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Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers - How to Do Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are often used in HIIT workouts because they elevate your heart rate and engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making them an efficient way to burn calories and improve cardiovascular fitness. Mountain climbers can be adjusted in intensity by varying the speed and duration of the exercise.

According to Ash Wilking, certified personal trainer and Tonal strength coach as shared in the article from Well+Good, mountain climbers engage multiple muscle groups, providing a high-intensity, full-body workout. They strengthen the quads, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, core and upper body, including the arms, chest, back and shoulders. 

In This Exercise Guide

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Key Takeaways

Calorie Burning Powerhouse: Mountain climbers are a high-intensity exercise that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making them incredibly effective for burning calories and improving cardiovascular fitness.

Versatility and Adaptability: Easily adjustable in intensity, mountain climbers can be modified by varying speed and duration, making them suitable for individuals of all fitness levels and preferences.

Comprehensive Full-Body Workout: Mountain climbers provide a total body workout, targeting muscles in the core, shoulders, arms, chest, back, and legs, while also boosting cardiovascular endurance and strength.

How To Do Mountain Climbers

Courtesy of Charlee Atkins and Well+Good

Step-by-Step Guide

  • Start in a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from head to heels.
  • Engage your core muscles to stabilize your body.
  • Lift your right foot off the ground and bring your knee towards your chest, aiming to touch your right elbow.
  • Quickly switch legs, bringing your right leg back as you simultaneously bring your left knee towards your left elbow.
  • Continue alternating legs in a fluid and rapid motion, resembling the movement of running in place while in a plank position.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Avoid sagging your hips or lifting them too high, as this can compromise your form and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.
  • Keep your shoulders stable and avoid rounding your upper back to maintain proper alignment and reduce strain on your shoulders and neck.
  • Focus on controlled movements rather than speed, ensuring that each repetition is performed with correct form to maximize results and minimize the risk of injury.

Benefits of Mountain Climbers

Core Strengthening: 

Mountain climbers engage the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis, helping to improve stability and enhance overall core strength.

Cardiovascular Endurance

The dynamic nature of mountain climbers elevates heart rate, making them an effective cardiovascular exercise that boosts endurance and stamina.

Total Body Workout

Mountain climbers work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, including the shoulders, arms, chest, back, and legs, providing a comprehensive full-body workout in one exercise.

Calorie Burn

Adding mountain climbers into your workout routine can increase calorie expenditure, making them an excellent choice for individuals looking to burn fat and lose weight.


Mountain climbers can be modified to suit different fitness levels and preferences, whether you’re a beginner starting with slow and controlled movements or an advanced athlete incorporating plyometric variations for an added challenge.

Additional Tips

  • Experiment with different variations of mountain climbers, such as cross-body climbers or spider climbers, to target different muscle groups and keep your workouts fresh and engaging.
  • Include mountain climbers in circuit workouts or interval training sessions for an extra calorie-burning boost and a fun way to challenge yourself.

10 Variations of Mountain Climbers

Courtesy of Jen Ator & Women’s Health

Mountain climbers are a versatile exercise that can be modified in various ways to target different muscle groups and add variety to your workout routine. 

Here are some popular variations of mountain climbers:

  1. Standard Mountain Climbers: The basic version of mountain climbers involves alternating bringing your knees towards your chest while maintaining a plank position.
  2. Cross-Body Mountain Climbers: Instead of bringing your knees straight forward, cross your right knee towards your left elbow and your left knee towards your right elbow as you alternate your legs.
  3. Spider Climbers: Start in a plank position and bring your right knee towards your right elbow, then return to the starting position and repeat on the left side. This variation emphasizes oblique engagement.
  4. Single-Leg Mountain Climbers: Perform mountain climbers with one leg at a time, keeping the other leg extended behind you. This variation increases the challenge on the stabilizing muscles and core.
  5. Power Mountain Climbers: Perform mountain climbers with explosive movements, driving your knees towards your chest with more speed and power. This variation adds a plyometric element, increasing cardiovascular intensity and calorie burn.
  6. Slow Mountain Climbers: Perform mountain climbers at a slower pace, focusing on controlled movements and emphasizing the contraction of the core muscles throughout the exercise. This variation increases time under tension, enhancing muscle endurance and strength.
  7. Elevated Mountain Climbers: Place your hands on an elevated surface, such as a bench or step, and perform mountain climbers with your body at an incline. This variation increases the challenge on the upper body and core stability.
  8. Weighted Mountain Climbers: Wear a weighted vest or place weights on your back while performing mountain climbers to increase resistance and challenge your muscles further. Ensure proper form and start with lighter weights to avoid injury.
  9. Side-to-Side Mountain Climbers: Instead of bringing your knees forward, move them laterally towards your right elbow and then your left elbow in a side-to-side motion. This variation targets the obliques and adds a dynamic element to the exercise.
  10. Mountain Climber with Rotation: Perform a standard mountain climber, but as you bring each knee towards your chest, rotate your hips slightly to the side. This variation engages the obliques and enhances rotational stability.

Mixing these variations in your workout routine can help prevent boredom, challenge different muscle groups, and maximize the effectiveness of mountain climbers for overall strength and conditioning. 

As with any exercise, start with proper form and gradually increase intensity as you become more comfortable.

Calorie Burn Effect of Mountain Climbers

The calorie burn of mountain climbers can vary depending on several factors, including your weight, intensity of the exercise, duration, and individual metabolism. Generally, mountain climbers are considered a high-intensity exercise that engages multiple muscle groups and elevates heart rate, making them effective for burning calories.

On average, a person weighing around 155 pounds (70 kg) can expect to burn approximately 10-15 calories per minute performing mountain climbers at a moderate to vigorous intensity. This estimate may vary for individuals with different body weights and fitness levels.

To get a more accurate estimate of calorie burn, you can use fitness trackers or online calculators that take into account your weight, exercise duration, and intensity level. 

Keep in mind that while calorie burn is an important aspect of exercise, the overall effectiveness of mountain climbers extends beyond just calorie expenditure, as they also improve cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance, and core strength.

Effect of Mountain Climbers vs Other Exercises

Mountain climbers are highly effective for both calorie-burning and fat-burning due to their dynamic and intense nature. Here’s how they compare to other exercises:

  1. High-Calorie Burn: Mountain climbers engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, including the core, shoulders, arms, and legs. This full-body engagement results in a higher calorie burn compared to isolation exercises that target only one muscle group at a time. Additionally, the rapid movements of mountain climbers elevate heart rate, increasing calorie expenditure even further.
  2. High Intensity: Mountain climbers are typically performed at a high intensity, especially when incorporated into interval training or circuit workouts. High-intensity exercises like mountain climbers have been shown to stimulate a greater calorie burn during the workout itself and can also lead to an elevated calorie burn post-exercise due to the afterburn effect, also known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).
  3. Metabolic Boost: The intensity of mountain climbers can help elevate metabolism both during and after the workout. High-intensity exercises like mountain climbers can increase excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), leading to an elevated calorie burn for hours after the workout as the body works to restore oxygen levels and repair muscle tissue.
  4. Efficiency: Because mountain climbers engage multiple muscle groups and elevate heart rate simultaneously, they are an efficient way to burn calories and improve cardiovascular fitness in a shorter amount of time compared to traditional steady-state cardio exercises like jogging or cycling.
  5. Fat Burning: Mountain climbers are effective for fat burning because they not only burn calories during the workout but also promote lean muscle development. As you build lean muscle mass, your body’s metabolic rate increases, leading to more efficient fat-burning both during and after exercise.

While mountain climbers are highly effective for calorie and fat burning, it’s essential to incorporate a variety of exercises into your workout routine to ensure overall muscular balance and prevent plateauing. Additionally, nutrition plays a crucial role in fat loss, so pairing regular exercise with a balanced diet is key to achieving your fitness goals.


With its blend of strength, cardio, and versatility, mountain climbers are a powerhouse exercise that belongs in every woman’s fitness arsenal. 

Whether you’re aiming to sculpt a strong core, improve cardiovascular health, or simply add some excitement to your workouts, mountain climbers deliver results with every rep. So lace up your sneakers, hit the mat, and conquer your goals.

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