Woman doing a mountain climber

How to do a mountain climber properly, according to a fitness trainer

Posted by for Strength

Get your core and cardio work done in one move. 

When it comes to exercises that burn, a mountain climber has to be top of the list. They might look simple, but they’re actually a deceiving form of cardio, endurance and strength.

Whether you use them as a finisher at the end of your strength session, in a HIIT circuit or as part of a superset, they are guaranteed to get you feeling sweaty. 

What are the benefits of mountain climbers?

Mountain climbers are first and foremost a form of cardio, which we know is essential for supporting your heart, says Strong Women ambassador Alice Miller. “They really get you out of breath, but they also have an added core strengthening benefit,” Alice says.

They also help with stabilisation of the shoulders and upper body and overall balance and co-ordination as you hold still in the plank position while transferring weight between the feet. 

How many mountain climbers should you do?

“It all depends on someone’s fitness level,” says Alice. “I would always do this for time rather than for reps as it’s cardio-heavy. With that in mind, maybe start with 20 seconds and work your way up until you can perform the move for 60 seconds. It’s very hard to hold a strong plank position for 60 seconds, so keep that in mind.”

Woman in plank
How to do a mountain climber

What muscles do mountain climbers work?

You’ll be stabilising through many core muscles during a mountain climber, including:

  • Abdominals
  • Shoulders
  • Hips
  • Back

How to do a mountain climber:

  1. Get into a high plank position. “Think about straight lines – we don’t want to have our bum in the air like in a downward dog, and keep your hands underneath your shoulders,” says Alice.
  2. From there, take one leg in towards the chest, return and do the same with the other leg. “It’s we’re marching our legs, or ‘climbing’,” says Alice.
  3. Take it slowly to begin with in order to maintain the plank position, bringing each leg all the way in to your chest and back down again before swapping.
  4. Once you’ve got that position, increase your speed so that your feet are jumping between reps.

What mistakes to avoid during a mountain climber?

The main issue here is, of course, falling out of that plank position. “This can happen if our hands are too far in front of our shoulders. When that happens, our hips fly up to the sky,” says Alice.

The other issue is not engaging the core as we go through the movement. It shouldn’t be a flailing leg situation: “Keep tension in the core and pull the leg up through the abdominal muscles,” Alice adds.

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Images: Getty

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).