliques to prevent your back from arching and overworking. Examples of these include dead-bugs, planks, V-sits, Russian twists, hollow holds, and V-ups. Even full body compound exercises like push ups and pull ups can have the same affect. You’ll be thankful for adding these into your training plan when you’re on those hills.

7. Let’s not forget the main event, stretching. All the above exercises will only benefit you to their full potential if stretching has been done correctly. A consequence of not stretching could be injuring yourself while doing an exercise, and you can’t have that! Before starting your workout, you must stretch for 5-10 minutes to get your heart rate pumping. This will get your body ready for the exercises. It’s just as important to get these stretches done after your workout too. You don’t want all the good you’ve achieved to be ruined. In particular, you must stetch out your glutes, hamstrings, quads, core muscles and lower back, as these had a strong focus during your workout. Stretching should be part of your routine and never forgotten. It will reduce the risk of injury. Trust us, no one ever regrets it. Find out even more on stretching in our blog here.

Ok, that was a lot of information, wasn’t it? But you’ll be thanking us when you’re on your hike, the most prepared one there. Hiking is a funny one because it’s a workout itself, but you need to exercise to get yourself prepared. It’s a win, win really. The more preparation you put in, the more beneficial it’ll be. So, it’s all down to you. Whether you’re a first-time hiker or already a hike lover, these pointers will help increase your performance levels and get you to the top of the hill with a smile on your face. 


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