Backpacking Workouts: Explosive Workouts to Get You Trail Ready

In my John Muir Trail training plan I mention using sprints and plyometric workouts as part of my plan to get in shape for the trail. While these types of workouts seem second nature to me, I realize not everyone is familiar with this type of training. If you’d like to add some more explosive types of workouts to your backpacking workout plan, take a look at these basics on sprint workouts and plyometrics.

Hill Sprints

Don’t let the word “sprint” intimidate you. If you don’t consider yourself a runner, you might be surprised to find enjoyment out of speed workouts. While distance running requires you to be mentally disciplined for miles at a time, sprint workouts ask for a bigger concentration of effort in a shorter period of time. This means you can burn just as many calories in a short workout.

Try it:

backpacking workouts

  1. Find a hill with a gradual incline that is about between 100 and 200 meters long.
  2. Run at 70-80% of your full speed for 30-40 seconds, making sure to drive your knees and arms to power up the hill.
  3. Use the walk back down as your recovery and repeat 4-6 times.

If you have easier access to a short, steep hill (50 meters or shorter), you can still use it to get in a good workout.

backpacking workouts

  1. Power up the hill (again, driving knees and arms) as fast as you can.
  2. Repeat 4-6 times using the walk down as your recovery.
  3. After you’ve completed the set, take 2-3 minutes of recovery time.
  4. Repeat your set of hill sprints. Do a total of 3-5 sets short hill sprint repeats, taking a few minutes to recover between each set.

Sprint Repeats

Similar to hill sprints, sprint repeats involve running close to full speed repeatedly with rests in between. These types of workouts are easiest if you have access to a track. Depending on your goals and stamina, you can choose to run 200, 300 or 400 meter repeats. Shorter distances should be ran at a higher percentage of your full speed and should involve more repetitions. For example, I might choose to run a set of six 200 repeats at 75% of my full speed or a set of three 400 repeats at closer to 65% of my full speed.

Sprint workouts

Setting a pace for yourself might take some trial and error, but once you find the right speed this type of workout becomes easier.

Try it:

  1. Find a local track or an open space where you feel comfortable doing speed workouts.
  2. Beginning at the 200 meter starting spot, run at 70-80% of your full speed for the full 200, making sure to drive your knees and arms and stay at a consistent speed throughout the entire distance. Use a stopwatch to time yourself.
  3. Rest for about two minutes and repeat, trying to hit the same time as your initial run.
  4. Repeat to run a total of 4-8 sprint repeats (depending on your fitness level), adjusting speed and time goals if necessary.

Plyometric Circuit Workout

Circuit workouts involve performing a set of different exercises several times in a row, taking a break between each set. Exercises can include weights, plyometrics (explosive/jumping exercises) or a combination of the two. Try doing a circuit routine by setting up and rotating through stations, or areas designated for specific exercises, with a group of friends.

Try It:

  1. Mountain climbers for 30 seconds: In a high plank position, alternate bringing your left and right knees toward your chest as fast as you can.
  2. Jump squats for 30 seconds: Perform a bodyweight squat. Once you are at the deepest point in your squat, jump as high as you can. Take a moment to pause before going down into your next squat.
  3. Side jumps for 30 seconds: If you have a small cone or object you can jump over, use it at this station. If not, use your imagination. With your feet together, jump side to side as quickly as you can, making an effort to jump about six inches off the ground each time.
  4. Lunge jumps for 30 seconds: Start with feet together, then jump into a lunge position. Either reset with feet together before altering legs or jump directly from one lunge into the next. Can substitute for lunge walking if needed.
  5. Burpees for 30 seconds: Move from a standing position into a high plank position. Perform a push-up, then jump your feet toward your hands and explode upward before resetting into plank position and repeating the exercise.

Go through each exercise before taking a two minute break. Repeat until you’ve gone through the circuit three times. Circuit workouts can easily be modified to varying fitness levels by altering exercise times, resting times and the types of exercises performed.

Interested in more explosive exercises? Find Fast Twitch Fitness on YouTube for a number of exercises you can easily perform with a plyo box.

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