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6 leg movements for hikers and trail runners

Your legs are the primary powerhouse for all things hiking and trail running. No news here. The strength, power, endurance and muscle built off the trail will come down to your programming.

Depending on how many days per week you're lifting, you'll want to cover these six types of movement patterns throughout your program.

For context, let's assume you are lifting 3x/week with a full body split, meaning each workout includes upper, lower, and core exercises. Let's also assume your program is a 4-8 week duration before exercises switch. Weird, it's like I'm referencing exactly what KATHLETICS Trail looks like 🤪.

1. Compound exercises. These are often seen at the beginning of the workout. Compound exercises work multiple muscles groups at the same time. Deadlifts, squats, bench press, overhead press, and rows fall into this category (although, for the purpose of lower body exercises, we're just talking about deadlifts, squats, and maybe hip thrusts).

2. Single-leg squat variations. These exercises are primarily quad-dominant. Think: single-leg squats, pistol squats, tap downs, skater squats, split squats, and reverse lunges. *Side note: these exercises can be made more hip- or knee-dominant based on the angle of your squat, but will still be considered a SL squat variation.

3. Single-leg hinge variations. Hinge exercises include deadlifts, hip thrusts, glute bridges, and RDLs. Think of these, but the single-leg versions of them. SL deadlifts, SL hip thrusts, SL glute bridges, and SL RDLs.

4. Step-up variations. As hikers and trail runners, you can likely see why step-ups are so important. Anything that gives you elevation gain is likely going to improve with some step-up training. Variations to consider: step-ups, side step-ups, step overs, side step overs.

5. Lateral movements. Having the ability to move in multiple planes is helpful for hikers and runners because we often come across obstacles that require us to move more than just forward. Lateral lunges, cossack squats, and side-step ups are a few to consider.

6. Isolation exercises. This is a large, catch-all category, considering any muscle can be isolated and tossed in here. These exercises will ultimately depend on the person based on current strengths, weaknesses, and trail goals. For example, if you have a hard time keeping your medial glute involved, it might be good to add a focus on this. Or, if you feel like your hamstrings cramp up easily, maybe it would be good to build up your hammie strength and endurance. On the other hand, you could also place calf raise variations, hip flexor exercises, abductor exercises, or an anterior tibialis movement here.

Each of these play an important role in your training. One is not necessarily superior to the other, although you could say there are seasons for certain exercises. For example, if you notice during your off-season that your ankle stability needs some work, maybe having more isolation exercises regarding your ankle (shin, calf, foot) would be beneficial.

If you're looking for more guidance on what to include in your program, join KATHLETICS Trail or get 1:1 customized programming from yours truly.


Katharine Moustakes
Hey, friend!

I'm Katharine.

I'm a personal trainer, running coaching, and nutrition coach who's stoked about lifting, the outdoors, summit snacks, and my dog.


I understand that fitness is not your whole life. Fitness is a PART of your life. I approach training in a way that adds value to your life and longevity, so you can enjoy being active whether you're romping around in the mountains, playing with your kids, or signing up for your first 10K race.

I'm here to meet you where you are, so you can train safely and effectively, and gain strength and confidence both in the gym and on the trails.

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