Hitting the trails for a long hike can be practically meditative. You’re surrounded by nature—and possibly dogs—breathing in fresh air in pursuit of Instagram-worthy views. And while hiking, in theory, is just walking uphill for a while, it offers up one heck of a heavy-breathing, heart-pumping cardio workout. (Seriously, just try engaging in a heated conversation about last night’s episode of The Bachelor with your hiking buddy at 12,000 feet.).
“As you’re hiking on the trail, you’ll be looking for trail markers along the way,” says Alvino. “Why not make these progress points a reason to get a better workout?” Every time you come upon a trail marker, drop to the ground for 10 pushups (just be aware of fellow hikers coming through), or grab a heavy rock (or your backpack) to do 10 military shoulder presses. “Shoulder presses and pushups are effective ways to increase your core strength while focusing on your upper body as well,” says Alvino. “Pushups will help you gain stronger chest and triceps muscles, while shoulder presses will help define and strengthen your shoulders and triceps.” (The Slim, Sexy, Strong Workout DVD is the fast, flexible workout you’ve been waiting for!)
If you’re on a marker-heavy trail, rotate these in with the previous exercises. Instead of pushups or shoulder presses, perform deep squat walks at every other trail marker. Assume a deep squat position without unloading any of your hiking gear, then take 20 slow heel-toe creep steps forward. (One right step and one left step counts as one step, so in total you’ll be taking 40 steps.) “Deep squats are a great tool to specifically target your gluteus muscles while protecting your knees and spine, as long as you can remain erect in your posture and in a wide stance with your feet,” says Alvino. “With each step you take, you’ll be firing up your glutes and hamstrings while adding stress to the quadriceps as well.”
Whenever you see or step on a big rock that’s unstable, stand over it, drop down into a deep squat, and pick up the rock in a goblet squat position. Once you have a handle on the additional weight, do 10 deep squat repetitions. “The sumo squats will add strength and definition to your gluteus muscles,” says Alvino. “When you load the squats with additional weight, your strength will deepen and your activation will spike.”
“Instead of walking slowly and taking big steps, turn those large steps into deep lunges,” Alvino says. Keep your posture upright throughout your torso and do your best not to let your front knee go forward past your ankle. “Good form is crucial here,” says Alvino, “especially as you start to fatigue going up the mountain.” Hiking on its own provides amazing work for the lower body and core, but adding deep lunges to the mix will engage more reverse chain muscles—like your hamstrings, glutes, and calves—as you ascend.
Every time you stop to take a break for pictures or a snack, take an active recovery in a stationary alternating side lunge to open up your hips and change the plane of motion you’ve been working in, Alvino suggests. “For maximum strength gains, keep your backpack on or pick up a boulder,” she says. “Every time you step your feet together, your adductor muscles will contract, giving you a full lower-body burn.”
- Designate two minutes to a plank series, spending 30-second increments in various plank forms, like high plank, low plank, or side plank. Make it harder by elevating your feet on your backpack or a tree stump, or add five to 10 pushups between each 30-second set.
- Lie on your back for a two-minute crunch series. “The abdominal flexion will give you a serious burn throughout the front side of your core, which will help distract your mind and body from the vigorous nature of the hike working your legs,” says Alvino.
“If you’re on a pretty technical trail, you’ll need to get low to the ground to be as safe as possible as you summit and descend,” says Alvino. To execute a proper bear crawl, get your body horizontal and parallel to the earth while climbing with your opposite hand and foot at the same time. (If you reach up with your right hand, your left foot will follow.) “Bear crawls are highly effective because they engage nearly every muscle in your body to keep you as close to the ground as possible, while still maintaining core stability and forward progress,” says Alvino.