How to be a Strong Hiking Momma – A Strength Training Plan for the Hiker 2

Megan Dahlman is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Certified Precision Nutrition Coach, and mother of two little boys. This routine she’s sharing with us today is not exclusive to hikers. Every single woman can benefit from having good posture and a strong core, a strong upper body, and a powerful and agile lower body. This is a great routine for everyone! Let us know how you like it!
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There is nothing like the feeling of stuffing your pack full of snacks and water, double checking the weather, lacing up your hiking shoes and hitting a trail ready for adventure with friends! But how many times have you headed out there a little unsteady and somewhat weak? The fear of injury is always lurking, and you’re secretly hoping the trail is pretty flat. You would admit that the sight of your car when you return is so glorious. Ready for that bigger hike tomorrow? Yeah, no thanks.

You love hiking, but you wish you were a little stronger. You wish you were the pace-setter at the front of the pack, charging ahead with incredible fitness, instead of being afraid that you can’t keep up. Or maybe you are the boundless leader already, but your body pays for it later.

When it comes to strength training for hiking, it’s simply not enough to do a bunch of squats and planks. You need a body that is incredibly steady and secure, resistant to injury, able to maintain good posture for a long period of time and can engage all the right muscles.

In today’s post, I’m going to teach you why certain areas of your body are important to strengthen, specifically for hiking. And to keep your life simple, there is also a full workout video of the routine that you can follow along with.  

Let’s begin with understanding your core, the hub of everything. The primary role of your core is to keep your torso rigid and firm so that your limbs can move with power. The muscles of your torso need to be strong enough to keep your spine and pelvis in proper posture and hold it there for the long haul.

We need to learn something technical for a minute about posture…stick with me here, it’s worth knowing.

What is proper posture? It’s more than just pulling your shoulders back! Good posture involves a pelvis that is sitting neutral (not tipped forward or back) and is sitting directly under your rib cage. Your spine should have a natural curve in the low back area and your rib cage should be sitting level, not flared out or slumped downward. Your shoulders should be slid slightly towards each other, but not so much that your ribcage flares out and your low back arches.

Play with it in a mirror with your shirt off so you can see your ribs and hips. Look at yourself from the front and side. Use a critical eye and see if you can get your pelvis, ribcage, spine and shoulders to line up neutrally.

Watch this quick video of the breakdown of proper posture…

Why is this so important? Because you could do planks for days, but if your torso is not neutral or holding good posture, you’re wasting your time. When you train, you should ALWAYS be training in neutral. Also, this is incredibly helpful to know when you’re on the trail. If your back, hips or shoulders start aching, check your torso real quick and shift things around to make sure you have good, neutral posture.

Your neutral position (or your posture) is what you need to grip around while you’re doing the following core exercises. It helps to shift and slide things around until you feel neutral, and then gently tighten all the surrounding muscles to hold you in that position. Each of these core exercises are demonstrated in the full workout video at the end.

  1. Tall plank w/ hip extensions and hip abductions
    1. Make sure you’re neutral through hips, low back and shoulders while your legs are moving!
  2. Single leg bridge hold w/ hip abductions
    1. Keep your hips level and motionless.
  3. Bird dog
    1. Position your contact points in line with each other for a harder challenge.
  4. Half kneeling chopping lift
    1. Find neutral through your hips and then begin lifting. Your arms should be the only thing moving.

Now that your core is engaged and working to maintain good posture, let’s strengthen your upper and lower halves.

As a hiker, the purpose of strengthening your upper body is to develop strong shoulders that can carry a heavy pack (or a baby!) for hours on end. These exercises help tremendously and also contribute to the proper posture that we’ve been talking about.

  1. Bent-over letter progressions (T’s, Y’s, I’s & W’s)
    1. Play with the bent-over position until your spine is neutral and your hips are carrying the load. Thumbs always point to the ceiling for each letter.
  2. Perfect push-ups
    1. Remember, push-ups are simply moving planks. Inhale as you descend, exhale forcefully to come back up. This engages your core and creates a stronger plank.
  3. Bent-over rows
    1. Choose an appropriate weight so that you can maintain the bent-over position.

For your lower body, the goal is to have strong and powerful legs that are agile and resistant to injury. The following exercises build incredible strength and power while working on your balance, which will create legs that are resilient to injuries that can occur on varied terrain.

  1. Rear foot elevated split squats
    1. Practice without weight first. Go deep!
  2. Single leg dead lifts
    1. Be a pretty ballerina here! Keep your torso rigid and your standing knee slightly bent.
  3. Lateral skater hops
    1. Stick the landing with a nice single leg squat. Jump farther to make it more challenging.
  4. Lunge jumps
    1. Every time you land, your knees should track straight forward and back. Attempt to minimize any wobbling.

So here is the full routine, broken up into separate circuits. Perform each circuit 2-3 times through for the repetition counts listed beside each exercise. I recommend performing this routine a minimum of one time each week. Two or three times per week is optimal. Make it a little harder each week by doing each circuit one more time through or by doing more repetitions of each exercise. It pays to progress!

1a Tall plank w/ hip extensions and hip abductions – 8x/leg/movement
1b Single leg bridge hold w/ hip abductions – 8x/leg
1c Bird dog (contact points in line to make it harder) – (2) 15 second holds/side
1d Half kneeling chopping lift – 8x/side

2a Bent-over letter progressions (T’s, Y’s, I’s & W’s) – 6x/letter
2b Half kneeling banded pulldowns – 8x
2c Perfect push-ups – 8x
2d Bent-over rows – 8x, 10-20#’s

3a Rear foot elevated split squats – 8x/side, 0-15#’s
3b Single leg dead lifts – 8x/side, 10-20#’s
3c Lateral skater hops – 8x/side
3d Lunge jumps – 8x/side

Follow along with this video to learn how to do every exercise. I move pretty quickly, so pause the video when needed to take a break, repeat a circuit, or practice your technique more.

This routine is not exclusive to hikers. Every single woman can benefit from having good posture and a strong core, a strong upper body, and a powerful and agile lower body. This is a great routine for everyone.

As a hiking momma, you shouldn’t be apprehensive anymore. Don’t be afraid of injuries or your body calling it quits before you’re ready to. By doing a purposeful strength training routine like this, you will feel confident and secure in your body when you’re on the trail.

Megan Dahlman is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Certified Precision Nutrition Coach, and mother of two little boys. She coaches women of all ages toward becoming healthy and fit. She just launched , a website fully catered toward moms who are looking for a more heavenly perspective in health and fitness. It is loaded with workout and nutrition guidance, helping moms become truly healthy and strong, not just sexy. Megan lives in Aurora with her husband, two boys, horse, dog and chickens. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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About Angela Strand

Angela is a wife, mama to three little ones and a lifelong Washington State resident. Besides facilitating the NW Healthy Mama website, she loves being involved in her kids' school, hiking with her girlfriends, growing all the things, writing, reading and taking photos.

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