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Training for walking downhill in gym

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Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby K2 » Tue Apr 01, 2014 3:59 pm

After a couple of months of training in the gym by speed walking on inclined treadmill and stairmill with load, I am quite happy with the results: just did Cactus to Clouds trail (23 miles with over 11,000 feet of elevation gain) last week with 40 lbs of load and decent pace, I felt quite comfortable during and after the hike, no muscle soreness whatever. This hike was almost all ascending, just about 5 mile gentle descend to the tram.

Funny thing was I did San Gorgonio hike via Vivian Creek (17 miles with less than 6000 feet elevation gain, round route with equal length of ascending and descending) the week before with similar load, I felt very good during the hike but afterwards got some muscle soreness behind my knee area (lower portion of hamstring). Also I felt much comfortable when I was ascending than descending.

So obviously I need focus on doing more training on my descending muscle groups. I can't do San Gorgonio hike with load every day so someone please give me some suggestions about how to train downhill walking muscle groups in the gym? Thanks for any advises!
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby ChrisJahn » Tue Apr 01, 2014 4:46 pm

Elliptical machine in reverse, with knees slightly bent, not holding handles. The more you bend knees and go slower will increase the workload. Add a weight vest or pack as it gets easier.
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby K2 » Tue Apr 01, 2014 5:01 pm

ChrisJahn wrote:Elliptical machine in reverse, with knees slightly bent, not holding handles. The more you bend knees and go slower will increase the workload. Add a weight vest or pack as it gets easier.


This is a very interesting idea and makes sense to me! Thanks.
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby K2 » Tue Apr 01, 2014 6:54 pm

Did some google search and find out reverse eliptical trainer mostly exercises your quad, rectus femoris to be exact. This muscle group is still contribute mainly to concentric movement, or muscle shortening exercises such as uphill movement. I guess what I need is to train hamstrings and the muscles around back of my knees and hip? i.e., how to duplicate the eccentric contractions experienced in downhill walking in the gym?
Any thoughts?
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby ExcitableBoy » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:21 pm

This is one of the reasons I like trail running in the mountains. Running downhill generates many times the force of gravity which your leg muscles need to counter, making them wicked strong. This is what is sometimes called 'countering the negative' or working the eccentric contraction of the muscles as you mention. But I digress...

Try walking lunges with a dumbbell in each hand back and forth across the gym. This will simulate to some degree the dynamic nature of walking downhill.
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby norco17 » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:32 pm

EB hit the nail on the head. Trail run. If for some reason you can't do that then walk down stairs with a heavy pack.
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby K2 » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:43 pm

Thanks, EB and Norco. My concern for trail running and heavy pack downhill walking is the potential knee damage (or wear and tear build-up). I am not sure if this concern is legit or not, however I do want to save my knees for the time when it really matters (in the mountains)! :mrgreen: That's why my training regimen doesn't even include any running at all. Maybe am I overcautious?
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby johngenx » Tue Apr 01, 2014 9:04 pm

Most elite climbers and many amateurs use trail running as a means to do Zone 1 and Zone 3 heart-rate workouts. I trail run 60-70km per week without any joint issues. It's been shown that the pounding of running, when not done to the point of over-training, build strong joints, not the other way around.

That said, running with a pack on has been shown to be detrimental to your knees, especially going down. Many ex-military guys have knee problems thanks to that. So, for running, ditch the pack.

I go up and down stairs with a pack on and it really helps with the down when I'm on-trail.
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby ChrisJahn » Wed Apr 02, 2014 1:02 am

K2, we can't be overcautious and seeking advice/info saves years in training and money spent. Take the time to build up a general base of strength and endurance (long sessions of low intensity training) and then think about incorporating running and hiking with a pack. It's true that elite climbers like Steck run a fair amount but lets face it those dudes are fine tuned machines with years of base training in the bank. I'm reading a decent book "Training for the new Alpinism" co-authored by Steve House and it's brought me back to training basics. There is so much information out there to digest I would focus on this book and get the most out of it. You will eventually develop your own training method and discover what works best for you. Cheers
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby rgg » Wed Apr 02, 2014 8:03 am

Obviously, having strong quads is useful when going uphill. Less obviously it's also important when going downhill: you're tightening your quads right when your foot touches the ground, and that's important to absorb the impact. If you don't tighten your quads much (which, by the way, tends to happen automatically when you get tired) the impact on your joints, especially your knees, will be much bigger.

Since there isn't as much as a hill near where I live, I don't have the opportunity to go trail running. To be fit for the mountains, I do cardio and weight exercises. My legs get a solid foundation from cardio (elliptical and running (on flat terrain)). In addition, I do leg extensions for quads and standing leg curls for hamstrings. And to specifically targed my calves, I do dumbell calf raises, with a 33 kg (72 lbs) dumbell in one hand - with the other I need to hold onto something, to keep my balance. It doesn't take much time; I estimate I spend just over half an hour per week doing these three exercises.

Thanks to all this, I rarely have muscle aches when I go to the mountains, not even on the first day. However, after a long descent I do feel my knees. It's not a problem - yet - but I treat it as a wake up call that I must be careful. And therefore I try to take more time for the descent than I used to, and I've bought hiking poles to take some of the weight.
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby BigMitch » Fri Apr 04, 2014 3:10 am

K2:

I fully agree with Eb, johgenx and rgg.

I have been an ultrarunner for almost 30 years and don't look or feel the worse for it.

Had to learn to listen to my body early on, then did high mileage on roads for nearly ten years, which must have built up my legs.

About 12 years ago, i dropped my milage to about 30 miles/week as part of a multisport lifestyle.

As said above, downhill running is important to build up your legs, but ease into it. I start hill repeats at the local ski hill every April. No matter how easy i do the first day of hill repeats, my hips, not my knees are sore for a few days afterward.

If I have to run or walk downhill with a pack, I always use trekking poles to take some of the shock off the knees.

Some gyms have treadmills with negative inclines for running downhill.
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby WyomingSummits » Fri Apr 04, 2014 12:54 pm

ExcitableBoy wrote:This is one of the reasons I like trail running in the mountains. Running downhill generates many times the force of gravity which your leg muscles need to counter, making them wicked strong. This is what is sometimes called 'countering the negative' or working the eccentric contraction of the muscles as you mention. But I digress...

Try walking lunges with a dumbbell in each hand back and forth across the gym. This will simulate to some degree the dynamic nature of walking downhill.


I do the dumbbell lunges and it does the trick. How do you guys trail run in the mountains year round? Snowshoes or microspikes? Just curious.
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby BigMitch » Sat Apr 05, 2014 2:37 am

EB lives east of Seattle and has mountain trails in the lower elevations that he can run year round.
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby johngenx » Sat Apr 05, 2014 4:05 am

Maybe some people have used them effectively, but I'd stay away from the elliptical trainer. Walk on a treadmill at max elevation, use the stairmaster "backwards escalator" or just plain stairs.
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Re: Training for walking downhill in gym

Postby ExcitableBoy » Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:26 am

WyomingSummits wrote:. How do you guys trail run in the mountains year round? Snowshoes or microspikes? Just curious.


Yeah, I live in the heart of the 'Issaquah Alps', low rolling foothills of the Cascades, starting 15 miles due east of Seattle. The mountains are just a bit over 3.000 ft above sea level, and occasasionly have snow the winter, but rarely too much to run.
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