Hiking can be both a difficult and empowering activity. Maybe you aren’t conquering mountains but going up a steep slope can still be challenging. So, you might be wondering, how to train for steep hikes?
You need to build up your endurance and make your legs and core muscles stronger. Take it slow and improve your balance. There are a few techniques to help you with steep hikes too. Don’t rush it and you will slowly improve your performance and it will get easier.
In this article, I will explain the ins and outs of what is a steep grade for hiking and how you can train for overcoming them.
What Is A Steep Grade for Hiking?
A 15 percent grade slope can be considered too steep to hike. The most widely accepted slope grade optimum for hiking is 5 percent. But, it’s not really that simple.
To the average person, any hiking trail might look steep but when you are a regular hiker it is a bit different. Any trail that requires more effort than regularly going forward might be considered steep. A steep trail requires more effort and different techniques to climb up and hike for a long time.
Hiking trail steepness is usually measured and described in a percentile grade. This grade is very much not universal and differs in different places. But usually, the length of the trail and the angle is factored in and it shows a difficulty percentage.
However, they do have similarities in the calculation and the more common steep trails are in the 15 to 35 percentile range. Let’s take a look at the angle measurements as that is a much more universal unit and will be much easier to understand.
5 to 10 degrees is not too steep and will not put you in much of a challenging situation. At 15 to 30 degrees the difficulty rises. And it gets very difficult and even strenuous after the 45-degree mark.
If you are asking what is the steepest angle you can walk up, then the answer is that it depends on both the person and terrain. On some terrains, it becomes very hard to walk up even at 30 to 45-degree angles while on some terrains it is really easy to hike even at 60 or 65-degree angles.
The terrain of the trail matters a lot when hiking up. Some surfaces make it much harder to go up than others. It is also heavily dependent on the person’s physical fitness as to what steepness they might be able to handle or not.
And that is why there is no general consensus behind what is a steep grade in hiking. And involvement of many factors makes pinpointing a specific value quite difficult.
How to Train for Steep Hikes?
Training for steep hikes is improving your endurance and stamina. You need to go on for longer and not fast. You will not be training to increase your speed but your longevity and balance.
The training process to prepare for steep hikes is not that complex. It is very easy to do and the routines are easy to follow through. I will be explaining the training process right here.
What Your Goal Should Be
Your goal should not be to increase your speed. You need to increase your stamina. You need to increase your endurance. In doing long and steep hikes it is much better to focus on longevity than focusing on how fast you can go.
You should be aiming to reach a stage where you can keep your pace steady throughout the entirety of the hike. You should aim to finish at the same pace you started as. Consistency is key.
You need to increase your stamina so you can carry on for longer and get tired less often. You need to remember that it is okay to stop and take breaks, rest, and restore your energy before continuing again. But you also should train so that you are tired a lot less.
All in all, your goal should be to reach a stage where you can keep a consistent pace and go on for long strides. Keep this goal in mind when you exercise and you should be all set.
What You Need to Focus On
First of all, you need to focus on making your legs stronger. This one is a bit obvious but there is a need to put emphasis here as a lot of people do not put enough effort into their leg muscles and lag behind. Running, cycling, cardio, any sort of exercise that strengthens your legs is very helpful.
You also need to improve your core muscles. Improving and strengthening your core muscles will help you improve your balance and help to keep that balance while carrying heavy loads. You need to remember that for the most part, you will not be without weights while hiking. You will be carrying a backpack with medium to heavy loads.
And finally, you need to do general cardio to improve overall. You need to make sure your overall physique and stamina develop.
What Your Exercise Routine Should Be
Your exercise routine will be pretty straightforward. Make modifications as you see fit. Do not strain yourself and adjust your exercising to your own body and fitness levels. Your routine should be flexible and there needs to be proper resting before the trip.
Your weekly exercise routine should include at least 2 inconsecutive rest days. Take more if you cannot keep up. Around 3 days of light exercise and cardio are ideal. And finally, 2 days of training with heavier exercises is what you need to aim for.
Any exercise that improves all the different sections I mentioned previously is helpful. You can try planks, curls, squats, etc., and even running on treadmills work too. Uphill runs will help you with training for the real thing so if you can then use a treadmill with angle adjustments and make it steeper gradually.
One or two weeks before your trip make your exercise routine much more relaxed and focus on the lighter exercises and cardio more. You need to reserve your energy and be well-rested for the trip. You will also need to take full rest for at least two days right before your trip.
Techniques to Master Steeper Hikes
There are a few things that if you keep them in mind help you hike through steep trails. First of all, you need to find a rhythm. Keeping a steady pace is helpful and if you find a rhythm to follow then it feels a lot better.
Another thing you need to keep in mind is the weight you will be carrying. You will need to adjust your backpack often. Tightening or loosening the harness or straps, adjusting as you move forward will help you stay comfortable.
Mix up your movement patterns and take rest steps when the trail starts to feel too strenuous for you. Maybe consider changing your movement patterns to deal with curves and hard spots.
Make your breaks shorter and more frequent than long and infrequent. You should rest and rejuvenate while in these break periods but also do small stretches to reduce muscle pain going forward.
Hiking steep trails can seem tough, but it can be made easier with proper training and techniques. You need to improve your balance and overall endurance to keep a steady pace during your hikes.
By now you probably have a good understanding of what you need to do to master steep hikes. I hope this article clears any confusion you might have had on what is a steep grade for hiking and how you can train to overcome them. Thanks for reading and stay safe on your adventures.