Exercise of the month: Mountain Climbers

Marjie Gilliam is an International Sports Sciences Master certified personal trainer and fitness consultant.. Write to her in care of the Dayton Daily News, call her at (937) 878-9018 or send email to marjie@ohtrainer.com.

Mountain Climbers are a popular exercise for developing core strength. The core is a term used to describe muscles that assist in supporting and maintaining proper alignment of the spine and posture, and include the back and abdominals. Mountain Climbers also target the glutes and legs, and indirectly, help to tone arms.


Beginner: Using a stable surface, place your hands shoulder width or slightly wider apart, toes pointed toward the floor and legs straight, as shown in Photo 1. Bring your left knee toward your chest as far as possible, pause for a second or two, and then return to starting position (Photo 2). Switch to the other leg and repeat. Alternate in this fashion until you have completed 5 to 10 repetitions per leg. The number of sets performed depends on current strength. Engage the abdominals and low back and keep the hips from sagging toward the floor.

Intermediate/Advanced: Instead of elevating the body, Mountain Climbers can be performed on the floor. In this case, keep hands on the ground, engage the abdominals and quickly switch leg positions with no break between repetitions. Two variations are acceptable, either allowing the foot of the moving leg to touch the floor as legs are alternated, or, keeping the foot off the floor until the leg is straight again. All sets are performed to fatigue. Using advanced technique allows for building endurance and stamina in addition to core strength.


For best results, be sure to bring the knee toward the chest using the fullest range of motion possible while still maintaining good form.

Mountain Climbers may be performed using a stability ball to work more on balance and upper body strength. With this option, the hands or the forearms rest on the ball while the legs are in motion. The smaller the stability ball that is used, the greater the degree of difficulty.

As an alternative to counting the number of repetitions, a fun challenge is to time each set to see how many seconds you are able to continue the exercise. Being able to add seconds as you get stronger is a great reminder of how well you are progressing and helps to keep you motivated.

Keep in mind that not all exercises are right for everyone. If unsure, talk to your doctor before beginning a strengthening program.

Although core exercises can be performed every day, frequency depends on factors such as fitness level and degree of intensity. The greater the intensity, the greater the muscle breakdown and need for additional rest and recovery before the next workout.

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