what muscles does hiking work

what muscles does hiking work

Hiking an adventure trip, journey, or sports for some, everyone has a different mindset towards hiking. But in the end, it is an experience that can be accomplished by pushing your muscles to the peak. Hiking high trails would be never possible without strong muscles. If anyone wants to conquer the high peaks, it demands experience and a high fitness level. While hiking is a sport where you have to train multiple muscles instead of focusing on one. But first, the hiker should know what muscles does hiking work?

What muscles does hiking work?

Hiking works your quads and hamstrings the most if you are hiking on an uphill trail. Besides that hiking also involves hips glutes, calves, ankles, and core. Hiking also makes your mind work more. But it all depends on the trail, it is up and uneven or flat trail. To understand all of these in deep that how muscles work while hiking continue reading


Hiking is a cardio workout but when you are hiking upwards, it becomes an intense workout that puts a lot of pressure on your core or abs. This is also because of the weight of the backpack you carry with you.


Quads are the front upper leg area that helps you to move forward and give the swing to your leg. This is the biggest muscle of the leg and when you hike upwards it puts a lot of tension on the quads.

If you are hiking on an inclined trail your quads work the hardest which leads to muscle break(muscle break helps in building muscles). You can take protein and rest in between to balance the blood flow and to recover the muscle.


The hamstring is the upper back muscle of your leg, it is behind your quads. Your hamstring is the second hardest worker muscle after quads. The hamstring helps you to pull back the leg and dig deep in the ground. This muscle work with quads to help you to move up on a trail. The highest the incline on a trail, the more work hamstring does.

If your hamstrings are strong, then it becomes easy for you to hike an inclined trail because hamstrings help you to bend your knee without losing your balance. And when you hike up on a hill the bend on your knee increases.

Glutes and Hips

Hips and glutes are the two powerful beasts you have in your body. But to make these beasts act like a beast you need to train them and when you hike you train them. While hiking hips helps in maintaining the balance and weight of your body. Hips also distribute the weight and make it easy for you to carry extra weight with you.

On the other hand, glutes help in stabilizing or operating the other leg muscles like- knee extension, Rotation of hip joint, etc.

Ankle and Calves

Ankles are consist of peroneus longus and peroneus brevis muscles, and when you hike uphill the ankle muscles work three times more when you walk on a straight surface. Hiking up continuously will decrease the blood flow in your ankles which can cause injury if you don’t take a rest and release the blood flow. The front muscles engage more when you hike up and the back muscles of your ankle work more when you come down. The more flex you have in your ankles the easier it gets for you.

On the other hand, calves are responsible for flex in the foot and ankles. When you hike on an uneven and incline surface, claves provide flex and support to the foot and ankle. More pressure comes on calves when you hike up because the whole weight of your body is in the forward direction, which leads to more pressure on your calves and toe.


The mind is not a muscle but it plays a huge part in the processing, building, or losing muscle. You may be curious to know how hiking has any effect on the brain. But believe me, it has, the reason behind this is that usually when we hike on the uneven surface your minds work fast as you need to keep making a decision like- where to move, is it dangerous, etc. you may not subconsciously know about this but your mind is working continuously and busy in making calculations and decision for you in a short time.

You may also want to know- Does hiking help you lose weight?

How to train these muscles before hiking


The best thing to increase your performance during hiking is stretching. Stretch every muscle that you engage during hiking, except ankles because stretching your ankles will make it hard for you to use ankle muscles during hiking, instead, stretch them after hiking to balance the blood supply.

Calf stretch: Do calf stretch by standing in the still position and then lift your heel up and then down, do 15reps for this for 3 sets to activate the calves.

Quad stretch: Strech quads by standing still in your natural stance(feet apart from each other). Then lift your one leg up in front of you and hold it there with your hand. After 15 to 30 seconds switch your leg.

Shoulder rolls: rotate your shoulders in forward direction for 20 seconds and then switch to backward.

Hamstring stretch: Stand straight with your feet close (keep your feet close but not attach), then touch your toes with your hands by bending your back. Avoid this stretch if you have any lower back problems. 

Glute stretch:  Sit on the ground with your legs extended, then lift your right leg and put your ankle on your left knee. After 20 seconds, switch the legs. This stretch will also help in releasing the tightness from your back.

Exercise to train your muscles

Pushups- Do pushups to train your upper body and increase strength to carry more weight on hikes. Not only that if done properly pushups also train your back and core.

Hip mobility exercise- Do stretching and squeezing exercises for hips to train the three glute muscles to help in movement and lifting weight.

Hamstrings- Exercises like hamstring curls and deadlifts improve the functionality of your legs while targeting the hamstring muscles.

Quads- Quads are very important muscles that work hard while you hike, to increase your speed and prevent any injury train your quads with squats, leg extension.

Other benefits of hiking

  • Improve blood pressure in adults
  • improve sugar levels in adults
  • Improve decision making
  • kills bad cholesterol
  • Reduce stored body fat
  • increase stamina
  • Hep in improving bone density.