Does Hiking Count as Leg Day

men with strong legs doing hiking as leg day exercise

Hiking activities really engage your entire body during a workout. It requires the use of hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, abdominals, calves, tights, and your lower back. Apart from calorie burning, doing exercise outdoors has some other health perks.

For example, exposure to sunlight may give your body essential Vitamin D, which is well-known for preventing various diseases.

People who enjoy living an active lifestyle do many different physical activities during the same time. Some love to combine their gym exercises with other sports, but the others don’t find sweaty gyms very appealing. Besides occasional adrenalin rush, hikers also love to mix various physical activities.

That is when the questions regarding the best ways to be physically fit for a long hike start. Hikers often want to find out whether they can count a hiking adventure as a leg day. Well, this depends on some different factors.

Though a hiking trip can be a great way to strengthen your legs, you can’t expect to gain a huge amount of muscle mass from a single standard hiking routine. But you will definitely feel better endurance in your legs and core.

So yes, hiking has been considered a good leg day exercise, but there are a few things to bear in mind. Today we talk more thoroughly about leg workouts and hiking activities.

Table of Contents

Will Hiking Build Leg Muscles?

When people start to perform a sports activity, they want to know what muscles can be built by that workout. The same applies to hiking. If you are interested in leg muscle building but don’t like going to the gym, it seems hiking can be a good option. Hiking really has different health benefits, and besides that, it may even help you have stronger legs.

The thing that often confuses people is that they can’t associate a slow-paced hike with the heavy squat gym session.

The opportunity hiking is offering is a chance to be in the fresh air, in nature, exercising, without paying a monthly gym fee. Pretty cool, right?

Muscle building occurs when putting stress on the muscles which causes the fiber to tear. Hiking for sure can really put certain muscle groups to stress, so that says you can build leg muscles during hiking.

Can You Replace Leg Day With Hiking?

Hiking really does affect your legs, even your feet. If you do a hard hiking trip you’ll probably be exhausted and your legs will also feel sore and tired. That means you are actually done with your “leg day”. In that words, hiking really can replace a leg day.

But, if your hiking consists of a light and short walk in the flat and simple tray, then your legs might not be that fatigued, and your body may crave more exercise.

Deciding whether hiking will be your new leg day it’s up to you and your physical abilities.

How to Prepare Your Legs and Body For Hiking?

Before you decide to go on a serious hiking adventure, you need to make sure your body is well-prepared. By taking it slow, and doing more easy hiking sessions, you’ll gradually increase your overall body and leg strength, and that way you’ll probably have more successful hiking trips later.

Hikes For Stretching

Basically, during this type of hike, you’ll do some light walks, with frequent stops to stretch. You should opt for trails instead of pavements as you would want to get used t uneven surfaces. All you need is a light backpack.

Try taking 3-4 ten-minute stops to stretch your legs, calves, and torso. Focus on ankle rolls, Achilles stretches, hamstrings, groin, and quads. 

Core Strength

To be able to complete the toughest hiking trails you’ll need a strong core. These exercises are great for one of those days with little available time. You can try doing some squats, lunges, sit-ups, and pushups. If your legs are in good shape, you can add more reps and an extra set of exercises.

Choose Some Low Gain Trails

As you stretch out more and your core is getting stronger, start aiming for more endurance. Pick some low elevation gain trails, and opt for longer hikes, as they are perfect for building stamina, and strengthening your joints.

Circuits With Short Hills

To avoid walking into a steep situation unprepared, be sure to have strong calves and quads. The short hill circuits are great for building these muscles. You can go from lower to higher walking speeds, as this will build your strength. Of course, always be sure to take a break when your body needs it.

Try doing 1-2 hill workouts per week for a couple of weeks before your bigger hiking trips. You can add a backpack for some additional weight, that will prepare you for backpacking trips.

Make sure to wear the same backpack as the one you’ll carry on a more serious hiking session.

Try Harder and Easier

If you can, start the season with some good, hard hikes. That way you’ll know where you stand physically. If the harder hike has exhausted you, get back to the hill circuits, and make your hikes shorter. Before your bigger hikes, try to do a small hike that involves a lot of stretching.

Regular exercise prevents stiffness and gets you prepared for backpacking trips. Make sure you have a consistent routine with short hikes to maintain the edge.

Tips For an After Hike Recovery

It is quite usual to feel aches all over your body after hiking. The legs might feel like jelly (like after a gym leg day), and all the other muscles may be stiff and sore. Everyone who tried hiking knows the struggle. Muscle fatigue often starts the day after your hard hiking trip.

You’ve built up lactic acid levels in your bloodstream, and the muscle pain will eventually go away, after 2-3 days.

relaxing is important before next hike

The recovery process is really important, because it gives time for your body to heal, and be prepared for your next hiking adventure.

The good thing is that there are some tips and tricks to help you ease your pain while you’re on your healing path.

1. Massage

A good way to soothe your hurting muscles is to have a massage. It is very therapeutic, and it improves blood circulation. Your muscles will feel more tender after the massage, and your legs and feet will be relaxed. You can do that kind of relaxation massages by yourself, but if your budget allows you, it’s best to hire a professional.

2. Mild Exercise and Stretching

It is really important to do mild stretching after your hiking activity, that way you’re giving your muscles time to refuel. You can also opt for active recovery, which consists of simple exercise that is effective enough to make your blood circulating. That way your muscles will feel less tired. Some types of recovery activities are swimming, biking and aerobics.

3. Rest, Sleep, or Relax

After a nice, and long hike, your body deserves a nice and long rest. You can do whatever makes you feel comfortable. Some people love to lie on their back, slightly elevate their feet above their heart. Eventually, you’ll get sleepy and drift off like a baby.

It’s a good thing that sleeping is the body’s natural way of restoring, you don’t have to do anything, just relax and enjoy your hard-earned relaxing time.

4. Rehydrate

After all the sweating, you might feel a bit dried. That’s why it is very important to drink water during your hikes, and even that won’t be enough to replace all the lost fluids. It is mandatory to drink water between your exercises, that way water serves as a metabolic process that transports all the beneficial nutrients in the body, and by doing that helps muscle recovery.

5. Get Some Food

Feeling hungry like a beast? That’s quite normal and expected after a hike, especially a hard one. To refill your energy you’ll need to eat something rich in carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Of course, make sure to have some snacks, and food with you, so you can refresh during a hike.

But, a really important thing for post-workout body recovery is food. Some hikers love to rest a bit before they eat a full meal. Here is a shortlist of the best food to munch after a hike.

Bottom Line

Hiking is definitely a sports activity, it can go from a mild walk to an extreme hike that includes traversing very hard terrains. Depending on the hiking intensity you’ll get different body workout results. Mild hiking will provide you with less muscle fatigue, and some bigger hikes can really be a full-body workout and can count as a leg day exercise.

Whichever version of hiking you choose, be sure to take it slowly and don’t forget to apply some of the recovery tips. That way you’ll be sooner ready for your brand new hiking adventure.

In the end, try not to burden yourself with questions like does hiking count as leg day. Make sure to practice any physical activity, and you’ll be doing the right job for your body and overall health.

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