Strength Training for Hiking & Climbing

Strength Training for Hiking & Climbing

Damn near everything is easier when you’re stronger.

Being weak makes life harder.

Having a weak body or a weak mind, it doesn’t matter… they both lead to the same conclusion: you’re gonna have a hard time.

If you’re stronger, you’re much better off…

The same concept applies to hiking, climbing, and everything else in the world of mountaineering and alpine sports. This should be common sense.

These activities require high levels of endurance and cardiovascular performance, plus the strength to move your body and gear through difficult terrain. They require mental fortitude and the ability to ignore pain and discomfort for long periods of time.

Getting out into the wilderness isn’t easy, but it’s one of the most rewarding experiences on the planet.

And if you want to make it easier, here’s how…

Mindset Shift

I approach mountaineering from the standpoint of training.

Considering my background in athletics and the fact that I’m a professional personal trainer and coach, I approach most things from the standpoint of training… from a growth mindset.

I’ve been an athlete in some capacity pretty much my entire life, from soccer to baseball to bodybuilding to powerlifting to boxing… so it’s easy for me to apply that same mindset and grit to any variation of physical tasks.

I’ve applied this mindset to building a physique.

I’ve applied this mindset to working manual labor jobs.

I’ve applied this mindset to building a business.

And I apply the same mindset to hiking and climbing.

When I’m out on a trail, I’m thinking about good posture, bracing my core, and moving in a way that maintains functional integrity of my joints and spine.

I don’t get sloppy.

I stay functionally safe, even if the situation as a whole is risky.

I understand how the body works, and how easily the wrong step can lead to injury… and getting injured on the side of a mountain can be a death sentence.

I’m there to enjoy the experience, absolutely, but I’m also focused on survival.

The wilderness is a fantastic sanctuary for meditation, but it can turn lethal at any moment. Always keep your wits about you.

It’s easy for hiking to turn into a meditative experience when you focus on the rhythm of your breathing.

I get some of my best ideas when I’m deep into a trek.

Having the ability to let go yet remain present is a crucial aspect of mountain meditation. Breathe and let your thoughts and ideas flow.

You must balance the duality, and you cannot forget the dangers around you.

If you’re afraid to reach the summit, make a mindset shift and approach the journey like a training session.

Focus. Intensity. Grit.

That’s what it takes.

Exploring nature will build your body, free your mind, and train your willpower… all of which transfer to your daily life.

Just like training in the gym…

But enough about mindset… what can you physically do to prepare yourself for the mountains?

Strength Training for Hiking & Climbing

Hiking and climbing both require full body strength, the latter needing extra upper body and grip strength.

When it comes to hiking, leg and core strength are key. You also need tons of endurance and stability.

Transition into rock climbing and you’ll need more upper body and grip strength. Core strength becomes even more essential for challenging overhangs. And of course, you need strong legs. Most of the “work” of climbing should be through your legs.

So, where do you begin?

First off, the number one thing that makes you better at a particular skill is training that skill directly.

If you want to be a better writer, you write.

If you want to be a better boxer, you box.

If you want to be a better hiker, you hike.

Nothing beats specificity, but you can ENHANCE it.

What do I mean by this?

The very act of hiking will develop your body. Your legs, core, and upper back will get stronger by carrying a heavy pack up a mountain. Your endurance, strength, and balance will also improve.

Then, we can enhance these things by adding in a relevant training program.

I’m going to give you a program you can follow to develop a solid baseline of strength, endurance, and stability that will carry over to hiking and climbing.

Of course, this isn’t the only way to do it, but this routine will cover most of your bases. At the bottom of the program, you’ll find alternative exercises in case you are not yet strong enough to perform the prescribed movements.

Keep in mind, this isn’t a bodybuilding or powerlifting program. It’s strength training for hiking and climbing.

This is a simple, full body program that’s meant to give you the most bang for you buck… without spending a crazy amount of time in the gym.

Let’s get started…


We’ll start off the week with strength and conditioning.

The squats and deadlifts are great for your legs and core. The rows and pulldowns will train your upper back and lats. The face pulls will help with overall shoulder health, improve your posture, and develop your rear delts. And the stairmaster mimics climbing up a mountain.

Feel free to add more time on the stairmaster as your conditioning improves.


In the middle of the week, we’ll focus more on bodybuilding rep ranges and supplementary exercises.

The hip circle will activate and strengthen your glutes. The single-leg step downs will train your ankle, knee, and hip stability while mimicking a controlled step coming down a mountain. The lunges will train your overall balance and stability. And the presses and rows will train your shoulders, lats, and core.

Feel free to add in intensity principles such as drop sets or pyramids.


We’ll end the week by hitting max reps for body weight movements, while training your core and grip strength.

This is the day to really push your limits. I want you to go until you can no longer maintain proper form.

The loads are much lighter than the rest of the week, so you shouldn’t haven any trouble hiking or climbing over the weekend.

And that’s it.

Perform this routine for a few months and you’ll be amazed at how much your hiking and climbing will improve.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it must be done.

You can add extra movements, sets, or reps to make things harder. You can decrease your rest times. You can use training gear to lift more weight. The options are limitless.

And that’s what I love about training.

You can always make it fit your needs and enhance your lifestyle.

Nick Hagood
Demons & Destiny

Variations & Alternatives

Not everyone can perform every exercise, so I’ve included a list of variations and alternatives you can try.

Different people have different body mechanics, limitations in mobility, or previous injuries, so don’t feel like it’s necessary to be able to perform every single variation of a movement.

If you ever want a little extra grip work, you can always use Fat Gripz.

Just mix things up!

The Pullup or Pull

Wide Grip Pullup
Normal Grip Pullup
Mixed Grip Pullup
Towel Pullup
Chin Up
Band Assisted Pullup

Assisted Pullup Machine
Lat Pulldown
Cable Row

Machine Row
Spinal Decompression

The Pushup or Press

Standard Pushup
Military Pushup
Diamond Pushup
Boxing Pushup
Incline Pushup
Decline Pushup
Swiss Ball Pushup
TRX Pushup
Dumbbell Press
Chest Press Machine

The Squat, Deadlift, or Legs

Back Squat
Front Squat 
Goblet Squat
Sumo Squat
Double Kettlebell Squat
Leg Press
Standard Deadlift
Mixed Grip Deadlift

Sumo Deadlift
Stiff Leg Deadlift
Kettlebell Deadlift
Kettlebell Swing
Trap Bar Deadlift
Leg Extension
Leg Curl