Building leg strength and muscular endurance is a must for hiking and backpacking. Not only will it make your adventures much more enjoyable, but it will help keep you injury free.

Seven Leg Strengthening Exercises That Will Get Your Legs Ready To Hit The Trails

Focus more on muscle endurance for the first 4-6 weeks by doing more repetitions with lighter weight. Then increase muscle strength by increasing weight and decreasing repetitions.  Always keep your spine in a neutral position by contracting your abdominals in, lifting your chest, and retracting and depressing your shoulder blades.


Targets front of thighs, hips, and core.
  • Stand tall with feet hip width apart.
  • Keep heels in contact with the ground as you lower your hips back.
  • Your knees stay behind your toes.
  • Only lower as far down as you can while keeping your spine straight and chest open.
  • Raise back up the starting position.
  • Repeat 15-25 repetitions for 1-3 sets.
  • For added core work, keep arms overhead (OH) in line with your ears as you perform the squats


Stationary Lunges

Targets thighs, hips, and core.

  • Stand tall in a staggered stance.
  • Your front foot is flat and your back heel is raised with weight even between your front and back foot.
  • Slowly lower straight down keeping weight evenly balanced between both legs.
  • Don’t let your front knee go past your toes; keep weight on your front heel.
  • Raise back up to starting position and repeat 15-25 reps.
  • Repeat sequence on the opposite leg.
  • Perform 1-3 sets alternating sides.


Stationary Side Lunges

Targets butt, hips, and thighs.

  • Stand tall with feet wider than shoulders.
  • Keep your left leg straight as you bend your right knee and push your hips back.
  • Only lower as far as you can keeping your spine neutral.
  • Raise back up to the starting position and repeat the same side for 15-25 reps.
  • Repeat sequence on the opposite side alternating sides 1-3 sets.
  • You will feel a stretch through the inner thigh and your glutes will be working!
  • For a core challenge, raise arms out straight as you lower down, but only use light weights for this.

Step ups

Targets butt and thighs.

  • Stand tall facing a platform or step that is anywhere from 6-20 inches in height.
  • Step your right foot onto the platform and squeeze your butt as you transfer your weight to your right leg.
  • Your left foot taps the platform, or raise your left knee for added balance training.
  • Lower back down with control.
  • Repeat 15-25 reps on the right.
  • Repeat sequence on the opposite leg; alternate sides 1-3 sets.


One Legged Calf Raises

Targets the back of the lower leg.

  • Stand tall with most or all your weight on your right leg.
  • Raise up onto the ball of your right foot and lower back down slow and controlled.
  • Repeat 15-25 reps; 1-3 sets each leg.

Tap Downs

Works all stabilizing muscles of the hip, knee, and ankle.

  • Stand on a low platform (2-6 inches in height).
  • Place your hands on your hip bones with your abs in and chest open.
  • Slowly lower your right heel towards the ground, but focus on keeping your hips parallel and knee stable; Don’t let your left knee wobble or cave in as you perform the exercise.
  • It’s best to look at your knee and hips in a mirror.
  • Raise back up straightening your left leg.
  • Repeat for 8-15 reps; 1-3 sets.


Lateral Tap Downs

Works all stabilizing muscles of the hip, knee, and ankle.

  • Repeat same sequence as above, but face sideways to your platform.
  • Focus on slow, controlled movements.
  • Repeat 8-15 reps; 1-3 sets.
Even though you perform the tap downs at the end of this workout, they are the most important exercises you can do for your training for the trails. Do not skip these exercises. Your legs will thank you later!
* Consult your physician before starting this or any exercise program.

Leave a Reply