How to do Mountain Climbers

How to do mountain climbers: a step-by-step guide

Want to learn how to do the perfect mountain climber? Read our step-by-step guide and master your technique for a great full-body workout that gets the blood pumping. No mountains required!

What are mountain climbers?

Also known as ‘running planks’, mountain climbers are a great way to work out almost your entire body and get your heart pumping. When done correctly, they’ll target key muscle groups in your legs, arms, and upper body, and they can be an effective cardio workout too. With no equipment needed, they’re a handy exercise to fit into your daily routine, whether you’re exercising at home, work, or the gym.

How to do mountain climbers step-by-step

Here’s the correct way to do a mountain climber.

  1. Start off in a plank position, making sure your weight is evenly distributed between your hands and your toes. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart, and your back should be flat with an aligned head to create a straight line all the way from your tip to your toes.

  2. Focus on activating your abs, keeping them tight throughout the exercise to really work your core.

  3. Bring your right knee up to your chest as far as you can, gently touching your toes to the floor. Make sure you keep your left leg extended behind you.

  4. Return your right leg to your starting position and ready to repeat the move with your left.

  5. Bring your left knee up to your chest as far as you can, just as you did with your right, and gently touch your toes to the floor. Again, remember to keep your right leg properly extended behind you.

  6. Continue alternating the movement between your left and right legs, aiming to do this quick, fluid movements.

Do's and Don'ts

  • DO keep your back straight.

  • DON’T allow your hips to rise and your back to round.

When done correctly, it should almost feel like you’re running on the floor, and to anyone watching it’ll look like you’re climbing an incline – but on a flat surface.

You can do these as fast or slow as you like but aiming for fast movements will elevate your heartrate and create an effective cardio workout. Just make sure you stick to your form and don’t skip important steps like touching your toes to the floor.

Mountain climber tips

  • Focus on keeping your abs tight and activated to feel the full benefits in your core.

  • Try to keep your back straight throughout, avoiding hunched shoulders or a bottom that rises into the air.

  • Keep your arms straight and your hands in place about shoulder-width apart.

  • Make sure you let your toes touch the floor when you bring your knees up. It can be tempting to skip this part if speed is your goal but doing so means you won’t get the full benefits – especially if you’re moving quickly.

  • Trying to align your breathing with your leg changes, inhaling when you bring up one knee and exhaling with the other.

Mountain climber benefits

When done correctly, mountain climbers are a great full-body and cardio exercise that help to build endurance, core strength, and agility.

You should feel the effects all over your body, with your shoulders, arms, and upper body working hard to keep you stable, and your quads getting the most action for an amazing workout.

And like we said, when quickly performed mountain climbers will really work to raise your heartrate, so you’ll get all the health benefits of a cardio exercise too.

Mountain climber variants

There are a few mountain climber variants you might like to try, including:

  • Low impact mountain climbers - most of the technique is the same, but keep your feet elevated when raising your knees instead of touching your toes to the floor. Please note – you should only do this with slow movements and not if you’re doing a fast workout.

  • Foot-switch mountain climbers – start from the same position, but when you bring your first knee up only touch your big toe to the floor. Jump-switch your feet, bringing your second knee up and your first knee back down at the same time.

  • Standing mountain climbers – for an extra cardio boost, try performing these while standing. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms by your sides, then bring your right knee up to your waist and extend your left arm above your head. Return to your starting position and repeat the move with the opposite site. Make sure you extend the opposite arm to whatever knee you’re lifting for each move.

Remember – you should never perform any workout if you’re not fully versed in the technique. If in any doubt, stick to standard mountain climbers or get in touch with one of our personal trainers for help.

Want to learn more?

Mountain climbers are a great full-body and cardio workout, but using the right technique is essential to seeing the full benefits and avoiding injury. If you need guidance, get in touch with one of our friendly personal trainers at your local Gym to help you perfect your routine and smash your fitness goals.

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