By Scott A. Jansen

As we officially enter into summer I’m reminded by my clients that this is hiking and climbing season. In my tenure, I’ve trained numerous athletes to prepare for large treks both nationally and internationally and it surmounts to the same essential elements. I was asked to prepare a strength and conditioning program by The Mountaineers (https://www.mountaineers.org/) for their outdoor programs/communities like hiking. I’ve compiled a brief recap of the essentials needed to hike farther, stronger, and faster this summer.

Eccentric Training

Any mountain sport like hiking or skiing is basically a controlled fall down during descent. This is the opposite of the type of muscle contraction performed while climbing or ascending.  Understanding this is critical to the preparation for these mountain activities. Eccentric training has been termed “negatives” in the gyms and weight lifting communities for decades. When designing strength and conditioning programs for athletes we expose them to multiple types of resistance speeds, resistance loads, and put an emphasis on concentric (positive) and eccentric (negative) muscle contraction. To provide a basic example, while you’re slowly lowering toward the ground during a basic squat, your muscles are lengthening in an eccentric contraction. When standing back up with the load, your muscles are shortening in a concentric contraction. When skiers or hikers only train concentrically they fail to accomplish the basic sports specific training required to be successful. They pay the price with fatigue and knee pain after descending and are left wondering why this happened.

Muscle Specific Exercises

1. Quadriceps – Step Downs, Skiers clock lunges, Eccentric Goblet Squats
2. Hamstrings – GHD eccentric falls, Felt (or furniture mover pad) Slide Outs, and TRX Hamstring kick outs
3. Calves – Standing eccentric falls off platform or stair
4. Gluteus Maximus, Minimus, Medius – Eccentric Glute Bridges, GHD eccentric falls, Single Leg RDL’s (slow falls)
5. Inner/Outer Thighs – Band Walks, and Cables with Ankle Strap, Side Step Downs (I.T. Band)
6. Core – Standing core movements are best as you’ll have a pack on or top load typically. Standing DB Oblique Crunches, Cable Press Outs with Lateral Rotation, and top loading other weighted resistance movements that require the core to have more of a demand (holding DB’s at shoulder height while lunging)

Sports Specific Conditioning

Every activity or sport has specific exercises that replicate the movement completed during a task. This is also true with cardiovascular conditioning. Climbing stairs or using a stair master for long durations are perfect for hiking. Also, treadmill work with an incline is great. I’d suggest slowly adding more loads with a backpack as you get closer to the event you’re training for.  Don’t forget to mix it up with sprint intervals on other devices like rowers or bikes though as during your activity you’ll inevitably be changing speeds and these will come in handy.

Injury Prevention through Stretching

I’ve written several articles on stretching and soft tissue work which reflects the value I place on these. My goal for my clients is that they understand which muscles become tight and know how to stretch them. While hiking or climbing it’s critical to stretch your Hip Flexors, Iliopsoas, and Piriformis muscles. Hiking while having a pack on your back and leaning while ascending or descending changes the pelvis position. Anterior or Posterior tilting can cause lower back pain if the surrounding musculature isn’t flexible and able to adjust to support the change.  

In Summary

This summer I hope you train and prepare for your hikes. I know if you incorporate these tips you’ll find improved performance, easier recovery, and more pleasure while moving. If you have any questions about these exercises or stretches contact me for support. You can also follow me on social media for more tips, exercises, and videos: FB: Scott Jansen, Instagram: @scottajansen.  Have fun in the great outdoors!

Stay Healthy and Active,

Scott A. Jansen

Magnuson Athletic Club/ Fitness Manager