Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness

Sure, quad strength is an important factor in conditioning for hiking season. But you’ll also want to increase your balance and stability for travel on boulder fields, logs, slopes, and river crossings. David Musnick, M.D. and Mark Pierce, A.T.C, authors of Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness, 2 nd Edition, recommend exercises including the Clock Leg Reach, below.

Clock Leg Reach


Emphasize balance and strengthen the gluteal, hamstring, and trunk muscles. This is a good, basic balance drill.

Make believe you are in the center of a large clock. Balance on your left leg and bend you knee slightly. Initiate a single leg squat with your standing leg, squatting enough to touch the toes of your other foot to the 10:00 position; do 2 mini-squats and toe touches. Then do the same at the 11:00 position, and then touch around the clock until your right foot gets to the 7:00 position. After you have mastered the basic exercise, try placing your toe touch randomly to do quick directional changes. For example, try this sequence: 12:00, 4:00, 11:00, 5:00, 1:00, 7:00. For an extra challenge, have a partner call positions out randomly. Switch to standing on your right leg and repeat the sequence in the opposite direction. Each time around the clock on a leg is 1 set. Perform 2-3 sets on each leg.


  • To make this more challenging, add a reaching motion with both of your arms in the same direction as the motion of your toe-touching foot.
  • Reach with a free weight or medicine ball to increase the challenge.
  • Do this exercise while standing on a foam half roll.


Progress this exercise initially by increasing the speed and randomness of your toe touch before increasing the distance. Add the arm reach when you feel comfortable with the random toe touching.


-- Adapted from Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness, 2nd Edition by David Musnick, M.D. and Mark Pierce, A.T.C. (The Mountaineers Books, $26.95 paperback)


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