Mountain Climbers: A Cardio Bodyweight Powerful Move 

Many exercises promise an effective full-body workout. 
Among these, the mountain climber stands for strength and endurance. 

As a certified personal trainer, I’ll guide you through the explanation
of this dynamic bodyweight exercise.

Get ready to transform your workout routine!
Here’s what’s coming up. 

Main Breakdown 
Benefits of Mountain Climbers
The Muscles Worked
5 Common Mountain Climber Form Mistakes
5 Tips To Prevent Injuries
6 Variations Easy To Hard
4 FAQs About Mountain Climbers
Bottom Line 

Main Breakdown 

The mountain climber is a versatile powerhouse that engages multiple muscle groups, challenges your cardiovascular system, and can be tailored to suit fitness levels.

  • They can provide a comprehensive full body workout, which helps with burning calories and controlling your weight. 
  • Mountain climbers emphasize the six-pack muscles, quads, and the upper back, shoulders, and triceps. they are perfect exercises to do everyday.
  • To maximize the benefits of mountain climbers, prioritize controlled movements and proper form over speed and excessive bouncing.
  • Prioritize quality over quantity, maintain a consistent rhythm, and pay attention to your breathing for better mountain climbers. 

To Do A Mountain Climber:

Plank Position. Start in a plank position with hands under shoulders and body in a straight line.

Lift Knee. Lift your right knee toward your chest while maintaining the plank position.

Extend Leg. Quickly extend the right leg back to the plank position as you bring the left knee toward your chest.

Alternate Legs. Continue alternating leg movements, resembling a running motion in place.

Neutral Spine. Keep a neutral spine, avoiding any arching or curving of the back throughout the exercise.

Controlled Breathing. Coordinate breathing with the movements, inhaling as you bring the knee in, and exhaling as you extend the leg back.

Gradual Intensity. Start at a comfortable pace, gradually increasing speed as your form allows. Prioritize good form over speed.

Set Duration or Reps. Perform mountain climbers for a set duration (30 seconds) or a specific number of repetitions per leg.

Benefits of Mountain Climbers 

The benefits of mountain climbers go beyond the fact that it’s a no-equipment, bodyweight exercise. 

  • It’s a core strengthening movement that helps you achieve defined abs. This contributes to aesthetic benefits but also enhances support for daily life.
  • It boosts your cardiovascular endurance. Mountain climbers have a rapid and repetitive nature of mountain climbers elevates your heart rate. 
  • It activates multiple muscles for a full body exercise. This holistic approach ensures that various muscle groups work in synergy. 
  • It burns calories and helps with weight management. The combination of multiple muscles activating and heart rate elevating, helps to shred calories. 
  • It improves stabilization and coordination. The exercise demands control to bring the knees towards the chest in a plank position. 

The Muscles Worked 

mountain climbers

Mountain climbers primarily work the rectus abdominis, an important postural muscle known as the six-pack. 

You can get internal and external oblique activation if you bring your knees at a slight diagonal to your elbows instead of straight center to your chest. 

When bringing the knees forward to your elbows or chest, your quadriceps are activated through hip flexion. 

The plank position of mountain climbers works multiple upper body muscles.

The upper back muscles are activated by pushing into the ground. The shoulders and triceps are activated to stabilize your arms. 

Besides muscles, joints are also strengthened because of the weight bearing nature of mountain climbers. Wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles are all involved. 

5 Common Mountain Climber Form Mistakes 

5 common form mistakes for mountain climbers are follows: 

  • Moving too fast
  • Bouncing on toes
  • Taking butt too high
  • Dropping the hips
  • Not driving the knees

Moving Too Fast  

Control is everything in this exercise. Sure, rushing in the exercise is good cardio. But you want to maximize core activation by taking your time to be fluid with the right form. 

Bouncing On Toes  

This might make it a more difficult exercise, but not necessarily a better one. Bouncing takes the focus off the core and upper body, so don’t do it. 

Taking Butt Too High  

As the exercises progresses and you get tired, you can get into bad form by unstacking the arms and raising hips higher than shoulder. Raising your butt loses tension in the core.

Dropping The Hips 

Once fatigue settles the hips can dip, which makes it harder to drive the knees toward the elbows or chest. 

Not Driving The Knees  

Driving the knees activates the quads and imitates the explosive power of a sprinter. Driving knees and tightening the core work together with mountain climbers. 

5 Tips To Prevent Injuries 

5 tips to prevent injuries from mountain climbers are follows: 

  • Tuck your belly button 
  • Keep hands and arms stacked below your shoulders
  • No arch or curve in your back 
  • Keeps hips balanced in plank position – not too high and not too low
  • Pace yourself

Tuck Your Belly Button   

It all begins with tucking your belly button. Imagine pulling your bellow button towards the spine. It’s a subtle adjustment that engages your core muscles and provides a stable base.

Keep Hands & Arms
Stacked Below Shoulders   

This is key to preventing undue stress on your shoulders and wrists. The alignment distributes body weight evenly and minimizes strain.

No Arch Or Curve In Back    

A neutral spine is your ally. Resist the temptation to arch or curve your back during mountain climbers. Maintain a straight line from your head to your heels. 

You will safeguard your back and be super effective. 

Keep Hips Balanced In Plank Position

The perfect plank position should be neither too high or too low. A high hip position can give lower back strain. A low hip position can limit core engagement.  

Find the sweet spot where your body forms a straight line from head to heels. 

Pace Yourself    

It’s tempting to push your limits and increase the speed, but it’s better to do it right. 

Focus on quality over quantity by maintaining a consistent rhythm, and paying attention to your breathing. 

6 Mountain Climber Variations Easy To Hard 

Standing Mountain Climber (Easiest). No need to plank here. Just stand and lift your knees high up to get a good cardio workout. 

Elevated Mountain Climber (Easy). Elevate your hands by leaning against a wall, bench, or anything sturdy. This will reduce upper body fatigue and put the focus on the knee drive and core activation. 

Knee To Chest Mountain Climber (Medium). This is all about the knee drive up to the chest with focus. It focuses on the cardio push and ab activation of the workout. 

Knee To Elbow Mountain Climber (Medium). The knee drive to the elbow adds a diagonal shift that activates the internal and external obliques.

Mountain Climber With Alternating Shoulder Tap (Hard). The high plank position will challenge your core, and the shoulder tapping tests your stability. 

Mountain Climber With Plank Jack (Hard). This adds more cardio variation and leg movement into the mix. Your hip abductors and medial glutes get fired up as well. 

4 FAQs About
Mountain Climbers 

Who Should Avoid Mountain Climbers?    

While mountain climbers can be a beneficial exercise for many individuals, there are certain groups of people who may need to exercise caution or avoid this movement altogether.

Avoid mountain climbers if you have the following: 

  • Shoulder injury or instability 
  • Wrist or elbow injury or instability
  • Knee injury or instability
  • Pelvis injury or instability
  • Foot injury or instability
  • Abdominal surgery (from pregnancy) or injury 
  • Overweight to the point it causes discomfort or incorrect form 

Are Mountain Climbers
Bad For Your Knees?     

Mountain climbers are not bad for your knees as they are a joint-friendly and low-impact movement. 

To make mountain climbers even more non-impact, you can use exercise sliders to reduce all friction. If you have bad knees, however, mountain climbers should be avoided. 

How Many Mountain Climbers Should You Do
Per Day?   

Per day you can do 8-20 repetitions for 2 to 4 sets, where 1 rep is a knee driving with both legs. 

  • As a beginner, go for 8-10 reps for 2 sets. 
  • As an intermediate, take it to 10-12 reps for 3 sets. 
  • For advanced, do 15-20 repetitions for 3 to 4 sets. 

You can also take the timed approach. Start with intervals of 15 to 30 seconds. Then rest 10 seconds and get back into it. 

The more experienced you get, the longer intervals and shorter rests you can do. 

Can Mountain Climbers Replace Running?   

Technically, yes mountain climbers can replace running.

Any activity that increases heart rate and makes you breathe harder is considered an aerobic exercise. 

Mountain climbers are a stationary cardio exercise that works on your quickness and speed.

They are a great substitute for running because you can increase the intensity quite easily. 

Related Article: Doing Cardio On Rest Days

Bottom Line 

Mountain climbers are a great exercise to to build strength, improve agility, and promote heart health. 

Make sure to use the tips provided to ensure a safer and more effective workout. 

So the next time you lace up your workout shoes, consider incorporating mountain climbers into your routine. 


Shalom is a content creator, musician, and a teacher at heart. As a certified personal trainer, his goal is to encourage others to lead healthier lives and to get buff in the process!

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