Strength training for walking and mountaineering
Strength is an important fitness component for walkers and mountaineers. It helps you:
'Look well to each step, do nothing in haste and from the beginning think, what may be the end' - Edward Whymper
Strength has three aspects:
- Climb uphill carrying a loaded sack
- Operate in varying weather conditions
- Progress on varied surfaces: rock, scree, snow
- Reduce injury to your body
- Explosive strength or power, for dynamic or powerful movements
- Maximal strength, to overcome a force
- Strength endurance - the ability to make repeated movements (the aspect that you employ most when hill walking, scrambling or trekking is strength endurance)
Improving any aspect of strength requires some form of resistance training, involving lifting weights or a body weight circuit. You can do this in a gym or at home if you have some basic equipment such as dumbbells or a lifting bar. Below are two examples of strength programmes. This is a weight programme for those who have some experience, requiring specialist equipment. NB it is important to seek advice from experts if working in a gym or weight area.
Strength endurance (body weight) circuit
A circuit designed to introduce your body (and brain) to conditioning exercises with limited equipment. 30 secs of good quality exercises with 30 secs before next exercise. Begin with three exercises, with two minutes rest between sets. A 'set' is one complete round of exercises.
- Quads/hamstrings - Toe offs
- Abdominals - Crunches
- Shoulders/pectorals - Modified press ups
- Quads/hamstrings/gluteals - Lunges
- Back/gluteals/shoulders - Alternate arm and leg raise
- Triceps - Tricep dip
The frequency with which you do this in a week is dependent on how many days you are out at the weekend. A minimum of two sessions with a day's active recovery in between is adequate, but if improvements are rapid then a third session can be added.
Do aerobic work such as swimming and cycling on days between workouts.
In the gym
Strength endurance (free weights/machines) circuit
- Quads/hamstrings/gluteals - Back squat - Free or leg press )10 to 15 controlled, good quality lifts 3 to start, one minute rest between sets)
- Back/biceps - Overhand seated row - Rowing machine
- Abdominals/lower back - Inclined sit up - Bench or wall bars
- Gluteals/hamstrings/lower back - Hip/thigh extension - Static bench
- Gluteals/quads/hamstrings - Lunges - Weight bar or dumbbells
- Back/biceps - overhand lat pull down - lat machine
A guide as to having the correct weight is, if on the last rep you are just controlling your form. When this becomes easier it is time to increase weight. For a longer-term, more scientific method find your repetition maximum for one, six or ten lifts. Then use a relative percentage depending on what you want to train. For maximum strength, aim for very high weight and a low number of repetitions. For strength endurance you need a lower weight with more repetitions.
Keep a log of the times you train and the details of that session including how you feel mentally and physically (as an indicator of your motivation). Check your progress against your goals and be prepared to change your circuit, exercise or loadings. Train with a partner if possible as this will help your motivation and attention to the task.
Over a period of about four weeks, you should notice significant improvements in your strength endurance
Over a period of about four weeks, you should notice significant improvements in your strength endurance. If you have access to a gym facility, consult with the trainers there for detail on the exercises. If you do your own free body weight circuit, monitor your body's feelings closely for overuse and strains.
Remember to build in periods of rest and recovery and do not train two days consecutively, as this will lead to regression as opposed to progression! Don't do a heavy training session the day before you head for the hills, but make it a rest and recovery day instead.