There are many causes of hip and knee pain in hikers. However, one thing hikers with these problems have in common is a weak core. Your core consists of your abdominal, back, and side muscles. The core muscles act as a corset around your torso and help support your upper body. Without an active and strong core, your torso rests somewhat passively on your legs and pelvis. If you’ve ever held a sleeping toddler, you know that inactive body weight gets heavy fast. Contrast that with an awake and active toddler. They help hold themselves up, and you can carry them for much longer. The same is true for your core. When it’s working and supportive, especially when carrying a backpack, it creates less of a burden on your lower body.
You only need to spend a few minutes each day doing core exercises, and you’ll see a significant improvement in a short amount of time. One of the best hiking-specific core exercises is the dead bug exercise. The dead bug exercise mimics the movements and stability you need when hiking, especially when climbing uphill and using poles. It looks deceptively simple, but requires a bit of motor planning and core control. Start on your back with arms straight over head and legs in a table-top, or 90-90 position, with hips and knees flexed to 90°. Extend one arm while extending the opposite leg toward the floor. Keep your navel pressed to the floor. Hold for a count of 1, then return to the start position. Repeat on the opposite side. Perform for 30 seconds with a 10-second rest and repeat two more times.
If you find moving your arms and legs at the same time too difficult, try holding the start position with lower abs contracted for 30 seconds. Once you can do that, progress to tapping alternating heels to the floor while keeping your knees bent. When you can do this confidently with good control, begin to extend your knees. Then, keeping legs in the 90-90 position, alternate extending arms to the floor. As you gain strength, alternate extending each leg and arm. Finally, progress to moving an arm and a leg at the same time.
Dead Bug Exercise
Want to be a better hiker but not sure where to start or how to get there? The Healthy Hiker Virtual Training Program helps hikers like you improve their fitness, ease their knee pain, and train for their dream trail. If you’re ready to hike further and with more confidence, schedule a consultation and start the journey toward your hiking goals today!