Do you have to Be Fit to Climb Machu Picchu?

by | Nov 29, 2023 | Inca Trail | 0 comments

How fit to hike Machu Picchu

How to Prepare for the Inca Trail? do you have to be fit to climb Machu Picchu? these are the questions we will answer. The Inca Trail 4 Days is a challenging trek at a high altitude the question is if you have to be fit to hike Machu Picchu. So it’s no surprise that you have to make sure you’re well prepared for it. You’ll be crossing challenging terrain and ascending and descending a lot on an ancient pathway. 

If the Inca Trail is going to be part of your next vacation, we want to help you make sure you’re as well prepared as possible. Read on for all you need to know to prepare for the Inca Trail. 

RELATED: How Hard Is The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

Why Climb the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

One thing you need to do on this world-famous trek is to be in good health and have a good level of fitness. The Inca Trail must be booked months in advance, so you have plenty of time to train.

The allure of Machu Picchu lies not only in its intricate stone architecture but also in its mystery. Despite being a significant historical site, there’s much about it that historians and archaeologists have yet to unravel.

This air of enigma, coupled with the breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding verdant landscape, makes it a bucket-list-worthy destination.

how hard is to hike Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu Inca Trail Peru 4 Days

Physical Demands of Hiking to Machu Picchu

However, the journey to this ancient citadel isn’t a stroll on the Inca trail. The physical demands of climbing Machu Picchu can be challenging due to factors such as altitude, trail conditions, and weather.

The site sits at an elevation of 2,430 meters above sea level, to arrive here there many options that can lead to altitude sickness for some hikers. The Inca trails are often steep and rocky, demanding good physical stamina and balance. Furthermore, weather conditions can be unpredictable, with sudden rain showers making the paths slippery and more challenging to navigate.

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Inca Trail Preparation is Key

So, do you have to be fit to climb Machu Picchu? While you don’t need to be a professional athlete, a moderate level of fitness will make your trek more comfortable and enjoyable.

Regular cardiovascular exercises like running, cycling, or swimming in the weeks leading up to your trip can build your stamina. Strength-training exercises focusing on your legs and core can also be beneficial.

Training Your Legs For the Uphill

To ensure a successful and enjoyable trek to Machu Picchu, it’s crucial to prepare your legs to handle the uphill climbs. You’ll want to focus on strengthening your leg muscles and tendons, as well as improving your reflexes. Here are some recommended exercises:

  1. Walking on a treadmill with a steep incline: This can simulate the incline you’ll experience on the trek and help build your stamina and leg strength.
  2. Using a mechanical stepper or electronic step machine: These machines target your leg muscles and can prepare you for the climbing motions you’ll perform on the trail.
  3. Doing bench step-ups: This exercise is particularly valuable as it mirrors the action of climbing steps, which you will encounter frequently on the Inca Trail and Salkantay Trek. Here is a resource explaining how to do bench step-ups correctly.

Remember, some of the steps you will be climbing on your journey are centuries old, making the whole experience even more extraordinary!

inca trail
Circular Ica Building Runkuracay Complex – Inca Trail

Training Your Legs for the Downhill

While the uphill climb to Machu Picchu can be a strenuous endeavor, it is essential not to overlook the equally challenging descent. As the adage goes, “What goes up must come down,” and the journey back down from Machu Picchu involves navigating many of the same steep, uneven steps. Here are some exercises to help prepare your legs for the downhill journey:

  1. Downhill lunges: These help to strengthen your quadriceps, which are crucial for downhill walking. Start on a flat surface, take a step forward with your right foot, and slowly lower your body until your right knee is at a 90-degree angle. Push back up and repeat with your left leg.
  2. Step-down exercises: These can be performed on a step or bench. Stand with one foot on the step and the other hanging off, then slowly lower the hanging foot toward the ground. This exercise not only strengthens your legs but also enhances your balance and coordination.
  3. Walking or running downhill on a treadmill: If your treadmill has a decline feature, this can simulate the downhill portion of the trek, helping your legs and joints become accustomed to the impact.

Remember, it’s always important to control your speed when descending to avoid unnecessary strain on your knees and ankles. And just as with the uphill, the downhill journey offers opportunities to appreciate the stunning views and rich history of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu Travel guide
Machu Picchu Travel guide

Strengthening Your Core for Balance

A strong core is not just about achieving a toned abdominal area; it plays a pivotal role in enhancing your balance, stability, and overall body strength – all critical factors when trekking up or down the challenging steps of Machu Picchu. Trekking poles can certainly assist on this journey, but relying solely on them can put undue stress on your arms. Thus, incorporating core strengthening exercises into your training routine can act as an essential counterpart, providing you stability for those moments when you’re balancing on one foot during the trek.

While the leg-strengthening workouts already mentioned will contribute to developing your abs, a targeted regimen for your core would be a significant addition to your preparation. Exercises like planks, crunches, bicycle crunches, and Russian twists are excellent for working your abs and obliques. Pilates and yoga are also fantastic for core stability and can improve your balance and flexibility, which will come in handy when you’re navigating the uneven terrains of the Inca trail. Remember, the key to a successful trek doesn’t just lie in your legs, but in having a strong, stable core to support you.

Embrace Training Hikes With Trekking Poles

One of the most effective ways to prepare for your trek to Machu Picchu is to engage in training hikes. Not only do these hikes strengthen your muscles and increase your stamina, but they also mimic the experience of the trek itself. It’s worth noting that trekking poles are a staple for most trekkers setting out to conquer Machu Picchu, offering crucial support and balance on challenging terrains.

Thus, it’s highly advised to incorporate these trekking poles into your training hikes. Familiarizing yourself with the use of these poles before your actual trek will enhance your efficiency and comfort on the trail. Remember, it’s not just about the destination, but also the journey. Preparing adequately with training hikes and trekking poles will ensure your journey to Machu Picchu is nothing short of unforgettable.

Best Time to visit Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu national park Peru

Training With Your Trekking Gear

In the spirit of “practice as you’ll play,” we recommend taking a realistic approach to training for your Machu Picchu trek. This includes duplicating the conditions of the trek as closely as possible during your training and hiking sessions. To start, always wear the backpack you plan to use on your Machu Picchu trek.

Fill it to the capacity you expect to carry on the journey. Typically, this includes essential items like drinking water, food provisions, rain gear, a warm jacket, and tech gadgets like a camera. Carrying a loaded backpack during training will help your body adjust to the weight and balance it effectively during the trek.

Similarly, we advise you to wear the same boots for your training as you intend to wear on the Machu Picchu trek. This will help your feet get acquainted with the boots and prevent blisters or discomfort during the actual trek. Remember, achieving a successful trek to Machu Picchu doesn’t just come down to physical strength and endurance, but also to the comfort and familiarity you have with your gear.

Practical Tips for Machu Picchu Visitors

To make the most of your Machu Picchu adventure, here are a few practical tips:

  1. Hire a Guide: A knowledgeable guide can enrich your experience by sharing fascinating stories and facts about the site. They can also help you navigate the trails safely.
  2. Pack Essential Equipment: Hiking boots, rain gear, sun protection, and plenty of water are must-haves. A walking stick can provide additional support on steep trails.
  3. Seek Medical Advice: Consult your doctor before your trip, especially if you have any health concerns. They might recommend medications to prevent altitude sickness.
  4. Take it Slow: Lastly, remember that the journey is as important as the destination. Take it slow, enjoy the scenery, and listen to your body.

So, while the trek to Machu Picchu can be physically demanding, with the right preparation and attitude, it’s an experience you’re unlikely to forget. Happy travels!


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Cesar Conde

I’m Cesar Conde, owner of Tour Leaders Peru & Travel Advisor and my other side job is Nomadic Digital. I share my own amazing Tour Experiences, travel stories, guides, and itineraries for travelers like you and me!


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