Click to download a printable PDF of this workout.

The following gym-based ME program is ideal for runners, skiers, alpinists, and any other mountain athletes who need to prime themselves for steep uphill travel. It is especially well suited to those who lack easy access to steep hills. Whether you are an elite-level athlete or a back-of-the-pack racer, you are guaranteed to see gains from this workout. It is another Uphill Athlete staple.

You can modulate the intensity of this workout and the resultant fatigue and soreness in the following ways;
1) The height of your jumps and the extent of the range of motion in the more ballistic movements should moderated if you have never done this type of training before or have gotten very sore and stiff from it in the past. Do this at about 80% range of motion 80% effort the first couple of times to see how your body responds.
2) The number of sets will also affect fatigue and soreness. The progression below starts with 4 sets rather than the 6 sets suggested in the PDF download. This way you can decide which is more appropriate for you.
You have been warned. These initial ME workouts has a way of feeling very easy when you are doing them but coming back to bite you for the next few days. Go easier than you think you need to.

What we outline here is the beginning workout. Unless you have extensive experience with these exercises, use body weight (BW) only for the first two to three workouts to learn the movements and avoid severe muscle soreness. The progression shown is a suggestion that should work well for most people. However, variations in individual starting strength will mean that some people will progress faster than others. Expect to be mildly stiff and sore for two days after each workout, so allow for two to three days of easy recovery workouts. Most people will not need to do this routine more than once per week to see significant gains. Because it is easy to overdo ME work, start slowly and progress at your own rate.


5-minute dynamic stretch routine
20x air squats
10x Turkish Get Ups
10x burpees
Core: Pick 4–5 of your most challenging core exercises. You can select from this group, or incorporate some others that you like. Do 2 sets and add enough resistance that 4–6 reps of each exercise is all you can manage.

Air Squat

Steve House squating

Lower as deep as you can, arms forward, eyes ahead.


Complete all sets of each exercise before moving on to the next exercise. Do not speed through these. Use a tempo of 1 rep every 1–2 seconds. Rest about 60 seconds after each set of an exercise. On the box step-ups and front lunges, do all your right leg repetitions and then all your left leg repetitions, and rest only 30 seconds between sets. Go through the full circuit once.

Split Jump Squat

Mountain strength trainingMountain strength training

Execute the split jump squat with an athletic, forward posture, as if you’re sprinting.

  1. Do 4 sets of 10 reps on each leg of the split jump squat. If unsure, start with a short split stance of 30 centimeters. Work to deepen your split as you gain strength.
  2. Rest 2 minutes.
  3. Do 4 sets of 10 reps of squat jumps.
  4. Rest 2 minutes.
  5. Do 4 sets of 10 reps on each leg of box step-ups with minimal rear leg assist. Use a box/step that is 75 percent of the height of the bottom of your kneecap. Watch this video tutorial.
  6. Rest 2 minutes.
  7. Do 4 sets of 10 reps on each leg of front lunges. If new to the lunge, start with this Simple Standing Lunge for your first 2–3 workouts. Once you are comfortable with that, you can progress to this stepping front lunge.


10 minutes of easy aerobic exercise

Squat Jumps

squat jumps

Squat jumps start with an air squat…

squat jumps

…and end with a jump from the air squat position.

Lunge Variations: Simple Standing Lunge and Stepping Front Lunge

standing lunge without weight
Simple standing lunge without weight.
Explosively lunge variation
Rebounding explosively back to standing in a stepping front lunge.



Workout Progression

  • WOs #1 and #2: Use BW only. Do 4 sets of 10 reps of each exercise.
  • WO #3: Increase to 5 sets of 10 reps of each exercise.
  • WO #4: May add weight, ideally using a weight vest. Start with no more than 10 percent BW. If you haven’t already, increase to 5 sets of 10 reps. Also add the following new exercises:
  • WO #5: Add 10 percent BW. Increase to 6 sets of 10 reps. Cut your rest to 45 seconds per set. Continue to rest for 30 seconds for box step-ups and front lunges.
  • WO #6: Add 10 percent BW. Increase to 7 sets of 10 reps.
  • WO #7: Add 15 percent BW. Do 7 sets of 10 reps.
  • WO #8: Add 15 percent BW. Do 7 sets of 10 reps. Cut rest between sets to 30 seconds for all exercises.
  • WO #9: Add 20 percent BW. Do 7 sets of 10 reps. Rest 45 seconds per set, with 30 seconds for box step-ups and front lunges.
  • WO #10: Add 20 percent BW. Increase to 8 sets of 10 reps. Rest 45 seconds per set, with 30 seconds for box step-ups and front lunges.

Goblet Squat with Overhead Press

Goblet Squat with Overhead Press

Goblet squat using a kettle bell.

Goblet Squat with Overhead Press

Finishing one repetition of a goblet squat with press.

Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell Swing

Be sure to read and bookmark Strength Training for the Mountain Athlete for reference.