Mountain Climbers (How To, Benefits & Alternatives)
For many of us, Mountain Climbers take us back to elementary school gym class where exercises like jumping jacks and mountain climbers were absolute staples. I also think that because of this, many of us also dismiss these exercises as quality warm-up movements.
In fact, Mountain Climbers are an extremely effective warm-up exercise that works the core, warms up the legs (especially the hip flexors) and engages the shoulders by holding a pushup position.
In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to properly do Mountain Climbers, what its benefits are and a few alternatives you can try.
How To Do Mountain Climbers
- 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.
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.
Mountain Climber Alternatives
If you have Mountain Climbers in your workout program and you need to make a substitution, for whatever reason, here are a few options that may fit.
Bicycle Crunches are basically an upside-down version of Mountain Climbers. The core work and hip flexor emphasis are both present with Bicycle Crunches.
What you’ll miss out on are the benefits gained by holding the push-up position, but if you’re unable to hold a push-up position (because of a wrist injury for example) then Bicycle Crunches are a great alternative.
Want an exercise that will get the heart rate up and the legs moving – try High Knees. They can be done in place if you’re short on space and they don’t require you to get down on the ground.
More Links and Info
Looking for more warm-up drills to add to your workout routine? Check out the Warm-up Section of our Exercise Library.