How to Get in Shape for Hiking: 4 Tips from a Personal Trainer

5 Min Read

Today we’re going to tell you about getting in prime shape to hit those long, rigorous hikes without getting too gassed. We’ll cover lifting movements as well as higher intensity training, endurance training and breathwork.

Hi! My name is Colin Slager, and I am a performance coach with specialties in nutrition, training and movement rehabilitation. So you want to get into hiking, but not quite sure how to get in proper shape for it? Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered.

Let’s get started!

Disclaimer: This guide was created for educational purposes and neither offers nor replaces medical advice.

Table of Contents


Resistance Training

Resistance training has a profound effect on countless areas of one’s life. From improving general health markers to increasing physical performance, resistance training has been studied long enough for there to be no question of how beneficial it can be.



Lunges are a great exercise to not only build strength, but to build balance and stability as well.

When you drop into a full lunge, whether forwards or backwards, then you have most of your weight on the lead foot, forcing you to stabilize and balance through a single lever of the body.

  • Start in standing position with feet about hip width apart
  • With either leg, take a step forward
  • Make sure the lead leg is at a right angle with shin and knee
  • Back leg will drop down towards the floor naturally
  • Keep entire foot on the ground, do not raise up onto toes or balls of your feet
  • Drive through the heel, standing back up and bringing feet back in line
  • Repeat with the other side



Using variations of the squat will improve the strength of your lower extremities, getting you in prime physical condition for longer bouts of hiking.

Back Squat

The back squat will work primarily the muscles in the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, calves, etc.) but will still undoubtedly work the quads as well. The back squat can also be a good training tool for having load on your back.

Most hikers have a pack of some sort on their backs while on the trail, so practicing with heavier weight on your back will help make any other pack seem a lot less straining and easier to maneuver with.

  • Get under the barbell, placing it on top of the back of your shoulders
  • Have feet slightly wider than hip width, and toes pointed slightly outward
  • Squeeze shoulder blades together to help ensure the barbell is secure
  • Engage your core
  • The first movement is hips dropping down and back, as if you are about to sit down in a chair
  • Keep going lower until your hips are even or just below parallel with your knees
  • Keeping both feet firmly on the ground, drive through the heels as you exhale to get back up in starting position



Another compound lift that requires a lot of power and overall strength is the deadlift. Working more posterior chain as well as your core, the deadlift will help teach you how to properly bend over with or without load.

Most injuries occur when someone bends over improperly, whether they’re picking up a couch or a dixie cup, so being aware of how your body is moving in a compromising position will decrease the likelihood of injury.

  • Walk up to the bar and line it up over your midfoot (halfway up your shoe)
  • Bend your knees and hinge at the waist
  • Grab the barbell with both palms facing down or one up and one down (snatch grip or mixed grip)
  • If grabbing with snatch grip, try to bend the bar, this will engage more of your lats and upper back
  • Brace your core
  • Drive through the heels and lift the barbell up
  • Raise knees and hips together until the barbell passes above your knees, then hinge upright at the waist
  • Once you are standing tall with full extension with the barbell, you can drop it (if the plates allow for it)


Pull Ups

One of the oldest and most foundational movements is the pull up. Doing pull ups will increase strength through your entire back, and give you the ability to help pull yourself up and through tight spaces or even rocks and ladders that could be found on more strenuous hiking trails.

  • Get up onto the bar with both palms facing away from you
  • Let arms get full extension (completely hang)
  • Pull yourself up using your back and arms, exhaling at the same time
  • Let yourself go back down and repeat


High Intensity Interval Training

When it comes to getting in prime shape for just about any sort of performance, training in higher heart rate zones can yield some of the greatest results.

There are countless ways to create more intense training programs, so will provide a quick example on how to get your heart rate up while building strength and endurance.

5 rounds for time (completing the below cycle 5 times as fast as you can):

  • 10 pull-ups
  • 40 double unders (60 single unders) with the jump rope
  • 5 deadlifts

This time of training will help you build strength and handle load under duress while keeping your heart rate high to push the amount of stress your body is able to handle, thus increasing overall performance on the trails.

Shorter Rest Periods

When people are in the gym weight training, it’s common to check your phone or chat with people you know in between sets.

If you want to get your body in better shape for hiking, then you should time your rest periods to ensure you don’t take longer than 90 or 120 seconds.

This will help increase your heart rate and teach your body to handle more stress.


Endurance Training

Since hiking usually involves doing at least a few miles of rigorous terrain at a time, you’ll want to build up your stamina to handle longer distances.


Running is an easy way to build up your stamina and can be done anywhere. You don’t have to necessarily go as hard as you can every run, but increasing your distance by 10% each week will help you build at a reasonable pace.


Since hiking has a lot of different type of stepping and typically with an incline, the stairmaster can be a great training tool to help you get in shape for your hikes. You are able to control resistance as well, making it easy to push yourself to increase strength and endurance.


Nasal Breathing

Working on nasal breathing will undoubtedly help your hiking.

When you learn to breathe more through your nose with everyday life and training, your body gets more oxygen, can handle more stress, and will be more efficient than compared to mouth breathing.

So whether you’re sitting at your desk working or going through some gym exercises, see how much strict nasal breathing you can do.

In Conclusion

Let’s recap.

To help get in shape for hiking, we talked about the significance of resistance training and some different movements to try specifically.

We then went through the benefits of high intensity interval training, how to increase your stamina and endurance, and finished with how different ways of breathing can affect your performance.

If you’re trying to get in shape for hiking, use this guide as your go-to reference!


Colin Slager

Last Updated:

June 28, 2022


Dr. Maghraby is a medical doctor and published physician scientist. He’s an avid runner and a user of sports compression gear.