What Muscles Does Hiking Work?

what muscles does hiking work

Do you like the great outdoors? Do you like to be active? Do you like to get outside and explore? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might enjoy hiking.

Hiking is an excellent form of exercise that can get you moving and help you make friends while you’re at it.

Many people consider hiking to be an excellent form of cardio. It can also help develop your muscles and increase your endurance. It’s also a great way to get some fresh air and see beautiful sights. But hiking isn’t just for the outdoorsy types.

If you’re looking to tone your muscles, you might find that hiking works for you. Keep reading to learn more.

How does hiking work?

what muscles does hiking work

When you hike up and down hills, you’re doing two things. You’re putting your cardiovascular system to the test and using your muscles. Your legs and feet work hard to support your body weight as you hike.

The muscles in your calves, thighs, and buttocks work to help you maintain your balance and keep hiking forward.

The smaller muscles in your hands, arms, and core are also getting a workout.

Your grip is getting stronger as you keep your balance and stay upright. And finally, your back muscles are working to keep you standing tall and balanced.

Hiking is a full-body workout that can give you tone anywhere you want.

You can target specific muscles with weight training afterward to get the most from your workout. But don’t worry; you won’t have to sacrifice your hiking time to hit the gym. After finishing your hike with some planning, you can fit in a great workout.

Muscles hikers use

Your primary muscles in motion while hiking is your:


Located in the front of your thighs, these muscles are responsible for straightening your legs. Quadriceps helps you maintain a robust and rigid posture while you hike. And they help brace your knees, so they hold up over the miles.

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These muscles remain active almost constantly during every step you take.


These are the muscles in the back of your legs responsible for bending your knees. Hamstrings help you lean forward and move your heels closer to your backside.

It helps stabilize your leg muscles as you wake up and downhills.

Gluteus maximus

Also known as the butt muscles, these are located in the back of your body. They’re responsible for helping you stand upright and supporting your body weight.

The muscles in your feet and ankles are responsible for supporting you and helping you keep your balance. Your core muscles help keep you standing upright and provide support as well.

If you’re not sure which muscles to target, ask a personal trainer to help you out.

Hip abduction

Located on the front of your pelvis, these muscles help you lift your leg when hiking. It helps keep your legs moving in sync and can help correct hiking posture and prevent splayed ankles and ankle and knee injuries.


Also known as the butt muscles, these are the muscles located in the rear of your legs that extend and retract your hip. It helps stabilize knee alignment and keep your leg aligned with your body.

Erector spinae

These muscles help you maintain your hiking posture in your lower back. It helps with your hips and spine’s wavelike movements while hiking up and down steep, uneven terrain.

Types of Hiking

what muscles does hiking work

There are many different types of hiking to choose from. These include:

Walking – Walking is the most basic form of hiking. You put one foot in front of the other and walk.

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Jogging is a little faster than walking and is often done on uneven ground.

Running is the fastest form of hiking and is often done uphill.

Hiking – This is the most common form of hiking. It involves a combination of walking, jogging, and running.

GPS Hiking – A newer form of hiking that uses Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to track your location. This lets you see where you’ve been and where you’re going.

Traditional Hiking – Often referred to as “the hike,” traditional hiking involves walking or running on firm, level ground.

Mountain Hiking – Mountain hiking is more complex than traditional hiking because it takes place in an environment that’s often mountainous.

Off-Trail Hiking – An off-trail hike is when you leave the well-worn path to explore less-traveled areas. This type of hiking exercises your imagination as much as your muscles.

Tips for hiking for muscle tone

what muscles does hiking work

If you’re new to hiking and want to work on building muscle tone, try these tips:

  • Find a buddy – Traditional hiking is often done alone. But why not pair up with a friend? Hiking with a friend forces you to slow down and be more aware of your surroundings. This is a great way to work on your situational awareness and learn skills to help you in real life.
  • Add hills to your hikes – Hiking in the mountains will naturally be a bit more challenging. Adding hills to your hikes will help you build your leg muscles.
  • Draw maps of your routes – This helps you stay on track and avoid getting lost. You never know when you might have to navigate a forest or a mountain, so it’s always good to be prepared.
  • Slow and Steady Win the Race – This one is obvious! Your muscles won’t get the workout they need if you rush your hiking. Take your time while hiking. Look around. Drink water. And snack on protein-rich foods like nuts and hard cheeses.
  • Stay on Trails – When in doubt, stay on the trail. You don’t want to risk hurting yourself or damaging the environment.
  • Stay Hydrated – Hikers often forget to drink water while hiking. Dehydration is very dangerous and can lead to muscle cramps and, in the worst cases, muscle paralysis.
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Importance of Hiking

Hiking helps in several ways, including:

  • Hiking keeps you fit and healthy. It helps tone your body, improve your stamina and endurance, strengthen your muscles and improve overall health.
  • Hiking helps to reduce stress and improves mood. Hiking in nature is very effective for reducing stress by lowering cortisol levels (the stress hormone).
  • Regular hiking can help you sleep better at night. Research shows that people who take regular hikes can get a good night’s sleep at night, and this is because increased exposure to natural light during the day reduces melatonin production in the body.
  • Hiking can help with weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight through increased metabolism, blood circulation, strengthened heart muscles, and lower blood pressure levels.
  • Hiking is also known to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and depression due to reduced stress levels due to increased exposure to nature, which boosts immunity by increasing white blood cell count in the body, thus strengthening your immune system.

Hiking is a great way to get in shape, increase your endurance, and see amazing views. It’s also an excellent way to build muscle tone and get some cardiovascular exercise. To get the most out of your hiking experience, follow these tips.

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