If you are anything like me, when I started my workout routine, I dreaded the mountain climber. Every time it was part of the day’s workout routine, I would almost shut off my video stream. I would make up excuses to half ass it. I would even substitute in something that I enjoyed over this exercise.

But over time I was able to convince myself that I needed to keep this one in the repertoire. Over time, I was getting better at it, and started to see the benefits paying off for pushing through.

Benefits of the Mountain Climber

I want you to be able to capture all of the benefits that this ONE exercise has to offer, but first let’s go over what muscles this hits and you too will realize that this is the one exercise to do if you are short on time to get a full workout in.

When done properly, you will feel muscles worked throughout your whole body. The neck muscles as you hold your head up, the shoulders and triceps as you stabilize yourself while performing the exercise. Your abs feel it the most because you continuously contract them as you alternate pulling your legs to your chest area. Your quads and hamstrings will also let you know they are being used as they help the core pull them up. 

There are variations of this exercise that will also work some of the outer parts of the legs, work the hips and other littler muscles that are not normally targeted in a normal routine.

The benefits are plentiful when it comes to this exercise. Improved balance and better posture from working the core. Increased flexibility due to the work performed with your joints. Let us not forget the benefit your waistline and backside will see as you place these moves into your routine.

How to Get Started – Beginner Mountain Climber Variations

Your starting point all depends on your level of fitness. We want you to be able to get off the couch today and start benefiting from this today. There is where we will begin. 

Basic Mountain Climber (Easiest)

Find a spot on the floor open enough to lay prone to the floor. Get down on all fours on the floor with your hands right outside of the shoulders. If you find it difficult to get on the floor, you can use a chair or box to place your hands on. You want the object to be sturdy and something that will not slide or move on you as you perform this exercise. Next extend your feet straight back and spread them apart where you feel comfortable.

This position is an upright plank position. It is another great exercise that we will break down in another article. This may feel very uncomfortable for you if it has been a while doing any kind of exercise routine. But I can assure you that over time you will get more comfortable with this exercise.

The next move we need to make is to pull a knee toward your chest. When getting started, pull your knee up to your belt area. Return your foot back to the start position. Repeat this move with the opposite leg. Rest if needed. If you are using a chair or box, the leg movement will be the same. The idea is to get your core engaged and to move you re legs.

There you have it. A basic start to one of the best moves in your exercise routine. Remember, this is a starting point and you should not get frustrated if your body feels overwhelmed with these moves.

Intermediate Mountain Climber

We now move up the progression line by adding a few things to the move. In this progression the idea is to pick up the tempo. It is in the intermediate stage is where the cardio of the exercise kicks in and you really reap the benefits.

Begin at the upright plank position again. Start by pulling your right leg up to your chest area and immediately return it to the starting position. Without hesitation or rest, pull your left leg up to your chest and then return it to the starting position. 

Continue alternating legs while holding your head up looking straight ahead. Your goal when doing this exercise is continue churning your legs for 25 seconds before taking a rest.

You will feel many parts of your body working as you do this. Your shoulders are working to stabilize you as your shift from leg to leg. Your core, particularly your abs, will contract as you pull each of your legs to your chest. The quads and hamstrings get a work-over as the legs pump out the reps. And, believe it or not, your neck gets involved as you hold your head up to look straight ahead.

Advanced Mountain Climber Variations

 The next few exercises are to take this exercise to ultimate fat burning and muscle building machine. All of these will be starting from the same starting position as we have been.

Advanced Variation 1 – Spider Mountain Climber

For this variation you want to exaggerate the movement of the legs so that when you pull each one to your body, the foot lands outside and even with your hand.

This will further engage your core, but this variation will hit some of the other muscles in the leg not usually targeted. You will feel the effects in your hips as well because the leg goes outside of the shoulder as it is performed.

Advanced Variation 2 – Cross Body Mountain Climber

 The placement of the leg is what is being varied once again for this one. You will want to start off slow to get your balance figured out. Take your right leg and pull it up towards your chest, but this time swing it under your body towards your left hand. Your knee will be pointing towards the left elbow as it gets to the apex of the movement. Return the right leg to the starting position and then repeat with the left leg.

This again will hit many of the little muscles not normally hit. It helps in creating more limber hips as well as helping to strengthen the lower back as you twist your torso.

Advanced Variation 3 – Knee to Hand Mountain Climber

 This variation will improve your core muscles as you will be moving your opposite hand as you perform this exercise. As the left leg moves towards your chest, take the right hand and touch your knee. Return to the starting point and then repeat with the right leg and left hand.

Balance will improve as you build up your core muscles with this variation as there will only be two points of contact with the floor for a short period of time.

Advanced Variation 4 – Plank Mountain Climber

This variation we will alter the starting position just a little so that you can hit your muscles from a different angle. Instead of starting with your arms fulling extended, lower your body so that the elbows and forearms are touching the ground. Being lower to the ground, you will not be able to pull your legs straight up. You will have kick your leg outside of the plank position and swing it up outside of the shoulder. Contract it as far up the body as you can and then return to the starting position. Repeat with the left leg.

Another great variation that attacks the muscles from different angles to produce some amazing results.

Put This in Your Program Today

This exercise alone can reward you with many benefits the day you start doing them. This can be one of your “go-to” exercises when time has slipped away, or you know you will not be able to fit a full workout in. It is a great starting point for those that have not exercised in a while or have never done so before but want to get healthy. The exercise can be modified to accommodate any fitness level. There is no excuse to not put this in your routine.

Start off slow. 25 seconds doing as many as you can, taking 15 seconds worth of rest. Do 1 to 2 rounds. As you feel stronger, add more rounds. As you make progress in your stamina, start to add variations of the exercise that challenge you, that strengthen your muscles. Push yourself outside your comfort zone. The big payoffs in fitness are when you do something that outside of that comfort zone. NEVER have a negative attitude or say that you cannot do something. YOU can do anything that you set out to do.

Be your biggest cheerleader. Get after it and make it an amazing day!