If you're looking for an all-inclusive exercise that offers an array of benefits and works multiple muscles throughout your body, the mountain climber is a quality choice. The mountain climber is an explosive exercise that requires contribution from muscles in your lower and upper body, as well as your core. Plus, because of its intense nature and the advanced body positioning required, mountain climbers effectively develop your cardiovascular system, burn calories, improve lower-body power and builds core strength.
The technique and intensity of the mountain climber is what makes it effective for providing a variety of fitness benefits. First, get into a pushup position with your hands placed directly underneath your shoulders. Flex one knee and bring it toward your chest so you can place the foot underneath your hips, which is considered the starting position. When you're ready, explosively switch the positions of your feet, driving the knee of your trail leg up to your chest and extending your bent leg. Your feet should hit the ground simultaneously. As soon as they land, immediately and explosively switch their positions again. Be sure that you hold your torso stable as you cycle your legs. Keep going for a total of 20 to 30 seconds.
Mountain climbers charge up your heart and breathing rates because your body has to work to provide your working tissues with oxygen and fuel. This type of stress develops your cardiovascular system, strengthening your heart and lungs, while also burning calories to support fat loss efforts. The mountain climber is an effective exercise for incorporating into a circuit workout in between less-intense, strength-training exercises because it will assist in keeping your heart rate up into the training zone.
Because of the explosive nature of mountain climbers, the exercise helps develop power in your lower body. Athletes commonly use mountain climbers in their warm-up segments to improve their speed and quickness and to prepare their neuromuscular system for an intense workout. Over time, mountain climbers will cause an increase in your lower-body explosiveness. If you'd like to use mountain climbers to improve quickness, stay on the balls of your feet and switch your leg position as quickly as possible.
Thanks to the contribution from your abdominals, obliques and muscles surrounding your hips, your torso doesn't sag to the floor during mountain climbers. These muscles isometrically contract, which means they contract to hold your torso in a stable position. The American Council on Exercise lists your rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis as two primary movers involved in the mountain climber. To incorporate the obliques as well, instead of driving your knee directly forward toward your chest, bring it across your body toward the opposite shoulder. To kick up the challenge on your core, perform the exercise with your hands placed on a medicine ball positioned at the center of your chest.
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.