Mountain Climber: How To Do It The Right Way and Burn Fat

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What is a Mountain Climber

Mountain climbers are an explosive compound bodyweight exercise that targets the full body, especially the arms, shoulders, core, and quads. This exercise has a cardio component to it which will develop your muscular endurance as it requires you to begin in a plank position, and alternate between bringing one knee to the chest, and back out. 

Although mountain climbers seem basic, they will have your heart rate pumping, therefore, burning calories, and helping you to achieve more definition in your core region! This exercise is readily accessible at your convenience whether it’s at home, in the office, in the hotel room, or in the parking lot.

According to research, core strength training is better effective than standard resistance training for alleviating chronic low back pain. Moreover, no special equipment is required to train your core as there are many bodyweight variations, and individuals and independently practice core strength training at home.

What Muscles are Worked by Mountain Climbers

The mountain climbers work on several muscles groups at once, targeting both the upperbody and lower body muscles which enables you to have a full-body workout. The primary muscles worked are the abdominals, glutes, and hip flexors. The secondary muscles worked are the anterior deltoids, quadriceps, hamstrings, triceps, and calves.

What Level is Mountain Climbers

This is a beginner-level level exercise because they are simple to do, and don’t require any equipment. Mountain climbers are a good cardio alternative to running, it will develop your core, and promote fat loss, especially in the lower abs without irritating your back pain. Pretty AWESOME for a simple exercise!

How to do a Mountain Climber

Mountain Climber Exercise

1. Start In a Plank Position

Begin in a plank/push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart with your shoulders stacked directly on top of your wrists. Your core and glutes are engaged, your back is flat, and your body is in a straight line. This is your starting position.

2. Pull One Knee Towards Your Chest

Explosively pull your right knee towards your chest as far as you can without letting your right feet touch the floor. Keep your core tight and your body in a straight line.

3. Switch Legs

Alternate by bringing your right leg back out to the starting position, and bringing your left knee in towards your chest. Keep your hips down and interchange both knees in and out and create a “one-two” tempo. Switch between inhaling and exhaling with each leg change.

4. Repeat

Repeat this movement between 20-100 repetitions for each leg for 4 sets, 3 times a week (see the recommended reps and sets ranges below).

Mountain Climber Workout

  • Beginners should perform between 10-20 reps for each leg, for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
  • Intermediate level athletes should perform between 21-60 reps, for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
  • Advanced level athletes should perform 61-100 reps or more for 4 sets, 3 times a week.

You should move on to harder variations once you have achieved your reps and set goals.

Another workout style you can practice is called the Tabata workout. This is a high-intensity interval training (HITT) workout. Usually, you would do a Tabata workout for 20 minutes. It has the following structure:

  • Workout hard for 20 seconds
  • Rest for 10 seconds 
  • Complete 8 rounds

An example of the Tabata workout would be:

  1. Burpees (4 minutes)
  2. Push-ups (4 minutes)
  3. Mountain Climbers (4 minutes)
  4. Chair Dips (4 minutes)
  5. Jumping Lunges (4 minutes)

Mountain Climber Benefits

Burn Belly Fat

If you want to burn your belly fat and get shredded abs, then mountain climbers should be included in your training regiment. This compound exercise is a mixture of cardio, core, and muscular endurance training. It will especially target your lower abs which is usually the stubborn part of the abdominals that is the hardest to get rid of! If done at a high intensity and supplemented with a good diet, you will definitely get 6 pack abs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to lose weight and keep it off, you will need a high amount of physical activity unless you adjust your diet and reduce the number of calories you’re consuming. They suggest that people follow a weekly exercise regimen that consists of one of the following:

  • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking
  • 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as running
  • a mixture of the two

Full Body Exercise 

Mountain climbers are a great full-body exercise as you will work several muscle groups to execute the movement, which makes it a fantastic compound exercise. Mountain climbers are a productive way to strengthen your arms, core, shoulders, back, and legs.

Develop Core Strength

For starters, mountain climbers require you to begin in a plank position, which, alone is an abdominal exercise that develops core stability. The movement path is driving your knee towards your chest which activates the core stabilizer muscles (transverse abdominals, pelvic floor, and multifidus). 

Low Impact

This exercise requires no jumping, which makes it a great exercise for those who have joint pain and any form of movement constraints as a result of mobility or previous injuries. Most common high-intensity exercises such as burpees, jumping lunges, jump squats, and jumping lunges is a high-impact exercises that could cause knee pain due to squatting. Therefore, mountain climbers are a great alternative for these exercises.

Mountain Climber Variations

Cross Body Mountain Climber

Cross-body mountain climbers are a great core strengthening exercise that works on your entire core region, especially the obliques and hip flexors. Rather than bringing your knees straight up towards your chest, you would bring them across to the opposite side of your body creating a twisting motion. To perform this, you will:

  1. Begin in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart, and your shoulders stacked directly on top of your wrists. Engage your glutes and core and ensure that your body is in a straight line. This is your starting position.
  2. Bring your left knee across your body towards your right elbow, whilst keeping your left foot off the floor, followed by returning to the starting position.
  3. Alternate by bringing your right knee in towards your left elbow. Keep your core tight and hips down. Switch between inhaling and exhaling with each leg change.
  4. Repeat this between 20-100 reps for each leg, for 4 sets, 3 times a week.

Crossfit Mountain Climber

This variation has the same movement path and has the same benefits as the traditional mountain climbers. However, the only difference is that you will bring your right knee towards your right elbow, and your left knee towards your left elbow, one knee at a time. To perform this, you will:

  1. Start in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart, and your shoulders stacked directly on top of your wrists. Engage your glutes and core and ensure that your body is in a straight line. This is your starting position.
  2. Bring your right knee towards your right elbow. Your right foot can touch the ground.
  3. Alternate by bringing your right leg back to the starting position and bringing your left knee in towards your left elbow. Keep your core tight and hips down. Switch between inhaling and exhaling with each leg change.
  4. Repeat this between 20-100 reps for each leg, for 4 sets, 3 times a week.

Spiderman Mountain Climber 

Spiderman mountain climbers are great for burning calories as they are a good bodyweight cardio exercise that is effective for strengthening your core, especially the lower abs and obliques. This movement is also great for hitting your secondary muscle groups such as the triceps, shoulders, and chest.

  1. Start in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart, and your shoulders stacked directly on top of your wrists. Engage your glutes and core and ensure that your body is in a straight line. This is your starting position.
  2. Bring your right knee up a few inches outside your right elbow, without letting your foot touch the ground. Focus on crunching your abs in this position to put tension on your abdominals
  3. Alternate by bringing your right leg back to the starting position and bringing your left knee up a few inches outside of your left elbow. Keep your core tight and hips down. Switch between inhaling and exhaling with each leg change.
  4. Repeat this between 20-100 reps for each leg, for 4 sets, 3 times a week

Wall Mountain Climber

The wall mountain climber is a challenging exercise that targets the shoulders and abdominals. This is an intermediate-level exercise that is performed at a high intensity, and works on your cardiovascular endurance, with a twist of being upside down! To perform this, you will:

  1. Begin in a plank position with your feet a few inches away from the wall. Walk your legs and arms backward so that you’re in an assisted handstand position with your chest facing toward the wall. The closer you are to the wall the more difficult it will be because more load will be placed on your shoulders. Your arms are fully extended and your core is tight. This is your starting position.
  2. Bring your right knee down as far as your can towards your chest, without letting your foot touch the wall. Focus on crunching your abs in this position to put tension on your core.
  3. Alternate by bringing your right leg back to the starting position and bringing your left knee down towards your chest. Keep your core tight and hips down. Switch between inhaling and exhaling with each leg change.
  4. Repeat this between 14-60 reps for each leg, for 4 sets, 3 times a week. The rule is that the further your hands are away from the wall, the easier it will be due to less load being placed on your shoulders. It is highly recommended that you start with “LV.1” and gradually progress towards “LV.2”.

Mountain Climber For Beginners

Beginners should try to perform mountain climbing for 30 seconds and if you find this difficult you can position your body at an inclined slope by placing your hands on an elevated surface such as a chair. This will reduce the load on your arms, shoulders, and core. Intermediate should work between 45 to 60 seconds. and the advanced should do 60 seconds or more. Progress onto harder variations once you find the standard variation easy. 

The Takeaways: Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers will provide you with many benefits from the day you start practicing them. This could be your go-to exercise if you really want to sweat and it can be added to your usual cardio routine and paired with other cardio exercises (HIIT workout). Once you’ve mastered the mountain climbers, you can try out other exercises that target the core and cardio:


All Core Exercises

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