Strength training is often overlooked be many trekkers but it is absolutely essential component of your preparation.
Training for an exercise as simple as walking might seem like overkill to some. After all, walking is a very natural and normal thing for your body to do. However, few of us have the leisure time available to walk for much more than 30 minutes a day, let alone the 6-16 hours, for multiple days on end as will be required on most treks.
So with limited time being a factor for most people, it’s critical that each training session is as specific as possible.
Firstly, what is strength training?
Strength training is where you use resistance against the body’s musculoskeletal system to induce muscular contraction. Often, this may come in the form of weights, but predominantly, we teach our clients to master their own bodyweight. The outcome is that it strengthens and stabilises the body which improves trekking performance and lessens the chance of injury.
There are many other benefits of this training, including improved insulin sensitivity, increased bone density, reduced body fat and preservation and enhancement of muscle mass.
Ladies, don’t be concerned about strength training adding huge amounts of bulky muscle to your body! It’s quite difficult to do and requires specific dieting and training to achieve.
The strength training in our training programs are designed to give you long, lean muscles.
Tip 1 – Walk away from the gym machines (even better… LUNGE away from them)
A traditional machine based resistance program will not improve your ability to deal with the rigours of the outdoors. On your trek you’ll have to deal with mud, scree, snow and/or ice; which are unpredictable environments.
Training for the outdoors means training your body’s full range of movements that are specific to trekking to build total body, multi-joint strength. These movements should be teaching our body to control your own balance, your own movement patterns, which is integral to staying injury free.
Training on machines limits your strength to that 2 dimensional range, training with free weights enables 3 dimensional improvement, which builds strength, stability and balance.
TIp 2 – Constant Variation, Constantly Asking the Body for More
It’s essential with strength training that it’s planned in such a way that it becomes more difficult as you adapt to the stimulus, In other words. you can’t do the same thing day in, day out for 12 weeks.
When you start to train, your body notices something new is happening and registers this change by getting stronger. But if you consistently do the same number of reps with the same amount of weight your body realises that “this is the new normal” and will adapt to that environment, halting your progress.
The aim is to increase sets, reps and/or weight as you lead up to your trek, making sure you also fact in rest and recovery days. It’s also important that the movements are varied and that the mode of exercise changes regularly from strength, cardio, endurance, stability etc.
Tip 3 – Make Your Strength Training Specific to the Mountains
As intelligent and adaptive as our bodies are, unfortunately proficiency and strength in one form of exercise does not equal proficiency in strength in all, so we must be specific with our training.
Marathon runners for instance are very fit individuals, but this does not transfer well to the mountains, because marathons are predominantly on flat terrain, meaning the muscles have not been well trained to ascend steep slopes. The result is an inflated expectation of ability, which quite often leads to over exertion and ultimately failure.
For example, your trekking specific strength should be focused on developing the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and the core, as well as the smaller supportive muscles.
EXAMPLE – Try out this Single Leg Hip Thruster, now, on the chair you’re sitting on, and find out just how difficult strength training can be using only your bodyweight.
If strength training is not part of your current training plan you need to start now.
It’s an absolute necessity that you’re legs are strong enough to power you on, day after day with minimal fatigue. And you’ll need a strong midsection and back to avoid back pain from the weight of your pack.
A good test is to complete one of our strength workouts and see if you experience any tightness or soreness 2-3 days after – this will give you an indication of the type of fatigue you can expect on your trek if you don’t prepare your body before you get there.
Better yet, if you are based in Brisbane Australia, you can join us for a free week of training at our training facility with our expert coaches. Click the link below to receive this special offer!