Mountain Climbers vs Crunches (Better For Core?)
Mountain Climbers are often overlooked because many people brush them off as some junior high gym class warm-up exercise. However, even though Mountain Climbers can be part of a warm-up, they’re also really effective at working your core.
This raises the question, are Mountain Climbers more effective than Crunches? Can one exercise be subbed for the other?
In this article, I’m going to explain how to do each exercise along with the benefits of each. I’ll also directly compare the two core movements to help you determine which might be better for you based on your training goals.
- Begin in a push-up position – hands under shoulders, core engaged, body in a straight line
- Now raise one knee toward the chest and place the ball of the foot on the ground – from this position you’re ready to begin performing reps.
- Drive one leg up and place the foot right next to where the opposite foot just left.
- Simultaneously extend the ‘up foot’ back to the original starting position.
- Continue alternating back and forth until all reps are completed. (count moving left and right legs up as one rep)
There are a few common mistakes that athletes make when doing Mountain Climbers – especially if they are fatigued.
- Keep hips down throughout the movement. Don’t allow the hips to start to raise as the legs get tired.
- Keep driving the knees straight up toward the chest. Tired athletes will tend to start turning their feet and knees out to the side.
- Finally, try to maintain the same distance of each rep. Range of motion is usually the first thing to go when fatigue sets in.
Need a substitution for Mountain Climbers? Try one of these Mountain Climber alternatives.
Mountain Climber Benefits
Mountain Climbers are a great ‘bang for the buck’ warm-up exercise. They get almost the total body involved and will quickly raise the body’s core temperature.
The entire lower body – hip flexors, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves – are all in play with this movement. The core has to stay engaged to maintain posture and Mountain Climbers can be a sneaky challenge to the lower core as well.
The upper body, especially the shoulders and upper back, is also put to work during Mountain Climbers holding the body up in the push-up position.
All of these benefits are in one of the simplest, easy-to-do exercises that many of us have been doing since we were eight years old.
- Lay flat on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees, feet off the ground
- Place your hands behind to head and keep your chin off your chest throughout the entire movement
- Lift your shoulder blades off of the ground approximately 3 to 5 inches
- Slowly return to the starting position and immediately repeat the exercise until all reps are completed
Do not pull on the back of the head when doing Crunches. The hands behind your head should only be there to support the head, not pull on it. Keeping your chin up and away from your chest will help in preventing this.
Focus on the squeeze of the contraction at the top of the rep. It’s easy to mindlessly rep through crunches without getting much benefit out of them. Focus on each rep.
By not crossing your feet while they are in the air, you force the groin to remain active and work during the reps which can be a small added benefit.
Mountain Climbers vs Crunches: Which is Better?
Now, let’s take a look at both exercises and discuss whether one may be better than the other for some common lifting goals.
Better For Building Core Strength: Mountain Climbers
Both exercises are solid exercises for improving core strength, but I would say Mountain Climbers are a bit more effective.
The movement and combined with the body position makes the exercise more challenging for the abdominals. If you’re unsure about that, do 25 proper reps of both exercises and see which one works your core harder.
Are Mountain Climbers so superior to Crunches that you should only do Mountain Climbers from here on out?
No. Absolutely not.
My suggestion would be to figure out a way to incorporate both exercises within your core routine. Keeping variety within your strength program will help with your strength development by presenting your body with new stimuli and it will keep your workouts from getting boring.
Better For Beginners: Toss Up
Many of us have been doing Mountain Climbers and Crunches since elementary school gym class. I believe both exercises are safe, easy to learn and easy to execute. This makes both exercises great options for beginners.
I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better, Mountain Climbers or Crunches. But, the truth is, both are good core exercises and there’s no reason you can’t have both in your strength training program.
By regularly incorporating Mountain Climbers and Crunches into your workout routine, you can improve your core strength and stability.
Ultimately, the best exercise for you really just depends on your personal preferences. So, whether you prefer Mountain Climbers, Crunches, or a combination of both, remember to always prioritize proper form and listen to your body to avoid injury and achieve optimal results.