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Paige Waehner

Exercise of the Week: Mountain Climbers

By May 15, 2012

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Climbing a mountain is no easy feat, but what if that mountain is actually the floor? That's the concept of this week's exercise which asks the question: What happens when you get on the floor and run your knees in and out as fast as you can? The obvious follow up to that is to wonder why someone would want to do this and the answer to that is: Because you can (although, if you really can't, I have some variations below).

Mountain climbers are an excellent move for building cardio endurance while also building core strength and agility. This is also a great move when you don't have much (or any) equipment and want a challenging way to work your body.

There are a couple of ways to do this move. One, is to run the knees in and out without touching your toes to the floor. Another is to do the opposite and touch your toes to the floor, making it more of a foot-switch than a run. If this move doesn't agree with you, you can take it slow and simply walk one foot forward into a low lunge, walk it back and switch legs. I also have a gliding disc version that might work for people who need less impact.

Work this into your usual cardio routine or add it to other cardio exercises to make your own high intensity circuit workout.

Do it right: Begin in a pushup position on the hands and toes. Bring the right knee in towards the chest, resting the foot on the floor. Jump up and switch feet in the air, bringing the left foot in and the right foot back. You can also run the knees in and out rather than touching the toes to the floor. Continue alternating the feet as fast as you safely can for 30-60 seconds.

mountain climer

April 14, 2009 at 3:19 pm
(1) Brad says:

Paige! Oh man…I remember this evil exercise from high school sports…along with “burpees” and “reindeers”. Not very pleasant memories either. All of those exercises had a nasty little habit of quickly bringing me to the far edge of nausea. I can remember seeing more than one guy lose his breakfast/lunch during the insanely vigorous pre-football season event known as “hell week”. Since I’m just getting over 2 weeks of that wretched flu, all I can think of is, “Mountain climbers? Gug…gug…blorch!”

April 14, 2009 at 6:37 pm
(2) Scot says:

What are “Reindeers”?

April 14, 2009 at 7:57 pm
(3) JP says:

Yep, gotta love those mt climbers. They kick a–!

April 14, 2009 at 10:38 pm
(4) nancy says:

ya what are reindeers

April 15, 2009 at 12:24 am
(5) Brad says:

“Reindeers”: starting from either goal line on the field, coach blows whistle, everyone sprints, coach blows whistle again (about 10-15 yrds in), everyone dive forward “superman-style” and land on ground, coach blows whistle again, get up – everyone sprint, coach blows whistle again, dive forward “superman-style” and land on ground; repeat until length of football field traversed. Then turn around and come back down the field the same way. Fortunately, we were wearing full pads, but still pretty brutal.

April 15, 2009 at 9:09 pm
(6) andrea says:

aghh im in the army and these are waaay too familiar. they are a great workout though!!

April 15, 2009 at 9:14 pm
(7) Scot says:

Thanks Brad, that does sound brutal. That is about as fun as carrying your wrestling partner on your back around the mats and then going right in to 5 Michigan Staters: 5 jumping jacks, 5 push ups, 5 regular sit ups and 5 mountain climbers, repeat until the coach is tired!!

April 16, 2009 at 10:56 am
(8) Trisha says:

You should try these on a stability ball – if you’re unsteady at first, push ball against the wall. You’ll work your core, heart, and legs. OUCH!

April 17, 2009 at 6:25 pm
(9) Brad says:

YW Scot. What are “Michigan Staters”. Do they involve snow (LOL)? Trisha, you’re wicked girl! I’ve never met anyone who thought mountain climbers needed to be harder! =P

May 15, 2012 at 5:48 am
(10) Coach Jimmy says:

Minardi Training Endorsed ! We do those every session.

May 19, 2012 at 12:06 am
(11) Donna says:

I love the climber its just like run but your not going anywhere.

May 19, 2012 at 12:09 am
(12) Dona says:

I do a lot of climber. Thanks for all the info.

May 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm
(13) Danielle says:

I love mountain climbers. I do Insanity which has me doing it sometimes.
Insanity’s version is called floor sprints. I just start with a plank, bring my knee to my chest, touch my toe to the floor immediately repeating with the other leg Insanity floor sprints are usually done with push ups so its the easier part of the drill.

May 21, 2012 at 10:35 pm
(14) elizabeth says:

For someone who has an Acl repair on one knee and had arthroscopic surgery on the other one….this is not so good. What about the sliding disc might that be the way to go? Or just skip this one?

May 22, 2012 at 9:47 am
(15) Laura says:

I only use these occasionally in my classes and with my clients because they’re too intense for most folks and I like to keep things challenging yet not overly intimidating so they keep coming back! That said, I incorporate mountain climbers, push-ups, and burpees (and all their wonderful & butt-kicking variations!) into almost every workout I do. I now have more definition in my upper body than ever before, and I’m 42! As a pilates instructor, I also love how they’re great for your core – challenging your core muscles to be stabilizers under ‘stress.’ Want definition in your abs? Ditch the crunches – mountain climbers all the way.

May 22, 2012 at 10:08 am
(16) Laura says:

Elizabeth, I would suggest the discs for sure. You can place your feet on discs, towels, or paper plates and then slide your legs back and forth in a runner’s motion. You could also just bring alternating bent knees in toward your chest, and do it as fast as you can without going plyo. Another variation is to hold plank and step side to side with your legs. Or, put your feet on discs again and slide legs open and closed (like jumping jacks without the jumping!); do one leg at a time, out to the side and back in, for an easier version. Another – bend knees and slide both feet up toward your right hand, back to plank, then up toward your left hand, etc. And for a modified version of any of these, elevate your torso by placing your hands on a bench – or even a wall for beginners. Then bring bent knees to chest. I like to cue to keep the torso stable – as little movement as possible in the arms and chest. Hold that in place as you do movement with legs and hips. Shoulder joints are easy to injure, so it’s good to start with shoulders directly over hands and then stabilize those joints.

May 22, 2012 at 5:53 pm
(17) running4fun says:

Oh Laura,

This is something that drives my crazy about health clubs, ” too intense”. Not every person is made out of a cookie cutter. Tell the “most folks” to suck it up.

July 8, 2012 at 5:18 am
(18) CuriosityKilleddTheeKitty says:

Danielle does Insanity actually give you the results like in the commercial ? Ive seen it quite a few times and not sure if its one of those workout that gives the results in the before && after pictures on the commercial.

February 17, 2013 at 10:05 pm
(19) Yelennis says:

I was doing the mountain climbing excersize, I stretched my left too far and felt like I popped my knee. I can walk but have lots of pain when I try to walk up the stairs. I can put weight on my left leg but cannot take the pain when I bend. It feels like my tendons are sore. It’s been a week, I haven’t seen a doctor because I don’t think anything is broken. Any suggestions?

February 18, 2013 at 11:25 am
(20) Jen says:

Yelennis, please! go see a doctor! Its not normal to not be able to walk up steps after a week. A bone may not be broken, but a tendon might. And if you don’t heal right, it will only cause you more troble as you get older.

July 9, 2013 at 2:13 am
(21) kayce says:

Hey Yelennis, Im having the same problem as you. And I advise you to go see a doctor asap. Its been over a year and I never went to see the doctor and now its still hurting…

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