Hiking is a powerful cardiovascular activity and provides plenty of benefits to the body, including the ability to strengthen and tone muscle, as well as improve endurance and stamina.

Muscles worked hiking include the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, abs, and hip muscles. Having a certain level of fitness is desirable before starting out on a long hike into the wilderness. Plus, a strong core is helpful to complete the physical activity with minimal issues.

Benefits of hiking

Hiking is a useful cardiovascular workout that has plenty of benefits including:

  • Improves blood sugar levels and blood pressure
  • Increases bone density similar to other types of weight-bearing exercise
  • Lowers the risk heart disease
  • Better balance
  • Strengthens the muscles in the lower legs and hips
  • Tightens up the core muscles
  • Increases the ability to lose weight
  • Boosts the mood and relieves stress

Muscles worked hiking

Here are six of the muscles put under strain while hiking in the wilderness:


A primary muscle used on a hiking trip includes the quadriceps which is situated at the front of the thigh. This large group of muscles is constantly engaged while hiking and helps to proper the hiker in a forward motion.

Plus, the quadriceps help to straighten or extend the knee while walking on the trail.


The hamstrings (rear, upper thigh) work in combination with the quads to help bend or flex the knee.

The hamstrings help with pulling the quads back when the body is making a forward motion. Hiking is quite strenuous on the hamstrings compared to other physical activities such as running.


The calves (rear, lower leg) are constantly active in hiking and experience changes in intensity and level of use.

Less stress is put on the calves when walking on the flat terrain compared to the strenuous hike that includes walking uphill with a heavy backpack.

Calf stretches can benefit the hiker and should be performed at regular intervals to avoid injury.


The glutes are a series of muscles which help to support the torso while engaged in all types of physical activities.

On a hiking trip the glutes are needed to support both the bodyweight and the load of the backpack. The glutes are given a much more rigorous workout when hiking uphill compared to a flat surface.

Use squats to help strength the muscles in the region of the rear.

Hip Muscles

The hip muscles are crucial while hiking and should be flexible and limber to properly perform the physical activity. Hip muscles include the adductors, abductors, and flexors.

These muscles on a hiking trip help to support the lower back and glutes and minimize issues with strain and improve shock absorbing.


Strong abdominal muscles are helpful to promote better support and strength in the region of the core. The abdominal muscles while hiking is useful for keeping the upright posture while also helping to support the load on the back.

Build the strength of the abs to minimize issues with a back injury while out on a long hiking season.