Hiking For Beginners

Easy Stretches for Hikers to Minimize Injury and Soreness

Hiking is one of my favorite ways to stay active, especially now that we are in the era of social distancing and limited gym capabilities. But let’s be real...hiking and backpacking can be HELLA rough on the body. And like all physical activities, there is also a risk of injury. Which makes stretching before, during and after your hike even more critical.

Here are the best stretches for hikers to increase flexibility and mobility and promote circulation to keep you hiking safer and longer.

The Best Stretches for Hikers

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Why is stretching before AND after your hike so important?

Elongating your muscles before your hike gives you the opportunity to WAKE THAT BODY UP! Stretching before physical exertion increases your flexibility and joint’s mobility, which lowers your risk of injury.

But did you know that stretching AFTER a hike is equally as important? Not only will this help loosen up any tightness, but also improve blood flow to fatigued muscles. Better blood flow means better circulation of oxygen (and other nutrients) your muscles need to repair and recover. You’ll feel better the next day, which is critical if you’re hiking or backpacking multiple days in a row.    

I used to NEVER stretch before or after training jiu-jitsu (I know, I know...I sound like an amateur). Within my first 6 months, I experienced non-stop pinched nerves, ankle sprains and general soreness. I had a difficult time recovering quickly enough to be able to train as much as I wanted during the week. But once I made it a habit to stretch at least 20 minutes before and after jiu-jitsu, not only did all of those injuries go away, but I also noticed my flexibility and muscular endurance improve!

How to stretch safely

  • Know your limit - don’t overstretch and injure yourself! Stretch to where you feel comfortable.
  • Avoid stretching when your body is not warmed up - stretching cold muscles can induce injury. Try to raise your body temperature first with a brisk walk or light jog.
  • Hold each stretch - it's recommended to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. 

Leg Stretches for Hikers

Standing Quad Stretch

  • Stand with your feet together. Kick your right heel towards your butt.
  • Grab your ankle with your right hand. 
  • Gently pull your foot towards your butt. Hold position.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Tips

  • Hold onto a wall or railing if you need help balancing.

Wide-legged Forward Fold

  • Stand with your legs shoulder width apart.
  • Gently lean forward at your hips, making sure to keep your legs and back flat. 
  • If you can, try to grab your ankles. Feel the stretch in your hamstrings of both legs.

Tips

  • Bend your knees if the stretch is too intense.
  • Add a shoulder stretch! Clasp your hands behind your back as you fold forward. Let your arms fall towards the ground.

Standing Hamstring Stretch

  • Stand with one of your feet a few inches in front of the other.
  • Slightly bend your back knee. Keep your front knee straight and your toes flexed upward.
  • Gently lean forward at your hips towards the toes of your front leg . Make sure to keep your back flat, feeling the stretch in the hamstring of your front leg.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Calf Stretch

  • Find a wall or curb. Stand a few inches away. 
  • With one foot, place your toes on the wall or curb. Keep your heel on the ground. 
  • Flex and feel the stretch in the calf of the leg on the wall.

Tips

  • For a deeper stretch, gently push your hips forward. This allows you to flex your foot more.

Hips & Lower Back Stretches for Hikers

Squatting Hip Opener

  • Stand with your legs apart. Step your feet a few inches wider than your shoulders. Point your toes outward (at roughly a 45 degree angle). 
  • Squat down to whatever feels comfortable to you. Place your hands on the inside of your knees or thighs. Gently press your hands against your legs to help open up your hips. 
  • Make sure to keep your back flat and don’t let your knees bend inward.

Tips:

  • For a deeper stretch, place your elbows on the inside of your knees/thighs
  • Warmup your spine with a slight spinal twist. Drop your left shoulder to the center (towards the ground) and look to your right. Repeat with the other shoulder.

Arms & Shoulders Stretches for Hikers

Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

  • Bring one arm across your chest.
  • With your other hand, grab your elbow.
  • Gently pull arm towards your chest.

Tricep Stretch

  • Stand with your feet hips width apart.
  • Straighten your right arm up towards the sky, palm facing forward.
  • Bend your right arm. Grab your bent arm with the left hand.
  • Gently pull your bent arm towards the left, feeling the stretch in your tricep and shoulder.
  • Repeat on the other arm.

Standing Chest Opener

  • Stand with your feet hips width apart.
  • Clasp your hands behind your back.
  • Lift your hands up and keep your shoulders back, feeling the stretch in the shoulders and chest.

Tips:

  • For a deeper stretch, bend forward at the hips towards the ground, keeping your back flat (forward fold position).

Neck Stretches for Hikers

Neck Rolls

  • Start off by looking forward. Gently tilt your right ear towards your right shoulder. 
  • Roll your head down, touching your chin to your chest. Continue rolling your head to the back until you do a complete rotation. 
  • Repeat in the opposite direction.

“Yes/No”

  • Gently nod your up and down making the “yes” gesture. Perform 10 nods.
  • Gently nod your head left and right making the “no” gesture. Perform 10 nods.
What are some of your favorite hiking stretches?

I only recommend products that I have used myself and genuinely love. All opinions expressed are honest and mine. This post contains some affiliate links, which means that I receive a small compensation at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase. Since The Adventure Diet is reader-supported, any purchases you make will help keep this blog alive! As always, thank you for your never-ending support.

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about the author
Molly Chhiv
What's up! This Cambodian kid is an outdoor addict, adventure blogger, & your personal HYPE GIRL. Through the outdoors, I've learned self-confidence, independence, & mental strength. My mission through The Adventure Diet is to share the power of the outdoors with you. I want to empower you with tips, tools and inspiration to get outside with confidence and find yourself.

So if you're ready, let's get out there and do this sh*t!

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