Mountain Climbers Are The Full Body Exercise You Can Do Anywhere

We explain how to do them and highlight common mistakes.

Alongside burpees, mountain climbers are one of the exercises in the gym that may initiate slight dread when you’re told to do it. This comes down to the fact it’s a full body exercise, which basically means it’s bloody hard.

Mountain climbers, also sometimes known as “running planks”, are a compound exercise, which is because - done correctly - they hit a number of different body parts (think glutes, hamstrings, quads, shoulders and abs, not to mention the cardio element to them).

“A mountain climber is one of the best bodyweight exercises around,” said Mark Briant, a PT who runs MobFit. “It’ll get your legs burning, abs on fire, shoulders going and your heart rate pumping.”

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How do I do a mountain climber?

Briant and Danielle Smith, PT and founder of, walked us through the process of completing a mountain climber:

- Picture yourself in a press up position, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders

- Keeping your torso and knees off the floor balance on four points; two hands and two feet (tuck the toes under).

- Keeping your body in a plank (avoid letting your bottom lift up) bring one knee forwards aiming towards your elbows, then return it back to your press up position and repeat on the other leg.

- Either go for a slow, controlled rhythm to maximise time under tension, or speed it up for a cardio blast.

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The dos:

- Realistically, if you’re a beginner, Briant said to start by doing 10-15 mountain climbers in a row. If you’re a little more advanced, sets of 25-30 is a good goal.

- Bring your knees as close into your chest, with a slight pause, for maximum ab work.

- Actively engage your core by drawing your naval in towards the spine, so your abdominal muscles will be getting a workout each time you alternate one knee forwards as it’s effectively a very short balance on three points, advised Smith.

- Keep your shoulders directly above your wrist so you really engage your shoulder muscles just by keeping yourself up.

The don’ts

- Briant said one of the most common mistakes he sees in his classes is people with their “bums in the air”, so make sure you have a nice straight back like a plank. Smith said this shape looks more like ab “downward dog” and doesn’t do anything beneficial for the core.

- Smith also said she often sees that people let their core drop down creating a “dish shape” which can be painful on the lower back and again, doesn’t work anything.

- If the mountain climbers become painful stop and ask an exercise professional to correct you.

Mountain climber sequences:

Try these out:

1. The three-minute “as many rounds as possible”

:: 5 push-ups

:: 10 mountain climbers

:: 15 squats.

2. The combination mountain climber workout

:: 10 lunges

:: 30 mountain climbers

:: 10 burpees

:: 20 jumping jacks. Repeat.

Before You Go

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