Peak Bagger Training Plan


  • 6 weeks 5 days/week
  • Designed to build strength and stamina into your legs required for a hard, fast push to a peak in a single day or two
  • Requires minimal equipment or gym training experience
  • This training plan is one of the 200+ Plans included with an Athlete’s Subscription.



This program is designed to build your legs and lungs in preparation for single day, or hard, 2-day push to climb a mostly non-technical peak, such as the Grand Teton, or a Colorado 14-foot’er.

It is also designed to use minimal equipment, and thus be utilized to train without access to fully-equipped gym, bunches of equipment, and/or personnel who have little lifting experience.

This is a 6-week long program and makes the assumption that athletes will be training 5 days/week, yielding 30 total training sessions.

CAUTION: This is a very intense training program, and it’s recommended that athletes be able to complete 1,000 step ups with a 25# pack under 60 minutes before attempting this program.

The program is build around the following exercises and activities: 

Leg Blasters – Leg Blasters are an intense, body weight only, lower body complex of exercises which builds incredible leg strength, and lactate tolerance. Also, we’ve found it key to building eccentric leg strength. During your trip, you’ll be climbing the mountain, but you’ll also be hiking down it. Coming down forces your legs to work eccentrically, and can lead to crippling soreness in the next day. Leg Blasters will help you prepare for this. Here’s a link which explains leg blasters:

Full Leg Blaster = 20x air squats +

20x in-place lunges (10x each leg) +

20x jumping lunges (10x each leg) +

10x squat jumps

Mini Leg Blaster = 10x air squats +

10x in-place lunges (5x each leg) +

10x jumping lunges (5x each leg) +

5x squat jumps

Step Ups – Step ups are a basic, butt-kicking single mode exercise used to build sport-specific climbing leg strength and cardio in a controlled, gym environment. During this program, expect to do thousands of step ups with a 25# pack. This is the primary exercise I’ll use to get your legs and lungs ready for long hiking uphill, thousands of feet to bag a peak. You can use any box, or bench, 16-19” high, for step ups. Here are the pace definitions for step ups:

Threshold Step up Pace – Fastest possible without straining

Moderate Step up Pace – Comfortable, but not easy

Easy Step up pace – moving slowly – should be easy

Sandbag Getup – We’ve found that core strength is a huge determinate of performance. Even more important, a strong mid section protects vulnerable limbs. I’m using this exercise to make you not only strong, but durable.

The sandbag getup is an old school, basic exercise which builds core strength like no other, plus it makes you breath like mother. Expect to do hundreds of these with an 40# (women) or 60# (men) sandbag.  We recommend switching shoulders every 5x getups. You’ll need to build a sandbag. You can purchase one from our website store, or use an old duffle bag. Wood pellets, mulch made from ground up tires, and pea gravel make good filler – depending upon the size of the bag you use.

Interval Calve Raises – One of the first muscles to fatigue when climbing steep hills is the calf muscles. We use the interval calve raises help strengthen your calves.  Our Calve Raise Intervals are 20 seconds continuous, rapid calf raises, unloaded, for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds in a holding “rest” position up on your toes (it’s really not a “rest.”)

Upper Body Strength Endurance – One thing you’ll notice about this programming is you won’t be spending much time doing upper body training. We’ve purposely limited upper body work to a circuit of strict pull ups and push ups, which double in volume over the course of the program. Why the limitation? Peak bagging begins and ends with the legs and core. We put our attention here.

Rucking – You’ll be doing bunches of rucking with a 25# pack during this program. “Rucking” is a military term which is simply fast walking with a pack. In the program, Rucking distance, and pace will be prescribed. For the purpose of this training plan, here are the optimal paces:

Threshold Rucking Pace – 12-13 min/mile

Moderate Rucking Pace – 15 min/mile.

When possible, ruck on a trail over hilly terrain, but without significant elevation gain/loss.

Distance Running – You’ll run relatively short distances at threshold and moderate paces during this program. Moderate pace distance running will help build your aerobic base, add durability to the connective tissue in your joints, and work to flush out the lactic acid and other waste products from your sore legs and other muscles. Threshold pace will push your lactate threshold.

Pacing – For the purposes of rucking and running in this program, we prescribe two paces. Here are their definitions:

“Moderate Pace” – Comfortable, but not easy: 8 min to 9 min/mile pace.

“Threshold Pace” – Fastest pace you can hold without straining:  7-8 min/mile pace.


1) Dumbbells – 25# men, 15# women.

2) Sandbag – 60# Men, 40# women. You can purchase a sandbag from the website

store, or build your own out of an old duffle bag.

3) 16-19” Box, bench, stool or whatever for step ups. We build our own step up benches.

4) 25# Backpack for step ups and rucking. Any filler can be used for weight.

5) Something to do pullups from – pull up bar, ceiling joist, tree branch, rings, etc.


How long should the training sessions take? 

Each training session has a listed estimated completion time objective. Tuesday and Thursday sessions are 2-a-days, – you’ll train in the morning, and again in the afternoon/evening.

Here are your estimated total training hours by week: 

    Week         Training Hours (Approx.)

1                       7

2                        7.5

3                        8

4                         8.5

5                          9

6                        10

What if I can’t keep up the Monday through Friday Training Schedule?
If for any reason you cannot keep training schedule, do not skip a training session. Rather, complete all the training sessions in order. Whatever the schedule, always take two days a week, ideally together, as total rest.
For this plan, Training Sessions 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, and 26 are Mondays.

Where do I find unfamiliar exercises?
See our Exercise Library HERE. The Run Calculator is listed as an exercise.

What about nutrition?
See our Nutritional Guidelines HERE.

What does the lower weight mean for the loading?
The lower weight is the female athlete load. For example, if the session calls for “50x Sandbag Getups @ 40/60#,” female athletes use a 40# bag, and male athletes need a 60# bag.

What if I have more questions?


Good luck!

Rob Shaul


Required Equipment

The plan uses minimal equipment. You do not need access to a fully equipped gym to complete it. Here is the special equipment which is required:
- Dumbbells - 25# men, 15# women.
- Sandbag - 60# Men, 40# women. You can purchase a sandbag from the website store, or build your own out of an old duffle bag.
- 16-19” Box, bench, stool or whatever for step ups. We build our own step up benches.
- 25# Backpack for step ups and rucking. Any filler can be used for weight.
- Something to do pullups from - pull up bar, ceiling joist, tree branch, rings, etc.

Sample Training

Below is the First Week from this Training Plan:


Obj: Uphill Hiking Ability, Stamina, (90 min)

(1) 5 Rounds
200x Step ups @ 25#, Moderate Pace
Run 800m, Threshold Pace


Obj: Leg strength, Rucking Threshold, Core,

***AM Session (60 Min)

Warm up:
3 Rounds
5x Walking Lunge holding dumbbells (15/25#)

5/10x Push ups
10x Sit ups
Hip Flexor + Instep Stretch

(1) 10 Rounds
Mini Leg Blaster
30 Seconds Rest

(2) 4 Rounds
20/20 Standing Founder
20/20 Kneeling Founder
10x Face Down Back Ext
10x Poor Man's Leg Curl

(3) 3 Rounds
20 second rapid calve raise
10 second hold in up position
20 second rapid calve raise
10 second hold in up position
30 second rest

***PM Session (20 min)

Ruck 1.5 miles, Threshold Pace


Obj: Core Strength/Stamina, Upper Body Strength (60 min)

Warm up:
50x Sandbag Getups @ 40/60#

(1) 5 Rounds
3/5x Pull ups
10/15x Push ups
20x Situps

(2) 4 Rounds
30/30 Side Bridge
10x Seated Russian Twists @ 15/25# dumbbell
10x EO's
25x Glute Leg Lift


Obj: Uphill Hiking Ability, Core, (60min)

Warm up:
5 min Stepup @ 25#, moderate pace

(1) 4 Rounds
4 min Stepups, Threshold Pace
2 min Stepups, Easy Pace

(2) 4 Rounds
6x Ankles to Bar
45 Sec Front Bridge
5x Kneeling Slasher to Halo with dumbbell (15/25#)
10x 1-Leg Glute Bridge

(3) Run 3 Miles, Moderate Pace


Obj: Obj: Leg strength, Rucking Threshold, Core

***AM Session (45 Min)

Warm up:
3 Rounds
5x Burpees
10x Air Squats
15x Sit ups
Hip Flexor + Instep Stretch

(1) 10 Rounds
Mini Leg Blaster
30 Seconds Rest

(2) 3 Rounds
20 second rapid calve raise
10 second hold in up position
20 second rapid calve raise
10 second hold in up position
30 second rest

***PM Session (75 min)

(1) Ruck 5 miles @ 25#, Moderate Pace

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What Equipment is Required?
Click the “Required Equipment” tab to find out what equipment is required for the specific plan you are interested in.

Where do I find unfamiliar exercises?
See our Exercise Library HERE. The Run and Ruck Calculators are listed as exercises.

What about nutrition?
See our Nutritional Guidelines HERE.

Can I see sample training?
Click the “Sample Training” tab to see the entire first week of programming.
You are encouraged to do it before purchasing.

What if I have more questions?


I wanted to give you feedback on your Peakbagger as a prep tool for hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim in a single day (45 miles).  Actually, we did it in 17 hrs, including test, with a 12-pound running pack.

The program kicked ass in preparation for the base of the canyon and the downhills off of the North and South rims. We flew down the declines and had no pain at all when done. We actually ran down the North Rim. Thumbs up!


I just finished a Grand Canyon Hike (down to the river in one day and back up in two days) with a 25 lb pack.  I am 66 years old and completed the “Peak Bagger” program prior to the trip.  This is the 10th consecutive year for the trip and the Peak Bagger training was a huge success!  Usually, the trip down kills my calves & knees.  I normally had trouble walking the next day.  No such trouble this time.  The trip up was actually easy compared to the thousands of step-ups!!  As feedback to you for my age group, I was able to do all of the reps and rounds for each session in the peak bagger.  I was generally not able to achieve the intensity and in most cases the weight recommended.  I think I can get up to it, but over a longer period of time.  Do you have any suggestions for maintenance sessions in the gym through the summer?  I will likely hike 4-5 days per week, and mountain or road bike 1-2 days per week. Thanks for your great programs and I look forward to any suggestions on maintenance!!!  You helped me feel young and strong again.


Once again, I successfully climbed my objective after using your Peak Bagger Training Plan. This year it was Kings Peak, the Utah high point.  And each year, I gain an appreciation for a different aspect of the training. This year I really loved how the training and conditioning helped in my recovery.  After our two-day climb, I didn't feel very sore at all. I felt a little tired, but if I wanted to, I could have hiked or climbed something else the next day.  Thanks again for great training!

 - B


A quick thank you for your programming. I used your Peak Bagger(again) to prep for a 4 day backpacking trip in Utah. All those step-ups really made me strong throughout the trip - we were mostly off any kind of trail. - K


I climbed Mt. Elbert in Colorado last week! I used your Peak Bagger Training Plan to prepare for it. It helped me in a way I hadn't expected. After the long day I was tired, of course, but I was not sore at all. My body doesn't recover like it used to, and even in my younger years a climb like this would have wiped me out. But I didn't feel sore whatsoever. I credit those leg blasters.

Thanks for the great training. I'm excited to get to the Big Mountain Plan for my Rainier climb next summer.



I did your Peak Baggers plan leading into a one day hike up and down Mt Whitney.  Dude, I felt like a freaking machine.  The climb took longer than I'd have liked, I think I could have done it in 2.5 - 3 less hours but we had some newbies that had underestimated how hard it is to walk up a hlll so we had to check the pace.  We still averaged 2mph when moving, which isn't too bad.  I ran / trotted the distance from TrailCrest to the Summit and felt great doing it.- C


Just wanted to send kudos to you. I used the Peak Bagger Program to help prepare me for the summer season of instructing/guiding up in Alaska and a short stint on Mt. Baker. I felt really strong even when I was on the sleep deprivation train for several weeks. Ten glaciers later, over 300 miles traveled on foot off trail, and about the same mileage paddling, I still feel pretty strong.

Just returned to the Eastern Sierra and will spend the next month and a half "resting" (playing, but no specific training). Planning on using the Backcountry Ski Training program (November-December) to prep for winter followed by the Bodyweight program (January) and possibly the Big Mountain Training Program (February-April) to prep for next summer mixed with getting ready for my next martial arts test (probably in the spring).

Thanks again, - B


No response necessary, I just wanted to drop you a long-overdue note to thank you for the Peak Bagger Program.   Although I probably should have used the Big Mountain plan, I used Peak Bagger to get ready for Mount Rainier last summer. I have never been stronger (or looked better) than after completing those tough six weeks.  On the last day of training, just a few days before the climb,  I discovered I was pregnant.  Thanks to the solid training, I decided to climb anyway and was able to have a very enjoyable climb (and summit). I had such a great experience that the following weekend I went to Colorado and successfully (and easily) summited Pike's Peak.

I now have a healthy and shockingly strong two month old baby girl and am looking forward to using your programs to get back in shape and head back to the mountains together this summer!

Thanks again!- TZ


Hey Rob,

I wanted to give you and Mtn. Athlete a huge shout out and thanks for your programming. I switched from crossfit to your base fitness programming this past February. I had never been as disciplined and excited about gym-based training as I have been over the past 6 months. I switched to your programming with the goal of training to attempt the Evolution Traverse in the High Sierra. I'm happy to report that we completed the traverse over the course of 5 days (3 days on route, 2 days on hike in and out) this August and it was an incredibly fun and rewarding experience. I completed the Peakbagger Training Program leading up to our trip and it thoroughly kicked my tail in a great way! While the traverse was exhausting and one of the most demanding experiences I've had in the mountains, my legs were never sore and I felt like I recovered well day to day.

It's hard to tell how much the training impacted my performance overall, but I had never felt more fit leading into a climbing objective. I am thankful that the Peakbagger program was so intense and really trained mental fitness alongside my legs and lungs. I pushed through many a PB session, saying to myself...."one step-up at a time" on my way to 800 or breathing through the burn of the leg blasters on those last 10 jump squats. This undoubtedly helped me out in the mountains to push through long days of near constant up and down climbing, route-finding and continuous effort.

Anyway, thanks! We are psyched on our accomplishment and already have plans in the works to attempt a traverse that is a touch harder than the Evo next year!

- T. , North Carolina
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