Exercises For Hikers With Backpack
Other than the military personnel, those who don’t mind carrying a backpacking backpack for miles are those who simply love backpack traveling. Hiking is fun, but you need to be prepared and whilst you need to know what to keep in your backpack, you also need to know how to carry all that gear correctly. Unless you’re conditioned to carry a load, carrying your backpack wrong will mean a long day of heavy lifting.
You’ll be carrying a backpack filled with dehydrated camping food, clothes, sleeping bags, camping tents, camping stoves, and so many other items that, even with the most careful preparation, is going to be heavy and put a serious strain on your shoulders and upper back. It, therefore, makes sense to prepare your body, and what could be better than using your backpack to train your muscles as you get used to the feel of keeping a heavy pack secure and close to you.
Muscle Groups Designed To Support A Pack
Cardio and weight training will certainly help get you in shape for carrying your backpack, but performing muscle strengthening moves with your pack on the back will help you get in peak condition before you head off on a backpacking adventure. Different moves will work so long as they target the muscle groups that support and stabilize the pack on your back. For instance:
1. You need to work on your trapezius muscles. These are the muscles originating in the base of your neck. You need them strong because your shoulder harness will sit exactly at this point for what could be hours at a time.
2. You need to have stronger abdominal muscles. While it seems that your abs don’t play a role here, you need to realize that your abdominal muscles take a workout to stabilize the pack when you twist and turn.
3. You need to focus on the muscles of your upper and mid back to ensure the pack does not slip while hiking. Carrying a heavy pack that’s slipping around on a weak mid or upper back causes inflammation and pain between the shoulder blades.
4. You should work on your lower back. Most of the heavy lifting is done using these muscle groups. A weak lower back will result in injury while shifting the weight of the pack onto your back.
5. You should strengthen the shoulders. They’re used a lot to load and unload your backpack. You will be handling your pack at unusual angles, so a weaker arm and rotator cuff, in particular, are going to increase your risk of injuring yourself.
Above all, you need to have stronger legs and work hard to improve the strength of your hamstrings and quads. You will be standing for hours and at times, squatting with a heavy pack on your back. Stronger thighs will help make hiking and backpacking more exciting and efficient too.
Exercises For Hikers With The Help Of A Backpack
Now that you know the muscle groups important for keeping you in control while hiking with a heavy pack, you may want to hit the gym to work on them. It is certainly a good idea. However, you can always make a start by using your backpack to strengthen your muscles. Here are some practical exercises you can try with your backpack:
To stay safe and comfortable while hiking, you need to have a strong core and back, and weighted planks will certainly help with that. Start by securing a pack to your back and get onto all fours. You need to be in a position to perform a pushup. Next, slowly bend your elbows until your forearms are on the floor keeping your elbows at a right angle to your shoulders. Now, engage your core and maintain a straight back for as long as you can.
Lateral Plank Walks
This variation of weighted planks will target your core, chest, shoulders, hips, and triceps. You need to have the good core strength to take pressure off your lower back when twisting, bending or moving in unusual directions. To start, get in a push-up position with a pack on your back. Ensure your palms are right under your shoulders. Then, slowly move your left heel away from your right heel and then follow it with the right heel. Your feet will touch while making the lateral movement. Then, reverse and take your legs to the other side of your body. Keep your back straight and core engaged all the time.
Bear Hug Squat
To feel at your best while hiking, you need stronger hamstrings and quads, and there is no better way to train these muscles than with a bear hug squat. For added benefit, this exercise also targets your calves, glutes, and chest.
To perform the exercise you don’t need a squat rack, just stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place a backpack on the ground between your feet. Now, squat down in a controlled fashion and grab the pack. Pull it to your chest and hug it tightly, like a bear. Without rounding your back, slowly push your hips back to lower your body. Stop when your thighs are about parallel to the floor and your knees above your toes. Now, slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
This is another effective exercise you can perform with your backpack to strengthen your quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.
To start, wearing your loaded backpack, stand in a relaxed position with your feet hip-width apart. Now, take a big step forward and lower your body until your thigh becomes parallel to the floor and your bent knee is at a 90 degrees angle. Return to the starting position pushing your body up using the ball of your foot. Once up, take another step using your other leg and repeat the movement.
In order to work your entire posterior chain, including glutes, hamstrings, back, and core, you can perform a deadlift row using your backpack. The movement is particularly beneficial for developing stronger glutes making climbing easier.
Get your backpack and hold by its straps. With your arms extended, keep the backpack level with your thighs. Open your legs until they are hip-width apart. Hinge at your hips while pressing them backward with the backpack in your hands. Keep your core engaged and let your hamstrings and glutes take the strain. Once your back is almost parallel to the floor, lift the pack up, you can bend your elbows, until it touches your torso. Be sure to squeeze your shoulder blades for a good workout.
If you want to excel at hiking and backpacking traveling, you need to work hard on your core, especially the oblique area. This is exactly what this movement will develop. By performing this exercise, you will be able to twist your body in a controlled way while keeping your backpack as steady as possible.
First, sit on the ground in a relaxed position. Then, bend your knees and lift them slightly off the floor. Grab your pack and keep it close to your waist while slowly leaning backward to engage your abs. Now, twist your torso to your left until you can touch it close to your left hip and then do the same to the other side of your body. Repeat.
Other than these exercises, you can try many more that will help strengthen your legs, core, and back. For instance, you can try the good old-fashioned farmer’s walk with your backpack in your hands. Similarly, you can try pushups wearing your pack. Squats are also easy to perform carrying your backpack on your shoulders. They are super effective too. You may also go for step-ups or crossover step-ups to make the movement much more effective for any beginner hiker.
Hiking is a great past time but it’s a heavy workout on your muscles whatever route you choose. When you have to carry gear for every eventuality the last thing you need is a backache. It’s a sure-fire damper on any trip that could see you heading for home. With just a few minutes a day for these hiker’s exercises as part of planning for your great outdoor adventure, you’ll be on your way to a pain-free and comfortable hike having the best time you can and carrying everything you’ll need.