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Does Hiking Count As Leg Day? (Can It Replace Leg Day?)

For many people, leg day feels like doing your homework…

You hate doing it, but deep down, you know it needs to be done.

But while there’s no alternative to doing your homework, is there any alternatives to leg day?

In this article, we cover whether hiking can replace leg day, whether you should train legs if you go hiking, how to maximize leg development while hiking, and much more!

Here’s whether hiking count as leg day:

While hiking offers many of the same benefits as leg day, hiking won’t develop your leg muscles as much as training legs. So you shouldn’t replace leg day with hiking if you want to fully develop your leg muscles.

Man hiking up a mountain

Reasons Why Hiking Can Count As Leg Day

Hiking Is A Great Form Of Cardio

Leg day is a great form of cardio.


Well by definition, cardio is any form of training that exercises the heart muscles.

(Those who’ve trained legs properly, will appreciate just how much your heart is jumping out of your chest after a gruelling set of squats!)

Similarly, hiking is an epic form of cardio as it boosts your heart rate.

So if you train your legs to improve your cardiovascular fitness, then hiking is a fine alternative.

Hiking Burns Lots Of Calories

Your legs are the biggest muscle group of your body.

So on leg day, you typically burn more energy/calories than if you were training a smaller muscle group, like shoulders.

Also, some leg exercises, like box jumps, train other muscles such as your glutes and abs.

And so one of the top benefits of training leg day is that it burns more calories than other workouts.

Well, the good news is that hiking is an excellent way to burn calories too.

Because like leg day, it exercises both the biggest muscle group and other muscles.

So if burning calories is one of your main reasons for doing leg day, then hiking is a solid alternative.

Hiking Develops Your Lower Abs

There are 2 key components when it comes to owning abs of steel:

  • Big abdominal muscles
  • Low levels of body fat

Interestingly, leg day helps you build abs by working on both these components.

It helps you lower your body fat levels by burning lots of calories.

And it helps you get big abdominal muscles by exercising them through compounds movements.

Well, hiking can also help build your abs.

Because like training legs, it burns lots of calories and exercises your abdominal muscles.

So if you do leg day to build a solid six pack, then hiking is an excellent replacement.

Hiking Is Reasonable Resistance

What makes weight training so effective is that you easily add more weight.

More weight means more resistance on your muscles, which ultimately leads to bigger and stronger muscles.

Whereas when you train with just your bodyweight, it’s hard to increase the resistance since you’re only using your body and gravity for the force.

While hiking doesn’t use any weights, you can increase the resistance.

The secret?

Walk on steeper hills.

That’s right – the steeper the hill you hike, the more force is being used by legs.

So it is possible to add a reasonable amount of leg muscle with hiking, as long as you’re hiking on steep hills.

Reasons Why Hiking Can’t Count As Leg Day

Hiking Is Repetitive

One of the great things about leg day is that you can work your leg muscles from many different angles.

For example, lunges target your muscles differently to squats, which target your muscles differently to box jumps, and so on.

This means that you’re recruiting as many muscle fibres as possible, which helps maximize leg development.

Whereas when you hike, you generally do the same motion with your legs over and over again.

This results in less muscle fibres being recruited, which limits leg development.

Should You Train Legs If You Hike?

If you want to maximize leg growth, I’d recommend you still train your legs if you hike.

This is so that you’re working your legs from as many angles as possible to recruit the most amount of muscle fibres.

Whereas if you’re happy with decent sized legs and the other benefits of training legs, then it’s ok to skip leg day and hike instead.

(Ideally, you’d be hiking once a week to get the most benefits.)  

How To Maximize Leg Development When Hiking

Choose A Steep Hill/Mountain To Hike

As touched upon earlier, the steeper the hill/mountain that you hike, the more resistance your legs will encounter.

(Or in simple terms, the more leg muscle and strength you will build.)

But as always, it’s best to work your way up.

So if you have small legs, you may want to start with a flatter hill/mountain until you’ve gained a bit of muscle.

(Just like how you’d start with a low amount of weight when squatting.)

Wear A Backpack With Essentials

If you’re hiking up a mountain, you’ll definitely need some water and snacks to keep you going, as it could take a long time.

By putting these in a backpack, you’ll be increasing the force on your legs so you get the benefit of more resistance (and so more muscle growth).

Wear Proper Hiking Shoes

The last thing you need when hiking is to slip and injure yourself by wearing inappropriate footwear.

So make sure you’re using proper hiking boots to save yourself from injury and getting nasty blisters.


In conclusion, hiking and leg day share many of the same positives, like helping you get a six pack and improving your cardio health.

But if you really want to maximize your leg growth, you should ideally keep training your legs.

To mix things up, why not alternate between the 2?

One week, you go hiking and the next week, you do leg day.

Sounds like a good compromise to me!

That’s all for this article, but why do you sweat more on leg day? Or why are you not sore after leg day?

Hope this helped!


Hiking Calories Burned