Will Hiking Build Leg Muscle? | Hikers University

If you have recently started to enjoy hiking, you might be wondering, “Will hiking build leg muscles?”

Whether you hike because you love the outdoors or want to spend some quality time with friends, there is no denying that hiking has a number of benefits. It is a great way to stay fit and keep your body in shape.

The good news is that hiking can definitely build leg muscle. In fact, many people believe that it is the best exercise to do. As a form of aerobic exercise, hiking uses upper body muscles and lower body muscles that are not paid attention to normally.

 When you hike, your heart rate also goes up, burning calories. This means that your body is still shedding weight even when you take a break. What better than an activity you love that helps you stay slim as well?

In this article, we will elaborate on how hiking builds leg muscle along with which muscles are used the most while hiking so that the next time you go hiking, you know how much your future body is thanking you.

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Will Hiking Build Leg Muscle?

When you start hiking consistently and regularly, you will see that your leg muscles will start to grow. Hiking will help you build strength in your hamstrings, biceps, glutes, calves, and quadriceps. Moreover, hiking will also improve your lungs, heart, and cardiovascular fitness.

Building your leg muscles is great as it will help increase your stamina. Even if you are a beginner, don’t worry- hiking is a great way to get fit. After hiking on a trail with beautiful scenery, you will be shocked at how great your legs feel. Soon, you will notice that your lower body feels stronger, and you will be able to hike for longer hours.

Within a few weeks of hiking, your legs will feel stronger, and your clothes will fit better. Your feet will not hurt after you climb a few flights of stairs, and you will be able to carry more weight. However, remember to use the right kind of shoes so that you have enough traction on uneven terrain. The kind of clothes you wear while hiking is also essential as you want to be comfortable. Wearing extremely tight or loose pants will only strain your muscles and may even result in a leg injury.

 What Leg Muscles are Used When Hiking?

Hiking is a great workout for your entire body. However, the muscles in your leg are most used, including:


The main muscle used on hiking trips is the quadriceps, which can be found on the front of your thigh. This is a big group of muscles that stay engaged during your entire hike. In fact, they are the main reason you can hike up and down uneven terrain.

When walking on a trail, the quadriceps allow the knee to straighten or extend, which is why it is important to keep them strong.


Found in the rear of your lower legs, the calves are constantly used in hiking. As you become better at hiking, the calves become stronger and leaner.

However, keep in mind that as a beginner, it will be easier on the calves if you hike on flat terrain rather than hiking uphill with a heavy load on your back.

Each time you take a break, remember to stretch your calve muscles so that you do not get injured and do not feel sore after hiking.


When we talk about the hips, we are referring to nine different muscles. The flexors, abductors, and adductors are part of this muscle group. These muscles are important in protecting the glutes and lower back each time you go hiking. They increase shock absorption and lower the strain put on your body.

Each time you go hiking, you strengthen the muscles in your hips. These muscles need to be flexible so that you can perform well. Moreover, the stronger they are, the more you will notice a great overall posture and the less likely you will experience hip and lower back pain as you grow older.


Glutes are a group of muscles in your legs that keep the body firm and stable each time you partake in any physical activity.

When you go hiking, the glutes help support the weight of your body and the weight of your backpack. When hiking uphill, you will feel more strain on your glutes as compared to when you hike on flat terrain.

What Exercises Can You Do To Prepare Your Legs for Hiking?

Hiking is an activity that requires loads of leg strength. If you are a beginner, don’t get overwhelmed- all you have to do is start small and slowly build up your pace and rhythm. If you want to start hiking consistently, we advise that you build your leg muscles up.

To do this, start by doing leg lifts every day for a couple of weeks. This exercise is not only super simple, but it will also help you create a wonderful workout for your legs. Lifting weights at the gym might tire you out, but when you are building your leg muscles, you will find that the more you work out, the stronger you feel.

Another way to build your leg muscles for hiking is by sprinting. Sprinting will not only strengthen your leg muscles, but will also help your cardiovascular system. Before you can sprint, you have to be in good shape. However, you can start small and slowly build up how long you can sprint for. Before you know it, you will be able to complete 30-minute sprints without breaking a sweat. For starters, begin by sprinting every alternate day as your body builds endurance.

Keep in mind that hiking will also help build your leg muscles. You might not be able to go on full-day hikes, but the more you practice and the more consistent you remain, you will find that your body feels stronger, your legs don’t tire as easily, and you won’t be popping pills to deal with muscle aches.

 Can You Hike Instead of Doing a Leg Day at the Gym?

If you are trying to bulk up for weight lifting or a competition, hiking cannot replace leg day at the gym. Instead, you will need to find a workout regimen that focuses on specific muscles in the leg.

However, hiking is a great alternative if you are only looking to strengthen your legs without going to the gym. Not only will going on consistent hikes help you gain muscle, but it will also increase your core strength and overall balance.

Many people report that hiking is a great stress reliever. What started as a way to avoid going to the gym has now become a hobby for many. The best part is the amount of variety when it comes to hiking. You can choose between different trails, and as your body gets stronger, you will be able to hike for longer hours, take shorter breaks, take on heavier loads, and enjoy the experience without feeling out of breath.

Tips to Remember To Ensure Fewer Leg Injuries While Hiking

Whether you are a beginner or just enjoy hiking long trails, here are a few tricks to ensure that you do not injure yourself, especially your legs:

For Blisters

Before you go hiking, take a big tub of water and mix strong black tea in it. Soak your feet in this mixture for fifteen minutes. If you do not have sufficient time during your day, you can also cover your feet in a tincture of benzoin.

 Doing this will help the skin on your feet become stronger. This means that your skin will not be as vulnerable to blisters.

For Chafing

Before you go hiking, we would recommend doubling up on socks. You can also wear thin liner socks inside your usual wool hiking socks. Usually, hiking socks are thick, so they will keep your feet protected.

The double-layer trick will ensure that your skin does not rub against one sock. The liner you wear will absorb any friction your skin might face while hiking, ensuring that you do not get any blisters.

For Shoe Bites

Shoe bites are extremely common in hikers, especially if you get new hiking boots. While hiking boots are great, it is important to break into them before your first big hike.

 Once you loosen up the boots, your feet won’t hurt much when you are hiking, and you will be able to enjoy your trip more. All you have to do is wear your hiking boots around the house or at the gym.


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

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