This Training Program is designed to prepare athletes to summit Denali via the West Buttress Route – the most traveled route to the summit.
This program is designed to prepare athletes for the rigors of an 18-24 day stay on Denali and to handle the thousands of vertical feet you will be climbing while under heavy load.
Strengthen your “ Mountain Chassis” – legs and core – for the miles and thousands of vertical feet you will be climbing up and down during your Denali summit bid.
Build your “Mountain Endurance” for climb. This includes uphill hiking under load, rucking/hiking over hilly terrain, and overall running endurance.
Increase your durability – especially ankle/knee/hip integrity and mid-section strength.
Increase your mental fitness for the mental demands of the trip.
Denali Specific Fitness Demands
A typical guided trip up to the summit of Denali lasts anywhere between 18-21 days and no shorter than 16 days to allow for proper acclimatization.
The first three days involve carrying heavy packs and dragging a loaded sled up to successfully higher camps. The total load pack and sled often exceeds 100 pounds.
The next 10-13 days involve establishing successfully higher camps, and alternating between higher and lower camps to become acclimated for altitude. No sled, but pack weights can reach 60-70 pounds.
Days before the Summit day can be 4-8 hours long of steady movement.
Summit day is longer, but lighter – 35 pound pack, 10-12 hour day.
Training Program Description
This is a progressive, very intense, 9-week week training program which will demand a high level of commitment in both time and effort. You will train 6 days/week for 9 weeks for a total of 54 sessions.
This training plan is designed to be completed directly before your summit attempt. Week 9 is an unload/taper week into your climb. The last 3 sessions of the plan are “Total Rest.”
Because of the volume involved, the program’s trainings sessions can be long in length. As well, you will be conducting two-a-days Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday during this program.
Here is the weekly schedule:
Monday – Step Ups or Vertical Hiking (AM), Chassis Integrity, Calve Raise Intervals (PM)
Tuesday – Trail Run (AM), Leg Blasters, Upper Body (PM)
Wednesday – Step Ups, Calve Raise Intervals
Thursday – Tire Drag (AM), Leg Blasters, Upper Body (PM)
Friday – Chassis Integrity (AM), Trail Run (PM)
Saturday – Long Ruck/Hike
The volume, intensity and progression of this program reflects the physical demands of your Denali climb. We don’t want you to merely “survive” the climb, but be strong throughout and truly savor and enjoy the experience.
Specific Exercise Information
Below are a few of the primary exercises you’ll complete during this training cycle.
Step Ups – Step Ups are a proven, sport-specific method of training uphill hiking under load and are the primary mode this plan deploys to train you for the loaded, uphill hiking you’ll do summiting Rainier. We first developed these to train US servicemen for deployment to mountainous regions of Afghanistan. This plan will have you doing thousands of step ups. Use a 16-18 inch bench or box for your step up height. Step ups are very effective, but can also be pure drudgery. Good music, book on tape, etc. will help the time go by. As well, a hand held counter will greatly improve your counting. Alternatively, you can simply climb a steep hill, flights of stairs, stadium steps, etc. for the vertical feet equivalent. You’ll want something very steep to be efficient with your time.
Leg Blasters – A simple, but intense, lower body bodyweight exercise complex which has proven to be very effective at training eccentric leg strength. Step ups will train you for the uphill. Leg blasters will train you for the downhill – which is actually much more intense from a muscular perspective.
Rucking and Trail Running – Rucking or Hiking over hilly terrain at a moderate pace will simply build mode specific endurance for your climb. Most of the running you’ll complete in this plan will be at an “easy” pace – designed to simply increase your aerobic base.
Calve Raise Intervals
Don’t be fooled by these simple rapid movement and hold intervals. We’ve found these to be very intense, but effective at strengthening your calves for uphill climbing.
Simple, but hard, Chassis Integrity/mid section training. These will feel crushing at first. As you become more physically and mentally fit, you’ll improve, and find your grove for this exercise. Keep grinding and think short term … “one rep at a time.”
Low Back Circuits – Two times/week you’ll complete circuits involving three low back exercises. Low back fitness and strength endurance is not only essential for load carriage on Denali, but also for the snow shoveling you’ll complete digging camp.
Tire Drag Intervals – At the top of the cycle you’ll drag a tire for 90 minutes wearing a 60 pound pack. This exercise is focused on preparing you for the first 3 days of your Denali trip – where you skin or snow shoe wearing a heavy pack and dragging a sled. Click Here to see how we rig tires for dragging – but there are many methods: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSefT1HVzvw
How long should the training sessions take?
Each training session has a listed training objective. The sessions will start around 60-90 minutes and progress to upwards of 3 hours at the top end of the progression. The Mountain Endurance work – step ups/vertical hiking, Ruck/Hiking, and running will take the most time.
What if I can’t keep up the Monday through Saturday Training Schedule?
If for any reason you cannot keep training schedule, do not skip a training session. Rather, complete all the training sessions in succession. Whatever the schedule, always take at least one day a week as a total rest day.
For this plan, Training Sessions 1, 7, 13, 19, 25, 31 and 37 are Mondays.
Unfamiliar exercises can be found under the “Exercises” link at http://mtntactical.com/category/exercises/
- Sandbag 40# for women, 60# for men
- Bench or Box for step ups. 16-18” high.
- Backpack loaded with 35 -40# for step ups, 45-60# for rucking and tire drags
- Pull Up Bar
- Foam Roller
- Tire Rigged for Dragging
Optional: Hand held counter to count step up reps, GPS watch for rucking and running distances
What does “3/5x Pull Ups” Mean? What does “40/60# Sandbag” mean?
The lower number is for women. “3/5x Pull Ups” = women do 3x pull ups, men do 5x pull ups.
“40/60# Sandbag” = Women use a 40# Sandbag, Men use a 60# bag.
What size of tire should I drag?
Best is a tire sized for a 4WD full size pick up – but it doesn’t make huge difference. Dragging difficulty will also depend upon the dragging surface … gravel/dirt is easier than pavement regardless of the tire size. You should be able to walk forward at a steady pace – without undo strain. However, you should feel the effects of the tire – likely in your butt and hamstrings.
Where do I find the “Running Calculator” for trail runs?
On our website here: http://mtntactical.com/exercises/running-calculator/
You can also find this link on the drop down after clicking our “Exercises” tab on the website homepage.
What about nutrition?
Here are our nutritional guidelines for your day to day nutrition: http://mtntactical.com/inside-strong-swift-durable/frequently-asked-questions/#nutrition
However, for the long step up sessions and long Saturday rucks, we recommend you supplement ever 45-60 minutes with an energy gel or chews.
What if I have more questions?