This is a guest post by my good friend Troy Pesola who is the founder of Cube Dweller Fitness. He helps cubicle dwellers learn to live life outside of the box. He has been a long time fan of the fitness bloomer movement and I’m happy to have him share some of his insights here.
Living in Colorado means being surrounded by mountains which is the perfect setting to think about mountain climber variations. When Srdjan published the Mountain Climbers Exercise For Building Core Strength article, I figured I would suggested some variations that I found work well to build endurance and core strength.
Back to Basics
Before we get to explaining the eight mountain climber variations, let’s go back over some basics. Check this video to explain two key form tips for performing the mountain climber exercise variations.
Note: If the videos are not showing, simply refresh the page and they will appear
It’s important to keep these two tips in mind:
- Arm Position - Your arms should be fully extended and vertical, with your hands directly below your shoulders.
- Straight Core - Your body should be in line. Make sure that your but doesn’t start raising up into the air nor sagging down causing your back to sway.
The mountain climber is the most effective exercise for combining cardiovascular and core training. But doing long series of mountain climbers can become drudgery and we don’t want that, so we want to mix it up. Try one of these mountain climber variations to spice things up.
8 Mountain Climber Variations
Here are the eight mountain climber variations. Each one engages your obliques, your hip flexors, and even your shoulders. All of them will work your cardio and your core.
#1 – Standard Mountain Climber
The standard mountain climber starts from a high plank (the starting pushup position), then alternate driving a knee towards your elbow on the same side. Drive your left knee towards your left elbow, return to starting position, then drive your right knee towards your right elbow.
#2 – Pushup Mountain Climber
The push up mountain climber variation can actually be combined with any form of mountain climber (except the standing mountain climber). To do the push up mountain climber simply perform a pushup every time you return to the starting position.
#3 – Cross-body or Cross-over Mountain Climber
The cross-body, or cross-over, mountain climber variation just changes where you drive your knee. Your knee will cross your body as you drive your knee towards the opposite elbow. For more twist you can even drive far outside your elbow twisting your torso on each repetition.
#4 – Spiderman or Hip-Mobility Mountain Climber
The spiderman, or hip-mobility, mountain climber is a variation where you bring your foot as close to your hand and plant it flat on the ground. This movement will require lots of mobility in your hip. Keep working to move your foot as close as possible to your hand on each repetition. The ideal form is to plant your foot flat on the ground next to your hand so your shin is parallel with your arm and vertical to the ground.
#5 – Jumper or Dual Hip Mobility Mountain Climber
The jumper, or dual hip-mobility, mountain climber is variation on the spiderman mountain climber where you move both feet. You will jump from the starting postion to a wide squat position with your feet just outside of your hands, then return to the starting position by jumping back.
#6 – Grasshopper or Full Cross-Body Mountain Climber
The grasshopper, or full cross-body, mountain climber is like the cross-body mountain climber except you extend your leg. This can be done keeping your leg bent, like in the video, or by fully straightening your leg. Aim to get your foot/leg as close as possible to the opposite hand.
#7 – Dawg Mountain Climber
The dawg mountain climber probably could use a better name, but there you go. This one is named after all the walking dawgs marking everything in site. Lift a leg and go. From the starting position, drive your knee forward, out, and up. The ideal form is to get your thigh parallel to the ground and your knee as far forward as possible. This will work your hips and your external obliques.
#8 – Standing Mountain Climber
The standing mountain climber is a deviant since you are … standing. Still it is a great variation from the basic mountain climber. From a standing position, raise your left hand reaching as high as you can, while driving your right knee up and out in a similar movement to the dawg mountain climber. Switch by pulling down with your left hand and reaching high with your right hand. At the same time, let your right foot fall to the floor, then drive with your left knee up and out.
Tabata Mountain Climber Workout
A great interval combo is combining bodyweight squats and mountain climbers in a tabata workout. Those two exercises combined into a high intensity interval training session will tax your whole body in just eight minutes. A tabata workout is based off the research of Dr Izumi Tabata. The Tabata protocol consists of eight rounds of 20 seconds of high intensity work followed by a 10 second rest period. So for this workout, set a timer for 16 rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. Do 20 seconds of bodyweight squats, rest for 10 seconds, then 20 seconds of mountain climbers, rest for 10 seconds, and keep going for a total of 16 rounds. By the end you will have worked for 8 minutes and done 8 work periods of each exercise. You’ll be toast!
The Mountain Climber - Best Cardio and Core Exercise
There you have it guys! Eight mountain climber variations. Try working these into your workouts or doing the squat/mountain climber tabata workout. Then let me hear from you. My personal favorite is the cross-body mountain climber, followed very closely by the dawg. Both of these really work the core. Which variation do you like best?