A full-body exercise, the mountain climber can be an excellent addition to a workout blending cardio and strength elements. With the correct technique, it elevates your heart rate while building the muscles in your legs, back, shoulders and core. Even though it’s rated an advanced exercise by the American Council on Exercise, a few simple technique changes can make it appropriate for all fitness levels.
Stand facing the side of a workout bench with wide, sturdy or flared leg supports that don’t wobble, with your feet hip-width apart. Lean forward, extend your arms and put your hands on the front edge of the bench, shoulder-width apart. Walk your feet backward until your body is straight from the top of your head to your heels and your hands are directly beneath your shoulders.
Keep your upper body still and arms straight as you slowly bend your right leg and bring your knee up toward your right arm as far as you can. Reverse your movement and repeat with your left leg and left arm to complete one rep. Perform one to two sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Pick up the pace once you feel comfortable with the marching-type movements. Add a little hop as you quickly bring each knee toward your arm. With this technique, both feet will momentarily be off the floor.
Place an exercise mat on the floor. Assume a pushup position with your legs extended behind you, arms straight, hands directly below your shoulders and your body straight.
Perform the exercise using a marching motion similar to Step 2 of the beginner technique. Do one to two sets of 10 to 12 reps. Once you're comfortable with this, add a quick hop and pick up the pace.
Make a slight technique change to perform cross-body mountain climbers. From a starting pushup position, bend your right leg and bring your knee up toward your left arm as far as you can. Reverse your movement and repeat with your left leg and right arm to complete one rep. Perform one to two sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Engage in stability ball mountain climbers to progress the challenge. Stand behind your ball, lean forward and put your hands on the top shoulders of the ball, about 20 inches apart. Walk your feet backward until your body is straight similar to an incline pushup position.
Control the wobbling of the ball and then bend your right knee, move it forward, touch the ball and return your foot to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg to complete one rep. Perform one to two sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Swap out your stability ball with a medicine ball. Put both hands on the ball and assume a pushup position. Use a marching motion similar to Step 2 of the beginner technique and perform one to two sets of 10 to 12 reps. Add a quick hop and pick up the pace once you get used to the movements.