Mountain Climbers are one of the most popular exercises for developing core strength. The core is a term used to describe muscles that assist in supporting and maintaining proper spinal alignment and posture, and include the back and abdominals. Mountain Climbers also target the glutes and legs, and indirectly, help to tone arms.
Beginner/Intermediate: Using a stable surface, place your hands shoulder width or slightly wider apart, toes pointed toward the floor and legs straight, as shown in Photo 1. Bring your left knee toward your chest as far as possible, pause for a second or two, and then return to starting position (Photo 2). Switch to the right leg and repeat. Alternate in this fashion until you have completed 5 to 10 repetitions per leg. The number of sets performed depends on current strength. Engage the abdominals and low back and keep the hips from sagging toward the floor.
Advanced: Instead of elevating the body, Mountain Climbers can be performed on the floor. In this case, keep hands on the ground, abdominals engaged and quickly switch leg positions with no break between repetitions. Two variations are acceptable, either allowing the foot of the moving leg to touch the floor as legs are alternated, or, keeping the foot off the floor. All sets are performed to fatigue. Using advanced technique allows for building endurance and stamina in addition to core strength.
For best results, be sure to bring the knee toward the chest using the fullest range of motion possible while still maintaining good form.
Mountain Climbers may be performed using a stability ball if better balance is a goal. In this case, the hands or the forearms rest on the ball while the legs are in motion. The smaller the stability ball used, the greater the degree of difficulty.
As an alternative to counting the number of repetitions, a fun challenge is to time each set to see how many seconds you are able to continue the exercise. Being able to add seconds as you get stronger is a great reminder of progress and helps to keep you motivated.
Not all exercises are right for everyone. If you have health concerns or an existing medical condition, talk to your doctor before beginning a strengthening program.
Although core exercises can be performed every day, if you are training with high intensity, it is best to allow a day of rest between working the same muscle groups to avoid the possibility of overtraining.