A strong midsection helps improve posture

Abdominal exercises are a staple in most exercise programs and are important for keeping the area strong. Having a strong midsection goes a long way toward improving posture, protecting internal organs, and along with the low back, helping to keep the spinal column in alignment, Mountain Climbers are one choice for developing overall body strength. and because it requires use of both the upper and lower body, is a time efficient exercise. In addition, there is no equipment needed, making it ideal for home workouts.

How to perform:

Using an elevated stable surface, place hands approximately shoulder-width apart, toes pointed toward the floor and legs straight. Bring the left knee toward the chest as far as possible and then return to the starting position. Switch to the other leg and repeat. Alternate in this fashion until you experience muscle fatigue. The number of repetitions and sets performed depends on current strength. Engage the abdominals and low back and keep the hips from sagging toward the floor.

Intermediate/Advanced: Instead of elevating the body, Mountain Climbers can be performed on the floor. In this case, keep hands on the ground, engage the abdominals 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 until the leg is straight again. All sets are performed to full fatigue. Using the advanced technique allows for building endurance and stamina in addition to core strength.


Mountain Climbers may be performed using a stability ball If balance or increasing upper body strength is a primary goal. With this option, 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.

Using a speedy motion will provide greater intensity and cardiovascular benefits. Slowing it down, although it lessens the cardio aspect, allows time for focusing on proper form and going through a full range of motion with each and every rep.

An alternative to counting repetitions 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 marker of progress and helps to keep you motivated.

Training sensibly is key to long lasting success. Get to know your personal strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly. Although it may be tempting to take shortcuts, or follow the latest fad workout or diet, the best approach is one that works for your personal needs and goals. Keep in mind that not all exercises are right for everyone. If unsure, talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness program.

Frequency of workouts depends on factors such as fitness level and the degree of intensity. For beginners, 2 to 3 sets every other day is sufficient for most exercises. It should be noted that the majority of casual exercisers stop working the muscles too soon, underutilizing their strength potential. This often happens when counting repetitions. An example would be deciding that upon reaching 10 repetitions the set should end, rather than stopping the set when true muscle fatigue has occurred. Muscle fatigue should not be confused with muscle failure. Going to failure is not recommended and indicates all-out effort at any cost, including sloppy form, excess momentum, and increased risk of injury. On the other hand, training to fatigue means training smart, with good form and usually a slower more controlled speed of movement. The greater the intensity, the greater the muscle breakdown and need for additional rest and recovery before the next workout.

Along with regular strengthening exercises, a healthy diet and cardiovascular activity is the best prescription for reducing body fat and keeping it off long term.

Marjie Gilliam is an International Sports Sciences Master certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. She owns Custom Fitness Personal Training Services LLC. Send email to marjie@ohtrainer.com.

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