What Muscles Do Hiking Work?

What Muscles Do Hiking Work?

Hiking is a great way to relax your mind and keep your body healthy. However, it is also an excellent way to tone almost any muscle in your body. While many people know that hiking is a great leg workout, it also works other muscles. But which muscles are important for having a strong hike?

Hiking is a great way to work out several muscle groups, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, core, and low back. This aerobic activity is also great for your heart and will improve your cardiovascular health.

It is critical to keep all of your body’s muscles strong in order to give your all on each hike. Let’s look at the various muscles that aid in hiking and discover why your muscles become stronger and more toned when hiking becomes a regular part of your routine. What Muscles Do Hiking Work?

Hiking as Physical Activity

Hiking is an aerobic and cardiovascular activity that benefits your heart and lungs while also contributing to muscle growth and function.

According to research, people should aim for a certain amount of cardio exercise per week to improve their overall stamina. Muscle strengthening also reduces the likelihood of injury.

When it comes to cardio, there are three things to keep in mind:

  • Push yourself to the point where you reach 70-80% of your maximum heart rate reserve (maximum heart rate minus resting heart rate)
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.
  • Aim to exercise four to five days per week.
  • Because level terrain and easy neighborhood strolls aren’t enough to overload the muscle fibers, commit to a weekend hike.

Make sure to schedule consistent strenuous hikes if you want to gain muscle from hiking. They don’t have to be at a high altitude, but they should be steep.

Each hike should end with your muscles exhausted. Check out these six tips for increasing your strength.

Hiking Exercised Muscles

Hiking Exercised Muscles
Photo credit: operativeinfo.com

Hiking exercises the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, abs, and hip muscles.

Here are six muscles that are strained while hiking in the wilderness:


The quadriceps, or front thigh muscles, are the primary muscles used for both hiking and running. The quads are large muscles that are divided into discrete sections that remain connected throughout the tops of the legs. Hiking and running use the entire quadriceps muscle group to propel the body forward during steps or strides. In both activities, the quads extend (straighten) the knee.


The hamstrings are located in the back of the upper thigh and are one of the reasons why you can bend or flex your knee while hiking (together with your quadriceps).

Hiking, when compared to running, can be quite taxing on the hamstrings because it helps pull the quads back when the body is moving forward. While hiking, this muscle is primarily engaged.


Then we’ll get to the calves. When you go on a hike, these are always active, and you will quickly notice how they change depending on the intensity of the walk.

When you walk on flat terrain, you put less strain on these muscles than when you walk uphill. Before any hike, you should stretch your calves to prevent them from becoming too tight.


The glutes are a group of muscles that help to support the torso during a variety of physical activities.

The glutes are required to support both the bodyweight and the load of the backpack while hiking. When hiking uphill, the glutes get a much more intense workout than when hiking on a flat surface.

Additional Hip Muscles

It is critical to keep the hips limber and flexible when engaging in either activity to avoid injury. Hip flexion is supported by these muscles, which include hip flexors, abductors, and adductors while hiking and running. They support the glutes and lower back while hiking, preventing strain and absorbing shock. They perform the same functions when you run; however, they require more flexibility and strength because the impact of running on your joints is much greater than when hiking.


Hiking works your abdominal muscles, which many people are unaware of. These muscles are useful for hiking because having a strong abdomen and core will help your posture, especially if you are carrying a backpack.

Your abdominal muscles also aid in the improvement of your balance, which is especially important when going up or downhill. It also protects and prevents injuries to your lower back.

Does Hiking Help You Gain Muscle?

Hiking does, in fact, build muscle. Because hiking is primarily walking on difficult terrain, the targeted muscle groups are primarily the legs and glutes. Walking alone necessitates paired hamstring and quadriceps muscle movement to support the knees. It strengthens the area where your hips and thighs meet, as well as your ankles, with each heel-to-toe movement.

This knee-to-shin-front muscle acts as a shock absorber, so expect pain along the shins after rapid walking or walking on an incline. By the way, the right walking poles can help with this. Navigating rocky or uneven terrain necessitates more balancing and, as a result, more active muscle groups. Because hiking requires more side-to-side movement – after all, the trail is rarely flat – it also works out the mid-body muscles.

Aside from your hips, your abdominals, oblique (waist), and back muscles are all engaged. You can twist and turn thanks to these muscles. Our glutes and calf muscles both play important roles in incline and downhill movement.

Hiking Is An Aerobic Sport

Hiking, for starters, is an aerobic activity that benefits the circulatory system. Hiking activities help to strengthen our hearts. Most importantly, it aids in the prevention of potential cardiac pathologies and maintains optimal blood pressure levels.

Every time I go in for my annual physical, my doctor is astounded by my blood pressure. It is unusual for an old geezer like me to have the blood pressure of a twenty-year-old. I attribute everything to hiking and backpacking.

Which Hikes Build the Most Muscle?

The difficult ones. Okay, but seriously, as with any workout, the most rewarding is usually the most difficult. If you want to tear the most muscle while hiking, I recommend going on hikes with a high elevation gain-to-mileage ratio.

The steeper the hike, the more your body is forced to walk at an angle similar to a lunge, which we all know is fun. Take bigger steps if you think that’s still too difficult. This brings your body closer to the ground, increasing the intensity.

If you’re going on a short hike and don’t need to carry a backpack, a weighted vest is a good option. It will distribute the weight more evenly throughout your upper body and feel much more comfortable than packing random weight in your backpack.

Leave the Gym and Take to the Trail

Perhaps you’ve been thinking about getting in shape but don’t want to be surrounded by the noise and humidity of a gym. You can’t blame yourself for preferring a quiet, outdoor workout to a weight room. Fortunately, you don’t always have to sit in a noisy gym to reap significant health benefits.

Hiking has several obvious advantages. However, one is frequently overlooked: muscle building. Perhaps it’s because most people don’t associate a slow-paced hike with a strenuous deadlift and squat session. Hiking the trails is a great way to lay a strong foundation for core and lower-body strength—just it’s you and the open air. The best part is that there is no monthly fee. Seriously, how do you top that?

Is Hiking an Effective Way to Lose Weight?

Hiking is one of the most effective ways to lose weight. While feeling ren to do, it can increase your breathing and heart rate. Even if you only walk rather than jog, the rough terrain and going up and downhill can help you get a good cardio workout in no time. In fact, an hour of hiking can burn up to 400 calories for the average person! If you can do this at least a few times per week and eat a healthy diet, hiking can easily be used to lose weight.

It is critical to spend enough time hiking and to do so at a fast enough pace. A few minutes of leisurely walking around the block each day will not help you lose weight.

A good hike with a variety of terrain and at a brisk pace is the best way to help you burn calories and lose weight. Remember to get enough sleep, limit your stress (which hiking can also help with), and eat healthy foods to see how well hiking can help with weight loss.

The side-to-side movement strengthens these muscle groups

Hiking shifts your weight from one leg to the other, causing you to move from side to side. This action involves the hips, abdominals, waist, and muscles that support the back and spine in general. The oblique muscles on either side of your body control how your trunk twists and flex.

The lower back is supported by the lumbar square and multifidus muscle groups. The abs and the large group of muscles known as the erect spines, which are located on both sides of the spine, are also involved.

How Hiking Can Tone Different Muscle Groups

Longer hikes and changes in terrain, as elevation gain increases, are more beneficial to toning the various muscle groups. This, like intermittent high-intensity exercise, provides you with a temporary muscle overload stimulus that promotes muscle development.

As a result, muscle size is likely to increase quickly because your muscles adapt to stress in a short period of time. Furthermore, if you want to continue building muscle mass, you will need to choose more difficult trails for your hikes.

Hiking Develops What Muscles?

Hiking engages several muscle groups, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, core, lower back, and calves, as well as other muscles such as your shoulders and upper back.

When navigating a steep incline trail, the gravity of the angle changes which muscles are engaged, putting more strain on those muscle groups. Pacing up a steep hill for an extended period of time can leave your legs feeling like Jell-O spaghetti (is that a thing?) To get down to business, hiking involves the same muscle breakdown process as most other exercises. This is why hikers are often characterized by their chiseled legs and extremely strong core.

The Advantages of Hiking

Hiking is an excellent cardiovascular workout with numerous advantages, including:

  • Improves blood sugar and blood pressure levels
  • Increases bone density in the same way that other types of weight-bearing exercise do.
  • Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • improved balance
  • Muscles in the lower legs and hips are strengthened.
  • Core muscles are tightened.
  • Improves your ability to lose weight
  • Improves mood and reduces stress


Hiking will not give you bodybuilder-like muscles, but challenge yourself with consistently strenuous hikes and you will notice an improvement in muscle tone.

Muscle gains are also possible if your diet is carefully managed. Most importantly, understand your body’s limitations; pace yourself and allow plenty of time for rest.

Hiking takes time to build muscle. If you are patient, you will see results without risking injury.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about What Muscles Do Hiking Work?

Is hiking good for your body?

Hiking with a pack requires the use of both upper and lower body muscles. Hiking and running are both great ways to get some exercise. Each has cardiovascular and pulmonary benefits as well as working on major muscle groups to improve stamina, endurance, strength, and muscle tone.

Is hiking an effective way to gain muscle?

I’ve been doing it for years, just like weightlifting, and can personally attest to its incredible physical benefits. Most people can benefit from hiking in terms of leg muscle development. Hiking will not increase muscle hypertrophy if you are an advanced weightlifter or athlete, but it will improve your endurance and cardiovascular system.

Hiking can get you ripped.

Hiking entails moving at a slower pace over varying terrain for extended periods of time. This will help you gain strength. Slower hikes will result in a slight increase in muscle volume but don’t expect ripped, tree-trunk-sized legs.

What effect does hiking have on your body shape?

To summarize, consistent, sustained hiking improves body composition metrics such as abdominal mass, lean mass, waist-to-fat ratio, and fat-free ratio. It also has fitness benefits such as increased caloric burn and lifestyle benefits such as a lower risk of chronic cardiovascular disease.

What are the legs of a hiker?

Hiker legs (also known as “trail legs”) are obtained through many days of backpacking over a long period of time (say, three to four months).

Does hiking help you lose belly fat?

Hiking, in fact, can help you lose belly fat. While you can’t lose fat in specific areas, you can burn fat all over your body, including your belly. Hiking is a type of exercise that can include both aerobic (to strengthen the heart and lungs) and anaerobic (to burn calories) (to build muscle mass).

Will hiking make your legs grow larger?

Walking does not develop large, bulky muscles, but it does develop some muscles. 1 Some people avoid using the treadmill’s incline or walking hills outside for fear of developing leg muscles that will make their legs appear larger. This is unlikely because even vigorous walking is aerobic exercise.

Is it safe to go hiking every day?

You may be wondering if hiking every day is bad for you. No, hiking every day isn’t a bad thing. It’s the inverse. Hiking is frequently associated with clambering steep mountain sides, rocky terrain underfoot, and forest looming on all sides.

Is hiking a cardio activity?

Hiking, like brisk walking, is an excellent way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, especially if your route includes some hills, which force your heart to work harder.

Read More:

What Time in Arizona?

Best Things to Do in Montalcino

How to Shower When Camping? : 21 Ways To Take a Shower

Why Put a Crayon in your Wallet : When You Travel?

Operative Info