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Which Muscles Does Hiking Work? (9 Muscles To Warm Up Before A Hike)

Which Muscles Does Hiking Work? (9 Muscles To Warm Up Before A Hike)

Hiking is a great activity for people who want to get outside and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Hiking also happens to be an excellent way of getting in shape, as it works out multiple muscle groups at once! So which muscles does hiking work?

Hiking can strengthen your thighs, calves, and glutes, back, hips, and abs. It also helps improve your balance and endurance. For those who are scrambling or climbing, it will tone your arms and shoulders as well.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the muscles that hiking works as well as how to get as many benefits as possible out of this practice.


Which Muscles Does Hiking Work?



Hiking is a great way to gain strength in the muscles of your thighs. This part of your body consists of your hamstrings and quadriceps and is the main muscle group that is engaged during a hike.

Even a hike on flat terrain will help to improve endurance and strength in this area. This is a perfect form of low-impact cardio and can help to prevent injuries in the future.

More strenuous trails that include uphill stretches will give you the added benefit of building muscle in your hamstrings and quads.

How to Prepare Your Thighs for Hiking

If you are looking to improve your thigh strength in preparation for a hike, there are a few exercises that you can do.

One is the squat. This exercise will help to tone and strengthen both your quadriceps and hamstrings. Another great move is the lunge. Lunges target each leg individually and will help with balance as well.

A good stretch for your thighs before you go hiking is the standing quad stretch. To do this, stand with your legs about three feet apart and bend one knee outward while placing that foot on a sturdy surface for balance.

Then lean forward slightly at the waist until you feel a pull in your thigh muscles. Hold this position for about 30 seconds to get the most benefits.

A great way to stretch your hamstrings and quadriceps after a hike is with a forward fold. To do this, stand with your feet hip-width apart and hinge at the waist to fold forward.

Allow your head and hands to hang down below your hips. You should feel a stretch in the back of your thighs. Hold for 30 seconds.


Your calves get an extensive workout when hiking as well. This muscle group is responsible for pushing you up and down hills, so it’s important to have them in good shape!

Hiking uphill will really work these muscles, but even a flat hike can help improve their strength and endurance. When you’re descending a hill, your calves are also working hard to slow you down and support your weight.

How to Prepare Your Calves for Hiking

There are a few exercises that you can do to help improve the strength of your calves. One is the standing calf raise. To do this, stand with your feet hip-width apart and press up onto the balls of your feet, raising your heels as high as possible.

Another great way to work out your calves is with the donkey kick. To do this, start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees.

Then lift one leg behind you so that it is parallel to the floor while keeping your foot flexed. Pause for a moment before returning to the starting position and repeat on each side 15 times or more if possible.

If you want to stretch and lengthen your calves, try the runner’s lunge. Start in a standing position and step one foot forward, lunging toward the floor with that leg.

Make sure your front knee stays behind your toes and hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.


This part of the body is responsible for keeping you upright while going uphill or downhill and is a very important component of what is known as your core muscles. It also helps to support your weight when carrying a backpack over long distances.

Hiking can help improve strength in this area, which will lower the risk of injury and make it easier to maintain good posture. Strong glute muscles will improve your balance and stability as well.

Hiking uphill is the best way to work these muscles, but even a flat hike can help you to achieve better results over time.

How to Prepare Your Glutes for Hiking

There are several exercises that you can do in order to improve strength and endurance in your gluteal muscles.

The squat is a good movement for the glutes, just as it is for the upper legs. To do this, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly lower yourself into a seated position, making sure to keep your back straight.

The stronger your glutes become, the more you will notice your knees coming into alignment. This is extremely important for avoiding injury, especially for people who are just beginning to exercise.

In order to stretch your glutes after a hike, you can try the pigeon pose. Start in a downward dog position with your hands and feet on the ground, and then slowly bring one knee forward to rest between your hands.

Make sure that your hips are square to the front of the room and hold for 30 to 60 seconds before switching sides. This exercise can be quite intense, so be sure to take your time and build up to it if needed.


Your back muscles work hard when hiking, especially when carrying a backpack. They are responsible for maintaining good posture and preventing injury.

Hiking uphill is the best way to work these muscles, but even a flat hike can help you achieve better results over time since you will be constantly carrying your posture. Scrambling and climbing also require a lot of endurance in your back muscles.

How to Prepare Your Back for Hiking

There are several exercises that you can use to help strengthen your back muscles before embarking on a hike.

One of these is the row, also known as inverted rows or chin-ups. To do this, get into an L position with your feet against something sturdy and grab onto a bar above your head. Make sure that you’re engaging your core muscles and slowly pull your torso up, squeezing the back of your shoulder blades together.

The stronger your back becomes, the easier it will be to carry a backpack over long distances without developing pain or muscle strain. This is something that every hiker should aim for in order to avoid injury.

Hip Flexor Muscles

These are the muscles that allow you to lift your knees up high when hiking uphill or to maintain balance when going downhill or sideways. They also help to keep you moving forward when walking and play a big role in your stride length.

How to Prepare Your Hip Flexors for Hiking

Hip flexor muscles are often neglected, so it’s important to take some time to work on them. When preparing these muscles for hiking, it is best to start slowly and increase the intensity over time. One way to do this is by performing lunges.

Start in a standing position with one foot forward and lower yourself down until your back knee almost touches the floor. Make sure that you’re keeping your front heel flat on the ground and push yourself back up to a starting position.

You can also try side lunges, which are great for strengthening the hip flexors. Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart and step out to one side until you feel the tension in your glute muscles.

You can stretch your hip flexors by lying on your back and bringing one knee up to your chest. Hold for 30 seconds before switching legs.


When hiking uphill, scrambling, or climbing, you’re really working your chest muscles. If you’re using walking sticks to help with balance, you’re also using your chest muscles. This isn’t a major muscle group engaged during most hikes, so it isn’t the first place you notice fatigue after an intense hike.

All of these exercises will help to improve strength and endurance in your chest muscles so that you can hike further and longer with less effort.

How to Prepare Your Chest Muscles for Hiking

Although your chest muscles are not the first you’ll feel after hiking, it’s important to prepare them for an intense hike.

One way of doing this is by performing pushups. You can do them on your knees or against a wall for an easier version or try to do them with straight legs on the ground. Make sure that you’re keeping good posture throughout the pushup and slowly lower yourself down before pushing back up into the starting position.


Abs are a part of your core muscles and you engage them every time that you hike. They help to keep good posture during your entire hike but are also required for balance on steep hikes or while climbing over rocks. Maintaining proper form with the abs is key since they act as a stabilizer muscle group throughout your whole body.

Any time you lift your leg, reach, or bend during a hike, you are engaging your abs. They help to keep good posture and strong abs can also help to protect your lower back and hips.

How to Prepare Your Abs for Hiking

You can prepare your abs for an intense hike by doing situps or crunches. You can also try Pilates exercises, which are great for strengthening your abs. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Raise your head and shoulders off of the ground and hold for a few seconds before lowering them down again.

You can also try leg raises, which will help to tone and strengthen your abs.

Shoulders & Arms

Hiking is a great exercise for your shoulders and arms due to all of the lifting that you do. Whether it’s pulling yourself up onto rocks or pushing back against an uneven surface, your upper body will be working hard throughout your hike.

Your rotator cuffs, which are the muscles and tendons in your shoulders, will also be worked throughout a climbing or scrambling hike. They help to stabilize and rotate your arms while hiking so that you can maintain a good form when reaching for rocks or branches.

How to Prepare Your Shoulders & Arms for Hiking

Since these muscle groups aren’t engaged as much during other activities like running or biking, it’s important to prepare them before attempting an intense hike.

You can do this by lifting heavy weights or using resistance bands while doing shoulder presses, arm curls, and tricep extensions.

It’s helpful to stretch your shoulders and arms before your hike as well. You can do this with shoulder rolls, stretching your arms out to the side and then pulling them back, and hugging yourself.


Finally, your ankles are engaged during hiking as they help to keep you balanced on uneven surfaces. They also work hard when going downhill, as you’re constantly putting them into a dorsiflexed position as you walk. This is the opposite of plantarflexion, which is what your ankle does when pointing your toes downwards.

How to Prepare Your Ankles for Hiking

You can prepare your ankles by spending a few minutes barefoot on flat ground so that you can strengthen the muscles and tendons. You’ll want to start with your feet parallel, pointing straight forward, then flex them back as far as they will go before bringing them back forward into a neutral position again.

You can also do ankle rolls to help ensure a full range of movement when on your hike.


Additional Benefits of Hiking


In addition to the muscles that are specifically worked during hiking, there are a few other benefits that you can enjoy from this activity.

First, hiking is great for your cardiovascular health. It gets your heart rate up and helps to improve your overall fitness level. You will also be burning calories, which is great for weight loss or maintenance. The weight of your gear will also add to the workout, and with backpacks full of food, clothing, camping gear and even potentially cameras and tripods, it soon adds up.

Second, hiking is a great way to reduce stress. It allows you to get outside and enjoy nature while also getting a good workout. This can be really beneficial for your mental health and can help to improve your mood overall. It helps to balance many hormones in the body and has even been shown to help improve the quality of sleep.

Finally, hiking is a great way to improve your balance and coordination. This is due to the fact that you’re constantly adjusting to different surfaces and terrain while hiking. As you get better at this, your balance will improve overall. This can help prevent injuries, increase your range of motion, and improve your overall athleticism.


Final Thoughts


If you are looking for a great workout that also allows you to take in the natural beauty around you, hiking is definitely the activity for you! Get outdoors and start hiking today!