How to Train For Inca Trail? Strength Training guide

by | Aug 24, 2023 | Peru Travel Blogs | 0 comments

training for inca trail

Prepare Physically for Hiking the Inca Trail Hike for the World’s Most Awe-Inspiring Hikes in Peru read our training tips for the Inca Trail, and when is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?

If you are planning on hiking the Inca Trail, it is important to prepare physically to make sure your experience is enjoyable and successful. At Tour Leaders Peru, we have compiled training tips that will help you get in shape before your hike.
We recommend beginning a training program at least three months before the start of your hike.

Inca trail fitness level required

Empowering You: A Journey Towards Innovation in Fitness & Wellness 

Preparing for Backpacking in Peru can be a challenging task, but it can be simple. Consistency and a well-planned workout routine will yield excellent preparedness! So put in the work to enjoy your next backpacking trip.

Indeed, when it’s time to gear up for the adventure of a lifetime, many find their #1 hurdle is preparing physically.  If you don’t know how to train effectively at home, you might struggle with the demanding Inca Trail.

The tough hikes in Peru such as Machu Picchu’s ancient ruins require strength, endurance, and mobility. Reach those peaks without huffing and puffing all along.

RELATED: Can a Beginner Hike Machu Picchu?

Workouts to Prepare for Hiking the Inca Trail and Beyond

Peru is famous for some of its breathtaking peaks, but the elevation and technical trails make it tough.  For example, the Inca Trail stretches a hefty 26 miles through Peru’s breathtaking landscapes while reaching over 13,000 ft above sea level. Sounds intimidating? Well, it doesn’t have to be.

With proper preparation starting anywhere from two to six months in advance depending on your current fitness level, you can conquer this trail like a pro. So how do we prepare?

Inca Trail Elevation
Inca Trail Elevation Dead Woman Pass 13,000f

What Type of Fitness Do You Need to Prepare for Machu Picchu Hike?

Training for the inca Trail to Machu Picchu is essential to gain aerobic fitness, strength, and mobility. Don’t forget mental strength!

A well-rounded fitness routine will help you prepare for backpacking in Peru.  Prioritize cardio (aerobic) training, strength, mobility, and mental fortitude.  Aerobic and Strength endurance will allow you to hike for miles without wearing out. 

Strength training will bring you the ability to hoist your body with supplies on your back, Mental fortitude is key to keep your mind sharp and focused on the challenge ahead.

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

Increase Aerobic Fitness

Building up aerobic fitness is the best way to prepare for hiking to Machu Picchu. Aerobic training to strengthen your heart and lungs will be the key to enduring long miles day after day in high elevations. 

To prepare for hikes like the trek to  Machu Picchu, gradually increase elevation exposure during practice hikes leading up to your backpacking trip.

When your backpacking trip can last over several days, plan backpacking trips that span a similar amount of time. When you don’t have access to high-elevation or multi-day hikes, add longer or more intense hikes. Incorporate steep hikes into elevation, technical trails, and trail running.  

Inca Trail Tours
Inca Trail To Machu Picchu

Running and Hiking in Zone 2  

Zone 2 is the zone your body is in when your body uses fat as fuel and is ideal for long endurance efforts.  To train Zone 2, keep your heart rate at 70-80% of your max heart rate. For example, 126-144 bpm would be a zone 2 workout if your max heart rate is 180 bpm.

Run and hike at your Zone 2 effort, but don’t neglect harder running efforts.  At least one cardio effort a week should be dedicated to High-Intensity training and one session to Zone 2. Whether you incorporate HIIT workouts or tempo runs, make sure you get your heart rate near your max heart rate.

Running and Walking Workouts to Prepare for Hiking in Peru

Intervals and Hill Repeats

When preparing for a long trek such as training for the inca trail, a few ideas for home workouts include interval training and hill repeats.  Walking can be incorporated into long, steady workouts. Running on the other hand can be done for long endurance efforts and intense intervals.

Hills should be incorporated into your home training plan for building up your threshold. Find a good hill or part of a hike that is challenging and get in some reps!  

Hill Sprints

Hill sprints can be done for time or distance.  The hill sprint workout can also be done at a variety of steepness.  Here are some samples to help you get started. Sprints are great for speed and strength building.

Adjust the workouts for your fitness level and always warm up!

  1. Run 30 seconds at High speed and jog back down. Repeat 5-10 times.
  2. Run 400 meters uphill, and walk to your start. Run 800m, and walk to your start. Repeat 5 times.
  3. Max speed, Highest Intensity for 5 seconds. Full recovery. Repeat 3-5 times. (This is a great addition to the end of a long walk or hike!)

RELATED: Do you have to be Fit to climb Machu Picchu?

Timed Running Intervals 

Running intervals are great for aerobic and threshold training. It is easy to have lots of variety. This list is in order of intensity, but each workout can be more or less intense to fit into any home fitness routine as you prepare for high-elevation hiking.

  1. Run 30 seconds hard, 2:30 easy. Repeat 10-15 times.
  2. Run 1 min hard, 2 min easy. Repeat 5-10 times.
  3. Run 1 min hard, 1 min easy. Repeat 5-10 times.
  4. Ladder: Run 5-4-3-2 and 1 min at a challenging pace with 1 min rest between each segment.  Repeat.
  5. 10 min at a challenging pace, rest for 3 min. Repeat 2-3 times.

Long Hill Runs

A long hill run, that is continuously uphill is a wonderful way to increase fitness and stamina. And it won’t take long! 

Finding a trail with a constant incline is the key.  Try to reach 1 mile without stopping.  Increase the mileage without stopping.  Try to get to 6 miles and test that lactate threshold!  

This workout can also be done on time.  Try 10 min, 30, and 1 hour!

RELATED: Essential Tips For Hiking Altitude Trekking

Incorporating Walking into Your Training Plan Training for inca trail

Walking might seem basic compared to other forms of exercise; however, its significance cannot be overlooked while preparing for treks like the Inca Trail. Regular walking helps condition your body for long durations on foot thereby minimizing the risk of injury during actual hikes or climbs.

Walking is a great option for active recovery as well. Even a 30-minute brisk walk can clear your mind and give you a small cardio boost.

Inca Trail 4 Days
Inca Trail 4 Days Group Service Picchu Peru

The Importance of Cardio & Interval Training

When it comes to prepping for the Peru backpacking trips, building cardiovascular endurance is non-negotiable.  Mix up cardio training with hiking, running, swimming, rock climbing, and even Zumba! 

Some Intensity intervals to try are an equal effort to equal rest.  For example, 1 min “on” and 1 min “rest”.  Or a ladder interval such as 2 sets of (5-4-3-2-1 min “On” with a 1 min rest in between reps.  “On” refers to 80-100% effort, while “rest” would be active recovery, such as stretching or walking. 

HIIT Training for Strength and Cardio

HIIT Interval training can be done with cardio or weight training.  When Interval training is combined with weights can compound your efforts and prepare you for the trek ahead.

 Max intense efforts of weighted jump squats, burpees, squats to overhead presses, and more are great examples. 

Using a lower weight but at a faster intense pace for 30-90 seconds of high intensity, followed by a short 30-90 second rest. Depending on your fitness level, try 2-5 sets of 3-7 exercises. 

Rest and Work Ratios for HIIT Workouts

The amount of rest to the amount of work has variations depending on your goals. For example, when preparing to backpack in Peru, you will want to focus more on aerobic HIIT.  Anaerobic is higher in intensity with longer rest, and better suited for speed training.

A 1:1 ratio would be 1 minute of intense work and 1 minute of rest. 30:30 would be 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest.  A lower rest session can make a workout more intense.  For example, 30:10 is a 30-second work and 10-second rest.  

HIIT Workout Sample

Try 30 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest:

  1. Box Jumps
  2. Push-up
  3. Dumbbell squat to Overhead Press
  4. Lunges 
  5. Burpees 
  6. Ball Slams 

If this set is easy, try to do 2 or 3 sets!

Home Gym Equipment to Help Prepare for Backpacking at High Altitudes

There are many ways to prepare for backpacking, but the fact is a backpacking trip will be longer and more challenging than a single workout can offer.  

To prepare best for an intense and long backpacking trip, increase the intensity of your home workouts with equipment.

  1. Weighted Vests. Weighted vests can range from 10 lbs to 150 lbs or more.  Adding more weight will increase the intensity of any workout.  From hiking, running, and strength training.
  2. Resistance bands.  Add a touch of resistance to squats, hip thrusts, and more!
  3. Bosu Ball.  Bosu Balls are a great tool for incorporating your core into many movements. Step-ups, squats, push-ups, and planks. Whatever movement you choose to use a bosu ball, it will become more intense and activate more muscles.
Rei Tent Peru
Ancascocha Camping Equipment

Building Core Strength for Stability

The journey to Machu Picchu isn’t just about endurance. It’s also about preparing your body, specifically building core strength.

In essence, a strong core can provide balance on rocky terrain while reducing injury risk during high-altitude trekking.

BOSU Ball Exercises: A Secret Weapon for Core

If you’re looking to build up those essential muscle groups and your core muscles consider incorporating BOSU ball exercises into your training plan.

 This half-dome-shaped tool challenges multiple areas at once – perfect for simulating uneven terrains encountered on treks such as the Inca Trail.

The unstable surface is challenging and requires stability.  Core Stability is a great asset for backpacking.


  1. Squats on BOSU Ball. Single leg, or both legs. Your core will be activated after a few reps!
  2. Push Ups.  This simple exercise can get even more intense and strengthen that core!
  3. Planks.  Yes, planks can get harder! But for the right reasons, you want that challenge to get strong and reliable ab muscles.

A Hiking-Specific Approach to Building Core Muscles

  1. Planks – Simple yet effective. They target not only abdominal muscles but also shoulders and back; key players when carrying backpacks over long distances.
  2. Russian Twists – These engage oblique muscles which play an important role in stabilizing us during lateral movements often required when navigating trails.

Focusing time each week towards strengthening these critical areas will pay dividends come hike day through Peru’s breathtaking landscapes.

Resistance & Weight Training for Muscle Strength

If you’re planning a trek like the Inca Trail, it’s essential to consider resistance and weight training. These exercises help develop strength in key muscles used during hiking.

“Weight training and resistance training” is a phrase that denotes physical activity in which the muscles have to confront some kind of resistance, for instance, weights or even your body weight. This type of exercise can effectively build muscle mass and increase overall strength.

For a comprehensive strength-building routine, incorporating weight training exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, and push-ups is essential for traversing Peru’s high-altitude trails.

Squats: A Lower Body Powerhouse Exercise

The squat is primarily targeted at strengthening the quadriceps but also engages core muscles along with calves – mimicking the motion needed when ascending steep slopes.

It’s no wonder why they’re considered one of the best preparation moves for uphill treks.

Lunges: Improving Balance One Step At A Time

Next up are lunges – another excellent lower-body workout that targets hamstrings alongside quads whilst improving balance.

Vital skills required traversing uneven paths found throughout our journey towards Machu Picchu.

Stretching Techniques Before and After Workouts

Tackling the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu can be a trial of strength, but with proper preparation, you can succeed. Part of this preparation involves incorporating stretching into your training program.

Let’s delve into how dynamic stretches before workouts and static stretches after workouts can help lessen muscle soreness post-workout while improving flexibility for rocky terrain treks like Machu Picchu.

Dynamic Stretching Pre-Workout

Ahead of any intense physical activity such as high-altitude trekking or strength training sessions, warming up muscles through dynamic stretching is key. This type includes active movements that increase range of motion – think leg swings or arm circles.

Research suggests these types are beneficial in enhancing power when done pre-workout.

To ensure an effective warm-up routine on your path to conquering the Inca trail, incorporate them regularly during your weight training resistance sessions too. You’ll find they’re not just helpful for limbering up those core muscles but also vital for preventing injuries from sudden movements.

Static Stretching Post Workout

Moving onto what happens after working out: Static Stretches. These involve holding a stretch without movement (like hamstring or calf stretches) which aids recovery by helping relax and lengthen tired muscles post-exercise – essential if we want our bodies ready again quickly.

Remember that making both forms part-and-parcel within each session will greatly enhance overall performance levels whether it’s cardio exercises at home or tackling challenging terrains like the Inca trail.

So start integrating these techniques today; Your body will thank you later when facing down those steep inclines towards Machu Picchu.


Adjust this workout template for your current fitness level and the home gym equipment you have available. 

Include a full warm-up and cool-down with your workouts! Hikes can be exchanged for brisk walks if there are no hikes in your area.  When possible include a 2 or 3-day backpacking trip every other or every two weeks in preparation.

HIIT for Strength 30 min-1hr.ZONE 2 CARDIO1.5 hours10-mile Hike & CoreHIIT for Aerobic Training 45 min.ZONE 2 Cardio 1 hr. & strength training 1 hr.LONG HIKE 15 miles+REST

Fueling Yourself Right – Nutrition Tips Fero to intent to Hiker to Machu Picchu

Preparing for the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu trek is no small feat. But with a well-rounded diet, you can fuel your body effectively for this demanding journey.

Let’s explore how to leverage nutrition to optimize performance during high-altitude treks like these.

Month-by-Month Training Guide

Your nutritional needs will change along with the progression of your training program leading up to the big day of tackling the Machu Picchu trekking trail. Let’s break it down:

  1. In the early stages concentrate on balanced meals rich in lean proteins, and healthy fats alongside those all-important complex carbs we discussed earlier.
  2. Closer towards D-day shift focus onto carb-loading strategies while ensuring protein intake remains consistent for muscle repair post-workout.
  3. Bear in mind hydration becomes increasingly important too; drinking plenty of fluids before embarking on high altitude hikes is crucial according to The Altitude Medicine Institute recommendations.

Remember though: these tips serve only as general guidelines since individual dietary requirements may vary based on factors such as age, and current fitness level, among others.

FAQs about Home Workouts to Prepare for Backpacking in Peru

How do you train for hiking in Peru?

To prepare for hiking in Peru, focus on cardio and interval training, core strength exercises, resistance, and weight training. Also, practice altitude acclimatization techniques at home.

Is 1.5 weeks of training enough for the Inca trail from sedentary?

Given the limited cardio and muscle strength you may have in 1.5 weeks, are you poised for success, or at risk of failure on the second day? Perhaps, opting for the easier 2-day/1-night trail is the wiser choice.

How do I prepare my body for a backpacking trip?

Prepare your body by following a regular exercise routine including aerobic activities, muscle-strengthening workouts, and stretching. Proper nutrition is also key to fuel your trekking journey.

How do you physically train for the Inca Trail?

You can train physically by incorporating walking into your daily routine along with other forms of cardio like swimming or cycling. Building core strength is crucial as well as simulating altitude conditions at home.

How do you prepare for Machu Picchu physically?

Machu Picchu requires physical preparation through endurance-building exercises such as running or brisk walking, muscle-strengthening workouts like weight lifting, and maintaining proper hydration levels to cope with high altitudes.

Prepare for Hiking the Inca Trail Hike Peru
Huayna Picchu Mountain Backside


Considering how to prepare for machu picchu Hike requires diligent training and proper nutrition. From understanding the specifications of the Inca Trail to incorporating cardio and interval training into your routine, it’s all about building endurance.

A strong core is vital for stability during your trek while resistance and weight training fortify muscle strength. Remember, stretching techniques are key to prevent soreness and improve flexibility.

Simulating altitude conditions at home can help acclimate you before your journey begins. And don’t forget, fueling yourself right with a carbohydrate-rich diet will keep you energized throughout the hike.

Embarking on such an expedition demands not just physical readiness but mental determination as well. It’s time to gear up!

If you’re ready to take on this challenge head-on, Tour Leaders in Peru with comprehensive wellness tips tailored specifically for outdoor adventures like yours!


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Cesar Conde

I’m Cesar Conde Licensed Tour Guide in Peru, owner of Tour Leaders Peru and Travel Advisor. My other side job is a Digital Nomad. I share my amazing travel experiences, stories, guides, and itineraries for travelers like you and me!


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