Does Hiking Build Muscle? A Comprehensive Guide

Does Hiking Build Muscle - Descending the trail

Are you looking to get into hiking or improve your physical fitness? Do you wonder if it helps build muscle too? I asked the same question when I started my journey, so let me tell you – yes! Hiking is an excellent way to break a sweat and also bulk up.

In this blog post, we’ll thoroughly investigate how hiking can be used to construct muscle. We will analyze the various muscles worked while trekking and offer tactics for gaining maximal results from your hike.

How Does Hiking Build Muscle?

Descending the hiking trail

When you go for a hike, your body is working hard to propel itself up hills and over obstacles. This physical exertion puts stress on your muscles, which triggers them to grow in size and strength.

The primary muscle groups used during hiking are the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, core, low back and heart. As these muscles become stronger through regular hikes, they will help support your body in other activities such as running or weightlifting.

The amount of muscle growth you experience from hiking depends on how much weight you are carrying. If you are carrying a heavy backpack or other load while hiking, this will increase the amount of stress placed on your muscles and lead to greater gains in strength and size. However, if you are just going for a leisurely stroll without any extra weight then the benefits may not be as pronounced.

Related reading: The Cardiovascular Benefits Of Hiking

Muscles Worked When Hiking

Does Hiking Build Muscle - Ascending the hiking trail

Quadriceps: The quadriceps are the primary muscle group that is worked when hiking. These muscles are located on the front of the thigh and are responsible for extending the knee joint when walking uphill.

Hamstrings: The hamstrings are located on the back of the thigh and are responsible for flexing the knee joint when walking downhill.

Calves: The calf muscles, located on the back of the lower leg, are worked when pushing off the ground with each step.

Glutes: The glutes, or buttocks, are responsible for extending the hip joint and are worked when walking uphill.

Hip Muscles: The hip muscles, including the hip flexors and hip abductors, are worked when lifting the leg to take a step.

Abdominals: The core muscles are activated to maintain balance and stability while hiking.

What Exercises Can You Do To Prepare Your Legs for Hiking?

Going down the stairs on a hike

Squats: Squats are an effective exercise to prepare your legs for hiking, as they target the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings.

Lunges: Lunges work the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, and can help build strength in these muscles.

Calf Raises: Calf raises are a great way to strengthen the calves, which are worked heavily during hiking.

Step-Ups: Step-ups are a functional exercise that mimics the movements of hiking and can help prepare your legs for the demands of the trail.

Is Hiking A Good Way to Lose Weight?

Hiking is an excellent way to lose weight. It’s a low-impact, low-intensity activity that can help you burn calories and body fat. Hiking also offers the added benefit of enjoying the beauty of nature while getting in some exercise.

How many calories are burned hiking and how can you burn more?

Hiking for losing weight

Hiking is a great way to burn calories and get in shape. Depending on your weight, backpack, speed, and terrain, you can burn between 300-600 calories per hour while hiking.

Factors such as the elevation gain and distance of the hike also play a role in how many calories you will burn. For example, if you weigh around ~180 pounds (80 kg) and plan a 5 miles hike with an elevation gain of 3000 ft, you can expect to burn approximately 1200 calories.

If you want to increase the number of calories burned during your hike, there are several things you can do.

  • First, try increasing your speed or taking more challenging trails with steeper inclines.
  • You can also add extra weight by carrying a heavier backpack or wearing a weighted vest.
  • Additionally, consider breaking up your hike into smaller segments with rest periods in between each one; this will allow you to push yourself harder during each segment and ultimately burn more calories overall.

Which Muscles Are Built From Ascending and Descending?


Ascending the mountain while hiking

Hiking uphill is an excellent way to build muscle and improve your overall fitness. Uphill hiking works a variety of muscles, including the glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, and core. As you ascend, your body must lean forward slightly in order to maintain balance and propel you up the hill. This puts extra stress on your quadriceps and glutes as they work to keep you moving forward.

Additionally, proper form is essential for avoiding injury while hiking uphill. Keeping your back straight and engaging your core will help ensure that you are using the right muscles for the job.

When done correctly, uphill hiking can be an effective way to build strength and endurance. By pushing yourself up steep inclines, you can increase your overall power output and burn more calories than walking on flat terrain. Additionally, it can help improve balance and coordination as well as reduce joint pain caused by running or other high-impact activities.


Descending the mountain peak

Descending on a trail requires you to use your leg muscles more than when walking uphill or on flat ground. Your calf muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core are all engaged as you take each step down the trail.

When descending, it is important to maintain proper form in order to avoid injury. Keeping your knees slightly bent and your back straight will help keep your balance and reduce stress on your joints.

Additionally, taking shorter steps can help reduce fatigue in your legs and keep you from overstriding. Trekking poles can also be helpful for keeping your balance and providing extra support for your legs.

What Types of Hikes Build the Most Muscle?

Longer hikes at a lower intensity are great for building endurance, while shorter hikes with steep inclines can help you build strength quickly.

No matter what type of hike you choose, it’s important to stay safe by wearing proper footwear and clothing, bringing plenty of water, and telling someone where you’re going before heading out. With the right preparation, hiking is an excellent way to build muscle and stay fit!

Post-Hike Muscle Recovery

Enjoying the view while hiking

Post-hike muscle recovery is an important part of any hiking experience. After a long hike, your muscles will be tired and sore. It’s important to take the time to properly recover after a hike in order to prevent injury and ensure that your muscles are able to grow and become stronger.

There are several tips for post-hike recovery that can help you get back on your feet quickly and safely.

  • The most important tip is to rest up after a long hike. Take some time off from physical activity, stretch out your muscles, and give yourself plenty of time to recuperate before embarking on another adventure.
  • Additionally, it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day and eat a balanced diet with plenty of carbohydrates and protein.

Recovery after a hike is essential for muscle growth because it allows your body time to rebuild itself after being pushed hard during exercise. When you rest after a workout, your body repairs itself by rebuilding damaged muscle fibers which helps them become stronger over time.

Hiking vs. Weightlifting

Hiking is a great way to get outdoors, enjoy nature, and build leg strength, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular endurance. It can also be a great way to get in some interval training for an effective cardio workout. On the other hand, weightlifting is an excellent way to increase muscle hypertrophy for more advanced athletes or weightlifters.

When it comes to building muscle, combining hiking with other forms of exercise can be beneficial for optimal results. For example, if you want to increase your muscular and cardiovascular endurance while building lower body strength, then hiking is a good alternative to the gym.

However, if you are looking to increase muscle hypertrophy then you may need to supplement your hikes with some strength training exercises such as lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises like push-ups or squats.

Hiking compared to other exercises

Ascending the trail

When compared to other popular forms of exercise such as running or cycling, hiking has some distinct advantages. For one, it’s low impact. This means that it’s easier on your joints than running or cycling, making it a great option for those with joint issues or who are just starting out with an exercise routine. Additionally, because you’re walking on uneven terrain, you’re engaging more muscles than when running on a flat surface.

Related reading: Is Hiking Better Than Running? A Comprehensive Comparison

But the benefits of hiking don’t stop at physical health. Hiking can also be beneficial for mental health by reducing stress levels and helping to clear the mind. The fresh air and natural surroundings can help to reduce anxiety and depression while providing a sense of peace and tranquility.

Related reading: How Does Hiking Help Your Mental Health

Plus, since you’re not focused on how fast or far you have to go like with other forms of exercise, hiking allows for more mindful moments in nature that can help boost overall well-being.

Reduce hiking knee pain and prepare your knees for hiking

Pain in the Knee

Knee pain is a common complaint among hikers, especially those who are new to the sport. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce knee pain and prepare your knees for hiking.

One of the most important things you can do is strengthen your leg muscles before heading out on a hike. Strengthening the muscles in your legs will help support your joints and reduce strain on them while hiking. Exercises like squats, lunges, and calf raises can all help build strength in the lower body. Additionally, stretching before and after a hike will help keep your muscles flexible and reduce soreness afterwards.

Related reading: What Is Hikers Knee? The Secret To Prevention And Treatment

Take breaks when needed. If you start feeling any discomfort in your knees during the hike, stop for a few minutes to rest them before continuing on with your journey.

Another way to protect your knees while hiking is to use trekking poles. Trekking poles provide extra stability when going up or down hills, which can help reduce strain on the knees. They also help distribute weight more evenly throughout the body so that one side isn’t taking more of a load than the other.

Finally, it’s important to wear supportive shoes when hiking. Shoes with good cushioning and arch support will help absorb shock from uneven terrain and provide extra stability for your ankles and knees. Make sure you choose shoes that fit properly too – they should be snug but not too tight or uncomfortable.

Related reading: Easy Techniques To Break In Hiking Boots