View Full Version : core muscle strength and flexibility

02-14-2006, 11:34
How important are these categories to hiking? Also, what do "you" do improve in these areas?

02-14-2006, 11:42
Squats, and lunges are key. I use good weight and do four to five sets each ( I work up to that), after a couple of months I'm springing up those hills.

02-14-2006, 11:52
I'd also consider building up your ankles with a variety of balance exercises (my favorite being the one legged stand atop a rug with your other leg held in various positions with your eyes closed). You can work out your core and ankles with a one-legged stand on a Bosu (http://www.bosu.com) with someone tossing you weighted balls.

02-14-2006, 11:54
I'm not so worried about flexibility as hiking (on a trail, without snow) generally doesn't cause my body to move around so much. However, once I get on snow, I really need upper body strength and flexibility down low. Carrying a pack while postholing repeatedly requires some degree of muscle power in the stomach and back to keep the body upright and moving well. It doesn't have to be a lot. I lift moderate weights for about 10 minutes before I do cardio work and this seems to be enough for me.

02-14-2006, 11:56
I like to walk around the city wearing a 40 lb weightd pack for about three weeks prior to any long hike.

02-14-2006, 12:12
On the advice of a college varsity woman athlete whose opinion I really respect, I am doing much more significant core training than I had in prior years... 3 times all the upper body stuff, plus back and ab strengthening. (E.g. benches, curls, lats, delts, shoulders). It's about 25 minutes and then the cardio. I run (sometimes relatively long distances of 10+ miles) but had not done any weight training for over 17 years (I quit lifting during my first pregnancy and never got back to it) and I am really noticing a difference! I'm sure that most physically fit young people don't need nearly as much "remedial" work as I do, but it is helping me tremendously in feeling physically, and mentally, ready to take on the Trail again this year.

Jane in CT

02-14-2006, 12:13
Core strength is key to a healthy spine. Since I'm somewhat of an office rat here at the clinic what I do is use a "balance ball" instead of a chair. It's hard to slump down on the ball, like I otherwise might on a chair. Plus ...I often lift my feet off the floor for several minutes at a time and use my balance to avoid tipping. This adds to the core strengthening effect.


02-14-2006, 12:25
I think core strength is important for hikers. Carrying a pack and scrambling on rocks being two examples.

As someone who has lifted weights since my teens, "core strength" to me means your trunk - abdomen, upper back, lower back, chest, butt. The muscles associated with these areas are, respectively, the abdominals, lats & traps, spinal erectors, pectorals, and glutes. I agree with KirkMcQuest. Squats in their various forms are probably the best single exercise to strengthen all these muscle groups. Squats also hit your quads (big muscle group on the front of your thigh) and hamstrings.

Lunges, in my experience, are more secific to your legs and butt, less help with your trunk.

Freeweight squats - the kind done with barbells - can do more harm than good if you don't use perfect form, which you can't learn from a book or some pretty boy at Gold's Gym. You need to find an old dinosaur lifter and have him show you the right way. Strength coaches at high schools and colleges also usually know the proper way to squat.

Squats can be harmful if you have back or knee problems. Some of the machine variations of squats, while not as beneficial, are safer. So are dumbell squats and "ball squats" against a wall.

Various types of deadlifts are also excellent core exercises, but the same cautions as with squats apply.

Plain old pushups, pullups, and situps are also good for the core.

The big thing to avoid is overtraining - lifting too often, or doing too many repetitions. Your body doesn't get stronger when you lift, it gets stronger when you rest between lifting. I used lift three times a week. I'm down to twice a week. At almost 52, I'm thinking of going to once a week. Overtaining leads to injuries.

An excellent, common sense book on strengthening your core (but not a weightlifting book) is "Framework" by Nicholas DiNubile, M.D. You can probably find it on Amazon.com

02-14-2006, 12:50
I concur with c.coyle, you can definitely overdo the lifting as you get older. At 48 with 20 years of weightlifting and 35 years of soccer experience, I have shifted my lifting to once every 4 days. I'm stronger, more rested, and ready to do the reps. I've been doing the "Body For Life" regimen for the past 5 years and have gained a lot of muscle and strength. I do 30-75 minutes of cardio on my non-soccer/non-weightlifting days, down to 2-4 times a week depending on how banged up I am from soccer.

Suggestion: Don't play soccer. It's really hard on your legs, knees and ankles and can really put a crimp in your backpacking trip.

02-14-2006, 12:58
Also, I'm starting to realize that there are muscles in the feet that need work to. As Kerosene suggested, exercise that strengthens the ankles can also strengthen foot muscles. Running and walking with weighted backpack helps too. All these things can help stave off throbbing tootsies.

02-14-2006, 13:05
since i have been injecting lantus insulin after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes my musle tone and flexabilty has increased dramatcally,i have almost completey come off my oral meds,i have dropped from 8 mg of amaryl to 1 mg amaryl, a day,i am very happy with perfect glucose levels,and great reduction of oral meds,but i am extremely happy with my new extreme hiking endurance:cool: neo

02-14-2006, 13:09
I think every person over 40 should do some kind of strength training. A natural part of aging is losing muscle mass. Strength training can't stop the process, but it can slow it down.

02-14-2006, 14:17
I do Ashtanga yoga and find that the core strength it builds really helps my endurance overall - being strong and flexible means your whole body is working together, not just your butt uphill and your quads downhill (or however it goes for you).

i recently learned that the point of the "asanas" (yoga postures) originally was to strengthen the practitioner (yogi or yogini) to the point where he/she could sit in meditation indefinitely. I like the idea of getting strong enough to sit still. :)

I recommend yoga as part of your overall fitness plan.

02-14-2006, 14:24
Oh yeah - I wanted to mention it strengthens your feet too as you are often doing things with your toes like stretching them up, grabbing the mat with them, or "activating your arch" i.e. lifting up the arch of your foot. There is some ridiculous number of muscles in your foot, and some ridiculous number of steps in a thru-hike, so I can only conclude it must be important to keep the feet strong and flexible.

02-14-2006, 14:42
Many folks I have met hiking that where coll.football players,karate instructers ,weight lifters take the attack mode on the trails and many power hikers,when they took off their shoes their feet looked like hamburger,I feel swimming walking steps some weight lifting should help,but being in tune with your body comes first,many people who are very physicall hikers often times tear ligaments pull muscles because of the training they do before they hike,first 2 weeks of my hike I focus on streching not over hiking anymore and I stay that way in life most of the time,If you lift weights and power train you better be prepared for alot of extra food,:dance ky

02-14-2006, 14:55
always take a few days to a week of resst and heavy eating before heading out

02-14-2006, 15:05
I am also a college varsity athlete, and when I hear 'core' I think of only the abdominals. In addition to running, a core exersize routine is a great warmup to weightlifting. A core workout should include leglifts (lower abs) and oblique work. Look up instrucitons for the individual exersizes online. A sample core workout follows.

--'alternates' (cross feet and lift off ground, as if you were about to do a crunch. Put hands on temples, and keeping arms in generally plane with back bring right elbow to left knee, then left elbow to right knee, repeat.
--full situps
--'fish flops'
--V-ups (not bending knees or elbows, touch your hands to your feet. Only your butt should be on the ground. These are hard)

When I hear 'core lifts' I think of basic lifts: bench, squat, clean, snatch, deadlift, etc. I do all of these lifts, including many variants and also do exercizes that isolate the secondary muscles.

Flexiblity is important to every athletic ability, and is very imporant in avoiding injuries. Before Iwork out I run slowly for at least 10 minutes, then stretch. If you want to gain flexibility you should also strech after you are done working out. One of the most commonly missed muscles in streching is the IT band.

02-14-2006, 19:03
The big thing to avoid is overtraining - lifting too often, or doing too many repetitions. Your body doesn't get stronger when you lift, it gets stronger when you rest between lifting. I used lift three times a week. I'm down to twice a week. At almost 52, I'm thinking of going to once a week. Overtaining leads to injuries.

I'm 43 and it seems we have much in common training-wise. I made the decision to go to once a week training( weights ) about two years ago and have no loss of strength, size, or endurance. My joints feel better too. Of course I hike/walk/run every chance I get.

My theory is that weightlifting once a week works particularly well for fit, older, experienced lifters and it sounds like you more than qualify. I would encourage you to give the once-a-week thing a try. You can always go back to your old routine, after all. Need a spot?:D

Almost There
02-14-2006, 19:13
The other thing is you can go to resistance training as you get older. Resistance bands work great as I use them now due to a shoulder injury from football. Easier on the joints than free weights, and I still get good results. I applaud you "older" guys for continuing to weight train, it keeps your body younger and hopefully keep you hiking to a ripe old age!!!

02-14-2006, 19:25
I'm not a huge fan of exercise equipment but I bought a TotalGym about 2 years ago and have found it to be great for resistance training. Nice thing is that you are using your own body weight (or a percentage thereof) and there is resistance in both directions.


02-14-2006, 19:38
As you know it is a life long workout now to keep it normal....

I need to do something daily pain or not. Just do it! I have been outside trimming bushes away from my walls of my house for the painters. Cheaper than paying another $30 an hour...

Those painters haven't shown up they said it is to cold to pressure clean. It is nippy for Florida.... There is other work that they are doing taking down gutters and rotten wood........

I went back on Glipizide ER 2.5 mg pill once per day. If sugar does go up above 200 then I do the Humalog. I just had a weekend that it was to much to bring a tester my bottle of Humalog syringe so I decided to try the pills. Your so smart I can't seem to comprehen all this Diabetic Stuff.

Good Hiking... I am going to Arkansas this summer. Have you been there hiking?

Happy Valentines Day To Lori and Maybe You :-?

02-14-2006, 19:41
I do a lot of hiking on hills and aerobics for aerobic training. The aerobics also helps with my ankles as we do lots of "foot work" constantly changing direction etc. We do lots of squats and lunges in class too!

I also do pilates which has really strengthened my core but the best strength exercise of all is yoga. I do a strenuous yoga class a few times a week. All the balance poses and deep lunges really strengthen your lower body.

02-14-2006, 19:47
I am sure all that technical stuff helps. But all I did was practice carrying my pack in and out of a nearby ravine once a day for a week or so, then start slow at 7 miles per day and work up slowly. Many thruhikers I met did the same, except for skipping the practice walks and did just fine.

I have heard more than one person say that the only thing that really prepares you for thruhiking is thruhiking!

02-14-2006, 19:51
Pilates....Pilates....Pilates....strengthenes your core and inceases flexibility, if you have a machine at home, even better...

02-14-2006, 20:29
Core strength is one of if not the most important strength asset to anybody, especially to those who frequent the outdoors. Climbers need exceptional core strength, hikers can also benefit tremendously. Core strength supports the spine, especially the lower back area. Abdominal muscles make up a lot of the core area, thus exercises to build these muscles are necessary. I use a simple wheel, about 4 bucks, its hard to use it properly, but with time, and practice, it becomes a great and simple way to build these important muscles. There are a lot of methods to exercise these muscles. I do know that core strength really helps when carrying a pack for miles on end. It also dramatically improves balance and endurance.

Almost There
02-14-2006, 23:02

Hiking is of great benefit to preparing but so is core strength training. I have been section hiking now for a year, and I can say so far with Georgia behind me and portions of NC and Va I am averaging 16.6 miles a day. I have found core training with flexibility training(stretching) has made my most recent hikes my easiest. However, taking it slow does work in the beginning I try to stay below 12 miles my first day or two on the trail before ramping it up to 15+ mile days. Of course, if you are older than I you should adjust accordingly. If you are doing a thru then you have the time to slowly acclimate. I, on the other hand, need to get going pretty quickly.

Jack Tarlin
02-14-2006, 23:19
A couple of quick ideas:

1. Before your trip starts, wear a full backpack for a few hours every day, and wear it while walking, doing your town errands, etc. If possible, find a
building with plenty of stairs and walk the stairs with a pack, both up AND down. (A stairmaster will have a similar effect, if you have access to one).
Wearing thirty-five pounds on your back changes EVERYTHING, and the sooner your back muscles, spine, hips, knees, and feet get used to the extra weight, the better off you'll be. It'll mean there'll be a much smaller shock to your system on the first day of your hike if your body is acclimated to the extra weight and stress.

2. Increase your daily water intake before you leave, so once you're out there, you'll be used to drinking a lot more of it than you do at home. I very much believe that a lot of physical complaints on the Trail, especially backaches, joint pain, chronic fatigue, etc., are nothing more than chronic dehydration. Most hikers don't drink enough out there, and are always exhausted. Two tips: Always keep a full quart by your side at night so when you get up during the night (which you will), you can always take a big drink; this'll help hydrate you for the morning. And always drink a quart in the morning before you leave. This won't help you from getting thirsty later, but by flooding your cells before you even start walking, it'll keep your muscles a lot happier. And whnever you take a break, drink half a pint or more. You should be drinking AT LEAST six to eight quarts a day out there.....and almost nobody does.

Almost There
02-14-2006, 23:43
I completely agree with Jack on water. I tend to cut soda out a week or two before I start a hike. Then I make sure to drink at least two liters of water a day at least a week before I hit the trail. As a coach and former athlete I have learned the hard way how to hydrate myself properly. As the saying goes once you feel thirsty...it's too late. If you flush your system and put water in throughout the week, you will guarantee to be hydrated at the start of your hike. If you try to hydrate the day before you might be surprised how much you'll suffer the first day. Remember tendons and ligaments can almost be like sponges. The more water in your system the better they work...and the better your joints feel. Also if you take any supplements for working out...cut them out at least two to four weeks before your hike. Many supplements such as creatine suck water from your internal organs, etc., if you aren't hydrating enough. You want this flushed from your system before you start, or you will suffer some major problems. As a wrestling coach I have seen the effects on a young person and you don't want to see them out on the trail!

02-14-2006, 23:45
i am going on another 60 mile hike for the next 3 days,cant wait till kayaking time:cool: neo




02-15-2006, 09:20
Note that you really need to concentrate on getting enough water. I always think that I'm getting enough until I inevitably see the color of my urine -- and I'm not even hiking in the summer!

02-15-2006, 16:30
Wearing thirty-five pounds on your back changes EVERYTHING

Amen! I can do 4-5 miles on a treadmill no problem (10% incline 3.5 mph), when I put a 30 lb pack on and keep everything else equal...I'm hurting after a mile.

02-15-2006, 17:24
I've been real serious with working out and core strenthening for a little over a year. It let this 54 yo dude keep up (most of the time) with a 30 something football/wrestling coach in the Grayson Highlands (Almost There).

Abs, lunges, squats and stuff are great. The balance ball or bosu are really prime for balance and core strengthening. I've worked hard on improving leg lifts and hip mobility with glut and similar work. Fire Hydrants look grim, and feel the same after a while. Laying with feet and shoulders bridging, a 15 pound weight over your pubic bone and doing pelvic raises is a good warm up to raising one leg and repeated this same with just one leg. Gluts burn rapidly.

Bosu balls are really grim instruments of torture, but feel like they are paying off even better than the balance ball. Make it hurt so the hike is more fun.

Almost There
02-15-2006, 17:32
I can vouch for OB, I would think I was way ahead of him, and stop to rest and within a few minutes he would be coming up the trail. The only time he didn't was when we both went into the ravine. All the same...try it..it works!!!

02-15-2006, 20:49
he says"before you hike", i start at birth and do that. carry a heavy messenger bag,ride no car,bike,water to the point of drownding.etc. and remember,the stresses of todays life compound all phisical issues and we must make it our #1 priority to be alive and healthy.not sluggish,overfed,beerbelied ding dongs.ps,im fat,stupid and full of crap so much so that in fact ,my eyes are brown.matthewski blabs.

02-24-2006, 19:16
I am curious along with the weight lose did anyone see an improvment with the Abs and Glutes?

02-24-2006, 20:41
I live in a 31-storey high-rise building. So before I go on a hike, I walk 100 stories (approx 1000 ft vertical 35-40 degree slope) in sets of 3x30 + 1x10 stories and take the elevator down when I get up. I do this 4 times a week before the hike with a 20lb backpack. It takes me about 30 minutes including the 3 elevator rides down.

02-24-2006, 21:02
I live in a 31-storey high-rise building. So before I go on a hike, I walk 100 stories (approx 1000 ft vertical 35-40 degree slope) in sets of 3x30 + 1x10 stories and take the elevator down when I get up. I do this 4 times a week before the hike with a 20lb backpack. It takes me about 30 minutes including the 3 elevator rides down.

Walking down hill or down stairs, especially with a pack, is an exercise that may not help core strength too much, but will probably help the knees, foot and leg muscles. Lots of hikers, me included, would rather go uphill than down, mostly due to the pain encountered from continuous steep downhill hikes.

Mother's Finest
03-03-2006, 16:14
get a pair of MBT's, shoes or boots. Do your training in these. They will increase your core strength, particularly when walking uphill. more information can be found at www.mbt-uk.com (http://www.mbt-uk.com)