How To Do Mountain Climbers

By: Chris Freytag, CPT

Chris Freytag demonstrates how to do mountain climbers


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    What are Mountain Climbers Exercises?

    Mountain Climbers are a killer exercise that get your heart rate up fast while also firing nearly every muscle group in the body—deltoids, biceps, triceps, chest, obliques, abdominals, quads, hamstrings and hip abductors.

    It’s truly a fully body workout! Mountain Climbers are also a very accessible exercise; you can perform them anywhere because they require only your bodyweight.

    Learning how to do Mountain Climbers will give you that magic combination of strength training, cardio and core strength all rolled into one! This type of total body exercise gets you the most bang for your buck when it comes to working out. How?

    How to Do Mountain Climbers

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    1. At its heart, the Mountain Climber is a form of plank. Start in a plank position with arms and legs long.Beginning in a solid plank is the key to proper form and good results in the Mountain Climber. Keep your abs pulled in and your body straight. Squeeze your glutes and pull your shoulders away from your ears
    2. Pull your right knee into your chest.  As the knee draws to the chest, pull your abs in even tighter to be sure your body doesn’t sag or come out of its plank position.
    3. Quickly switch and pull the left knee in. At the same time you push your right leg back, pull your left knee in to the chest using the same form.
    4. Continue to switch knees. Pull the knees in right, left, right, left—always switching simultaneously so that you are using a “running” motion.As you begin to move more quickly be in constant awareness of your body position and be sure to keep a straight line in your spine and don’t let your head droop. Core body stability is crucial.

    The Benefits of Mountain Climbers

    You’ll Build Upper Body Strength

    Mountain Climbers build strength in the upper body muscles of the shoulders, arms, chest, and back because they hold your bodyweight up for a long period of time.

    Not only that, but by adding the movement of the legs, the upper body muscles need to stabilize and keep you grounded. Not to mention the fact that you’ll feel this in your legs for sure!

    The Cardio Workout is Good for Your Heart

    The fast repetition of the knees coming in and out of the chest will get your heart pumping and force you to breathe through your mouth. This move mimics running in a plank position and you know how good running is for your heart!

    Wondering how many calories you burn doing mountain climbers? It depends – of course.

    Obviously the faster you perform your Mountain Climbers, the harder you’ll breathe and the greater the cardiovascular benefits will be.

    You’ll Increase Your Core Strength

    At the heart of these Mountain Climbers is that awesome plank position that you are working in.

    By holding the plank position throughout the Mountain Climbers you are increasing core strength better than crunches or sit-ups ever could.

    But that’s just the beginning. In addition to holding the plank, you incorporate the fast motion of the legs, which shakes up the muscles of the abdominals and lower back. They are forced to pull in and stabilize, which teaches your body to increase its core strength and stability.

    Muscles Worked by Mountain Climbers Exercises

    The mountain climber is a compound exercise, meaning it works multiple muscle groups at one time. Mountain climbers are a great exercise for strengthening the: 

    • Shoulders 
    • Triceps 
    • Core 
    • Heart 
    • Entire Lower Body – Hamstrings, Glutes, Quads, and Calves 

    The upper body, specifically the shoulders and triceps are activated in a mountain climber because of the plank position you are holding throughout the movement. 

    TIP: You will want to make sure your shoulders remain stacked over your wrists at all times throughout the mountain climber. 

    Your core muscles are engaged throughout the mountain climber as well. While starting in a plank position, your abs are engaged. Then when you drive your knee into your chest for the mountain climber, you work deeper into the core while also engaging the oblique muscles. 

    Another benefit of the mountain climber is that it’s a cardio movement that will increase your heart rate and strengthen your heart! 

    With the knee drive into the chest, your entire lower body is forced to stay engaged. You’ll work your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and even your calves by pushing off each time. And as a bonus you’re also working on your overall speed and agility work within one single exercise!

    Incorporating Mountain Climbers into Your Workout Routine

    Mountain Climbers are great to incorporate into almost any workout routine. Here are just a few of the ways you could include them into yours:

    Do Mountain Climbers as a Warm-Up for Any Workout

    Mountain Climbers are often incorporated into a trainer or fitness instructor’s warm-ups because they cover all the bases needed for a solid warm-up. You should use them too because they are extremely effective.

    • First, they are a multi-joint movement so they take care of several body parts at one time making Mountain Climbers a very efficient warm-up move

    • Second, they are dynamic, meaning they get you moving and increase your heart rate, which is a better and safer way to warm-up compared to static stretching.

    • Third, they fire your core and activate the muscles of the abdominals and lower back.

    • Finally, they take your hips and legs through a big range of motion, preparing the connective tissue for anything that is to come.

    Mountain Climber Warm-Up Workouts

    Workout Idea #1:  30 seconds of Mountain Climbers, 10 deep slow squats, 30 seconds of mountain climbers, 10 deep slow squats, repeat a few more times and you’re ready to go.

    Workout Idea #2: 8-10 Walking Lunges, drop for 50 Mountain Climbers, high knee skip back to start position and repeat two more times.

    Workout Idea #3: 5 Inchworms, 20 Mountain Climbers, 10 Hip Circles, 20 Jumping Jacks

    Get a Cardio Burst During Your Strength Training Workout

    One of the biggest complaints people have regarding working out is lack of time. Cardio, weights, stretching…how do I fit it all in?

    One solution is to incorporate simple, powerful moves like the Mountain Climber into a strength training session and kill two birds with one stone.

    Try this. Simply add a few mountain climbers exercises between your strength training moves at the gym. This will keep your heart rate up between weight lifting and by the end, you’ll have done a cardio and strength workout in one.

    Not only are you more efficient, but you’ll get your metabolism working overtime.

    Ideas for Doing Mountain Climbers for a Cardio Burst During Strength Training

    Workout Idea #1:

    A set of squats and lunges then 1 minute of Mountain Climbers.

    A set of Bench Presses and and Back Rows then 1 minute of Mountain Climbers.

    A set of Bicep Curls and Tricep Extensions then 1 minute of Mountain Climbers. REPEAT

    Workout Idea #2:

    • 10 Squats, 10 Mountain Climbers, Repeat 3x
    • 10 Lat Pulldowns, 10 Mountain Climbers, Repeat 3x
    • 10 Reverse Lunges, 10 Mountain Climbers, Repeat 3x
    • 10 Chest Flye’s, 10 Mountain Climbers, Repeat 3x

    Workout Idea #3:

    Start with Mountain Climbers for 1 minute. Do your entire strength session. End with Mountain Climbers until you can’t do anymore.

    Do Mountain Climbers as Part of a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Workout

    High Intensity Interval Training is one of the most efficient ways to get your cardio done. By doing short, intense intervals with brief periods of rest in between, you push yourself to the limit but get enough of what you need in 10 minutes and you’re done!

    Here are 3 great HIIT workouts with Mountain Climbers for you to try:

    Other Exercises Similar to Mountain Climbers

    Are you looking for the same exercise benefits, but want to do more than just mountain climbers? Check out these related exercises:

    Targets: hamstrings, core

    (This will help us personalize your experience so that you can get the best advice possible from us!)
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