5 movements for stronger hips, hamstrings & glutes

If there’s one thing hikers need, it’s a strong and stable lower body.

From uphill scrambling to hopping over streambeds and navigating steep descents, hiking is a fabulous full-body workout. But there’s no denying that our hips and legs bear the brunt of the action.

Yet if you want to build a strong base, squats alone won’t cut it. They’re a great exercise to build strength and stamina in your quads, but unfortunately they don’t do much when it comes to igniting your glutes and hamstrings. And when those muscles don’t get an invite to the party, the resulting imbalances and lack of strength can leave you more prone to injury.

By all means keep doin’ those squats, but if you’re active on the trails, here are 5 movements to help you build the strong hips, hamstrings, and glutes you need to power your outdoor adventures.

Elevated glute bridge 

Lie on your back with your feet on a sturdy bench (or if you’re at home, your bed, a futon, or couch will do). Contract your abdominals while pushing your hips upward, squeezing your glutes at the top and keeping a strong, stable spine (be careful not to arch your lower back). Lower your hips and repeat. Complete 3 sets of 10 to 20 repetitions.

When you need to add difficulty, add a resistance band just above your knees or progress to performing them one leg at a time.

Sumo walk & Monster Walk

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Begin in an athletic stance with a resistance band around your ankles. If you need less resistance, you can place it just above your knees, and if you only have a band with handles, simply place the band under your feet while holding the handles (you can cross them in front of you to increase resistance).

Step out with your right leg, but while doing so, make sure that you’re actually pushing yourself with your left leg, not pulling the band with your right leg. With each step out, the rear leg is the one doing the work. Complete for 10 to 20 steps and reverse directions, again being sure that the right leg is doing the pushing when you step out with your left leg.

Lateral lunge

Begin in an athletic stance, then take an exaggerated step to your left. Lean slightly forward and lower yourself as far as you can. Your right leg should remain straight (though you can lean to the inside of your foot if that’s more comfortable than keeping your foot flat on the ground). Return to the starting position and repeat. Complete 2 to 4 rounds of 8 to 12 repetitions on each leg.

If  you need to start easy, hold onto a small tree or door handles in front of you to give yourself leverage to maintain your balance.

Donkey kicks


Begin on your hands and knees with your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders. Maintain a strong, stable spine by drawing your abdomen into your spine. Lift your left leg up behind you, while keeping the knee bent, and squeeze your glutes at the top. Be careful not to contract so much that you arch your lower back. Bring your leg down and repeat. Complete 3 sets of 10 to 20 repetitions with each leg.

If needed, you can increase difficulty by  adding a resistance band just above your knees.

Fire hydrants

Begin on your hands and knees, with your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders. Maintain a strong, stable spine by drawing your abdomen into your spine. Extend your left leg laterally (i.e. away from your center), while keeping the knee bent, until its level with your hips. Bring your leg down and repeat. Complete 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 20 repetitions on each leg.

For more information about building a kick-ass booty, check out tips and workouts from Dr. Bret Contreras and Kellie Davis from FitThrive.

Published by

Sonya LeClair

Sonya LeClair is an ecologist, writer, and certified health coach with a
focus on using time outdoors as a springboard to improve our physical and
mental health. She has a B.S. in Wildlife Biology, an M.S. in Biology, and
over 20 years of experience in ecology, conservation, and engaging people
with the outdoors. She resides in the Monadnock Region, and spends her
time writing, exploring the outdoors, and focuses her coaching on helping
others become healthy and fit enough to live their own versions of a rich
and meaningful life. You can learn more about her work at
www.TheReluctantEnthusiast.com.

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