Mountain climber exercise is a bodyweight exercise primarily targeting the core and lower body muscles.
It simulates the climbing motion on a horizontal plane, hence the name “mountain climber.”
Army PRT Mountain Climber Exercise
The Mountain Climber is the third exercise in Conditioning Drill 1; this climbing exercise develops your ability to quickly power out of the front-leaning rest position into a run or a crouching run.
- This exercise develops the ability to quickly move the legs to power out of the front leaning rest position.
- Front-leaning rest position with the left foot below the chest and between the arms.
- Push upward with the feet and quickly change the positions of the legs.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat the movements on count 1.
- Return to the starting position.
- The hands are directly below the shoulders with the fingers spread (middle fingers pointing straight ahead) and the elbows straight, not locked.
- To prevent the trunk from sagging, contract and hold the abdominals throughout the exercise. Do not raise the hips and buttocks when moving throughout the exercise.
- Align the head with the spine and direct the eyes to a point about two feet in front of the body.
- Throughout the exercise, remain on the balls of your feet.
- Move the legs straight forward and backward, not at angles.
How to Do Mountain Climber Exercises at Home
The mountain climbing exercise will increase your heart rate and tone your muscles. Here’s how to do it:
- Start in a Plank Position: With your hands and knees on the ground, palms lying flat down under your chest and back in a tabletop position, extend your feet behind you, forming a plank position with hips and knees lifted up off the ground.
- Keeping your back flat and palms down, bring one knee up towards your chest and then back to the starting position.
- Alternate legs with each rep, pretending you’re running or doing fast, high knees on the mat.
- Repeat for 30 to 45 seconds.
- Aim for 3 to 4 sets with 10 to 15 seconds of rest between them.
Pro tip: You can make the mountain climbing exercise more challenging by increasing your speed or adding weight to your body.
Tips for Effective Mountain Climbers
Here are some tips for doing the mountain climber exercise effectively without straining your muscles.
- Keep your hips level with the ground.
- Don’t lift your butt to the sky like you’re in a pike push-up position.
- Drive your knees up to your chest, not your elbow.
- Keep your back flat throughout the entire movement.
- You can increase your speed as you become more comfortable with the form.
- Don’t strain your neck by bending or arching it too much.
- Keep your shoulders level.
- Don’t jump chaotically.
- Keep your jumps controlled and stable.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
- Try to avoid extra bounces during this exercise. You want to keep your back and core tight and stable so there’s no additional lifting up or down during the exercise. Bouncing will throw off the alignment of your hips and create excess strain on your hip flexors.
- Keep your hips lifted in the same alignment as your shoulders so the starting position is a perfect plank. If you drop your hips too low, you’re more likely to arch your back and risk putting extra strain on your spine.
- Give yourself enough room to drive your knee under your chest without scraping the ground, and your back is still supported. It’s easy to lean or favor one side while your leg is lifted off the ground.
- Be careful to stabilize your core and back, maintain even hips for support when lifting up your knee to elbow, and don’t rock or fall off to one side.
Mountain Climber Benefits
The mountain climber exercise helps you achieve total body tone, improved cardiovascular health, endurance, and better overall health.
The following are the benefits:
Overall muscle tone
- Mountain climbers require using multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
- This type of exercise tones your muscles and improves your body composition.
Improved cardiovascular health
- The mountain climbing exercise increases your heart rate and accelerates your breathing.
- As a result, it improves your overall cardiovascular health.
- The mountain climber also boosts your endurance by increasing your heart rate and challenging your muscles.
- Basically, it teaches you to become comfortable with pain.
- That’s the exact definition of endurance: a high tolerance for discomfort.
Better overall health
- All these benefits contribute to improving overall health.
- Mountain climbers blend resistance and cardio, and studies show these types of workouts can lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and body fat percentage.
- These changes contribute to improved mood, endocrine health, and quality sleep.
Decreased belly fat
- Mountain climbers can reduce belly fat because they tone your midsection while also burning many calories.
How many mountain climbers should you do to reap those benefits?
- I recommend starting with three sets of 10 to 15 mountain climbers.
- As you become more comfortable with the movement, you can increase the number of repetitions in sets.
- Aim for 30-second mountain climbers followed by a 10-second break for 3 to 4 sets after a cardio or strength training routine to accelerate your metabolism and take advantage of the full afterburn effect.
- This afterburn effect will last between 24 and 72 hours, increasing your resting metabolic rate.
- That means you will burn more calories while carrying on with your day without any other exercise.
- It’s always best to stay active to avoid the other dangers of sedentarism, like heart problems, high cholesterol, back pain, and more.
Mountain Climber Exercise Variations
The mountain climbing exercise has several variations, as follows:
- Mountain climbers can make their climbs easier by changing the angle of their hips.
- When performing this exercise, increase the lift in your hips so there’s more room for your knees to bend under and your back has more support.
Knee Drop Variation
- Instead of fully tapping your elbow to your knee, you can drop your knee to the ground and repeat that with both your left and right knees.
- This eliminates the extra crunch for the upper abs but is helpful if you can’t bring your elbow to your knee without keeping your back flat.
Focus on Obliques
- Instead of pulling your knee directly under your chest to tap your elbow, change the elbow to tap the opposite knee.
- By tapping the opposite knee to the elbow, you will continue to work your core, but more emphasis will go toward your obliques.
Double Tap Advanced Variation
- You can add an extra tap to each knee before switching legs.
- This will double the crunch action, increasing the workout on your abs and challenging your balance.
Muscles Worked by Mountain Climber Exercises
The mountain climber exercise works on the following muscles:
- They work your shoulders because they’re engaged throughout the entire movement, keeping your torso stable as you run on the mat.
- Mountain climbers also target your chest muscles as supporting muscle groups because you’ll be in a high plank position, and your shoulders aren’t the only ones ensuring a correct posture.
- Your triceps are engaged because they keep your arms extended but also slightly bent during the exercise.
- Your core is activated because you constantly contract it to keep your body stable in the high plank position.
- Your thighs are targeted because they extend and bend your knees.
- You will feel the burn, especially in the front of your thigh, like your quadriceps.
- Your glutes are engaged because they stabilize your pelvis. Besides, your glutes will contract and release with each movement, exercising your entire butt area.
- Your calves help push your feet off the ground.
- It has the same mechanics as running or doing high knees.
In conclusion, mountain climbers are a great exercise to improve cardiovascular endurance, shed fat, and build muscle.
- You can use mountain climbers as a cardio exercise, add them to the end of your strength workout, or even build an entire mountain climber-based workout.
- Remember to listen to your body and vary your workouts with different machine- or body-weight-based exercises.
Also, what’s your favorite thing about mountain climber exercise? Let us know in the comments. Let me know in the comments box below.