Month: November 2012

Weighted Backpack Training – 60 lb pack

Weighted backpack training is almost essential for mountaineering success. Most types of climbing and hiking adventures require you to carry a backpack. If you train with a heavy backpack previous to your trip, you will most likely do better.

weighted backpack training is a necessity for alaskan mountaineering
Glacier travel in Alaska with 85 lb pack. It’s much easier if you train hard for it first.

I went in and put my bags through the x-ray, forgetting my passport in my bag, causing the poor door guards minor consternation, since I had to go past the gate to collect my passport, but could not pass the gate without one. We got it sorted out, and I went to the check in desk. My completely full backpack was only 14 kg. — Elbrus, My Waterloo (Seven Summits Quest)

Some mountaineers will have a few different backpacks for different conditions. Having one just for weighted backpack training probably won’t work for everyone. If you use the one you will be using for your trip, you will have a chance to work out any bugs or fitting issues. Begin with an empty backpack, with just an old pillow stuck in to keep it stable in use.

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weighted backpack training begins with an empty pack
Start your workouts with a light pack and work your way higher and higher in weights

Over time you can add more and more weight as you improve endurance and strength. For my weighted backpack training I use bags of rice, since we usually have a few in the pantry. I double bag them in the disposable thin plastic shopping bags in case the paper rips. The rice is very close to the same density and feel as other backpacking gear. Slide it in near your back, and stuff another pillow between the rice (or beans, wheat, etc.) and the outside of the backpack. This will keep it from moving around while in motion.

Weighted Backpack Training helps you maneuver a heavy backpack
Be strong enough to hold your 45 lb pack off balance

When you get past 40 pounds or so, you’ll probably want to use something with more density. Unless you get a lot of rice or beans or get the 50 pound sacks if you can. Some people use gallon jugs of water. If you do a lot of weight training and have them handy and available, you can use weights. Steel plates, kettle bells, dumbbells, are all excellent additions to your weighted backpack training loads. Pad them well with pillows since they will have more inertia when you jostle in training. Just be very careful when setting the bag down. Dropping a ten pound bag of rice on your toe is very different from dropping a ten pound kettle bell on your toe.

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weighted backpack training on a jacobs ladder machine can be risky
Be very careful if training on a cardio machine that requires you to lean in odd angles

If you have access to cardio machines, and it’s okay to use them for weighted backpack training, start slowly and be careful. Some machines, like the Jacob’s Ladder, can put your back at a dangerous angle. You might not be able to use as much weight on it. I like the Incline Treadmill the best, and just go steady and slow. I love the elliptical machines too, as it reduces greatly the impact you’ll feel while still providing a great leg workout. Set the resistance up high and go slow. This is more realistic for steep hiking. Stairmasters work good, and again, go slow. Also be sure you know how much you and the pack weighs so you can set it correctly. Most gyms have a scale that should go up to your weight plus the backpack.

New Article: Weighted Backpack Training On Stairs

Weighted Backpack Training Outside

Some people can just toss 24 pounds of rice in a backpack and walk 3 or 4 miles every day in their neighborhood. That’s probably good enough for most people and adventures, and it’s a great scenic workout. Some people can do a lot of hill climbing, or better yet, steep mountain trail ascents. If that’s the case consider using gallon jugs of water for weight. At the top you can dump the water on a handy needy shrub. This lightens the load to protect your knees on the downhill.

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Weighted backpack training can make hikes like Half Dome seem mild
Carry a daypack on a long hike

Weighted Backpack Training – What’s in the 60 lb pack?

Weighted Backpack Training Warnings

  • Don’t try so much to improve your speed and resistance. That’s nice and all, but your first priority in weighted backpack training is to increase the weight of the backpack. You can train up to a weight much higher than your anticipated on-mountain weight. This will make all your climbing feel a lot easier in general.
  • Be very careful and go slow. Putting on a heavy backpack can be difficult and a strain on back muscles that can cause damage or worse. If you start with a light pack and work your way up, you should be strong enough for each increase.
  • If you try to put your backpack on and just can’t do it, maybe that’s not the session for weighted backpack training. Relax and do something else.
  • Weighted backpack training is good for your core, but don’t try too hard. It’s potentially a lot of weight in a strange place at strange angles. Avoid hanging on for your life. If you have to, it means you have the machine set too fast.
  • In fact, mix it up. Do different machines, at different angles, at different speeds. Most hiking trails are a combination of things anyway. Try to avoid downhill under heavy load, just for knee and back safety.
  • I wear a tech tee under a cotton tee to provide resistance to the abrasion of the straps.

Good luck, and train safe. Only do what you are capable of safely.

Bodyweight Exercise One Legged Band Sissy Squat

I like to do some type of bodyweight exercise for warming up. It’s also great for working the smaller stabilizing muscles that I think shouldn’t be trained under heavy load. Unilateral bodyweight exercise is particularly good for the stabilizers and core.

bodyweight exercise is one tool in quad development
Quad definition is a combination of nutrition and training

In this example, the one legged band sissy squat, it takes a lot of effort to stay level. It’s definitely not for beginners. You should get in a few hundred reps on the two leg version of this bodyweight exercise before trying the single leg version. Try it with your feet and knees together to work your way into it. This simulates the balance of doing it with one leg.

If you’ve done the band version of the sissy squat all you need to do to convert it to the single leg bodyweight exercise is to lift one leg and place the ankle over your knee. Lower slowly the first time or two and don’t try the full range of motion until you get a feel for it. It’s quite different.

Bodyweight Exercise Video for One Legged Band Sissy Squat


The blue band I am using is the Jumpstretch Strong Band #6 but similar products from EliteFTS will work as well.

Setting up the bodyweight exercise for legs

I’m looping mine over the pullup bar on my power rack. You can use just about anything that will hold your body weight and is a little over head high. Like the top of a door. Think simple. You could loop a piece of webbing with a knot in it and slam it in a solid door. Be careful though to make it strong enough. This is a bodyweight exercise. Test your system with full body weight before you drop backward into the squat.

If you feel any level of pain or major instability stop immediately. You might have to work your way into this gently with something like one legged chair sitting or partial squats with one leg. I’m including the video for this easier bodyweight exercise below:


Concept2 SkiErg Upper Body Warmup Series

I have been using the Concept2 SkiErg for a while now for cross training primarily. I also like it as a warmup for upper body training. The resistance is a large fan, similar to the Concept2 rowing machines, only upright. Inside the post are ropes exiting the top at two rotating swiveling pulleys. There are 10 resistance settings, depending on your training goals and personal fitness level.

Concept2 SkiErg upper body training
Getting my back and Lats ready for Ice Climbing

For my upper body warmup, I set the Concept2 SkiErg (Ski Ergometer – the movement simulates the arm/hand motion of Nordic skiing) to level 5, about halfway on the resistance scale. I mix it up a bit, but in general do a little Lat work and a little Pec work. I do some Core work and occasionally a little Tricep work.

For a more advanced warmup, especially if I’m doing a few extra minutes of core work, I keep a wobble disc [Reebok Balance Board] or pad handy to add some instability. I like how it helps me use my core and leg stabilizers. It’s also a pretty cool mind game, since it’s tough doing a few different things at once.

Concept2 SkiErg Warmup Video


Concept2 SkiErg Warmup Ideas

Some things to keep in mind when using the Concept2 SkiErg for training other than as intended. The pulleys will go a lot of different directions. Experiment and see what different angles you can come up with. Keep in mind that the rope is thin, and limited in length. Don’t try too hard to go past the internal stop. Protect your back, keep your lower back flat. Don’t hunch unless, like ab curls, it’s part of the motion. Even then, do what’s right for your body.

Remember it’s only a warmup. A good burn is a great feeling, but if you can’t lift your arms after, you might affect your other training negatively. Be very careful of what’s in your blind spots, or behind you. Notice that for the high and low diagonal movement I have to clear the racked squat bar.

I use a Nordic Grip on the handles. This is probably the best way to use it, since it’s originally intended for Nordic ski training. But whatever works for you, just grab the handles and go.

Concept2 SkiErg warmup for full body cardio
Warm up for full body cardio on the SkiErg

The Concept2 SkiErg is a little expensive to use only for an upper body warmup. I generally do a few 15 minute sprints at level 10 (max level) every week for cross training, as well as endurance training for Ice Climbing. I noticed a huge difference in my endurance last season after using it in the Fall prior. I’m looking for even better results this season, having worked my way up in levels over the Summer.

If you have a Concept2 SkiErg and want to share your own warmup videos, please post them to my Facebook Page and share with all of us. We’d love to see what you have for us.