Mountain Climbers for Beginners: An Easy to Follow Guide

Mountain climbers is a great exercise for beginners, and if you safely work your way up, you could easily be doing 100 to 500 mountain climbers per day.

Although mountain climbers can be hard for the typical beginner, it is an exercise that will work your abs, provide you cardio, help you lose belly fat, and provide the body with many health benefits. Mixing in mountain climber alternatives and variations will help your body burn calories, strengthen core muscles, and improve cardiovascular and heart endurance.

Although hard in the beginning, once you get used to mountain climbers, you will be able to see the before and after results of my 30-day mountain climber challenge at the bottom of this post.

First things first. Let’s go over how to properly do a mountain climber.

How do you do mountain climbers for beginners?

In order to do a mountain climber, put your forearms or hands and toes on the ground.

Lift your hips off the ground and hold your body in neutral spine and a plank or push-up position.  

Take one knee, pull it up to your chest and place it back to starting position, maintaining a strong and stable core.

Alternate legs until you complete the number or time you are going for.

If you do the mountain climbers on your forearms, you may have to lift your hips a little bit higher than center to make room for your knees to come through.

As a beginner, you should be doing this mountain climber exercise slow and controlled.

How do you make mountain climbers harder?

There are several things you can do to make mountain climbers harder.

First, pick up your speed a little week after week.

As you get stronger, go a little faster over time.

Second, you can do them more often over time.

Maybe the first month you do them twice a week. When the second month comes around, do them three times a week.

You can also do them for a longer period of time. Let’s say you start with 30 seconds. Once you get stronger, try 1 minute, then 2 minutes, etc.

Lastly, you can alternate mountain climbers with other challenging exercises or do a modified version of the mountain climber.

Always make sure you do warmup exercises before attempting this. You never want to do mountain climbers without warming up.

Mountain Climbers Exercise Benefits

Mountain climbers will provide your body with a multitude of health benefits.

Mountain climbers is one of the best exercises to increase core strength and stability.

The dynamic nature of the exercise makes your body work to keep it stable, forcing your ab, oblique, hip flexor and chest muscles to go though many contractions.

Next, mountain climbers is an exercise that is good for your heart and lungs and can increase your cardio capacity, forcing your body to work hard over extended periods of time.

You can also do the exercise with great intensity, making it an ideal HIIT exercise to help you burn calories and shed body fat.

How many calories do you burn doing mountain climbers?

Mountain climbers are an excellent exercise for burning belly fat and helping you to shed extra weight.

A 200-pound person will burn approximately 115 calories every 10 minutes of doing mountain climbers.

If you want to increase the calorie burn over time, you need to either work harder, faster, longer or more often.

What muscles do mountain climbers exercise?

A mountain climber is going to work several different muscles throughout the body.

The primary muscles a mountain climber will stress are your abs, obliques, hip flexors, chest and shoulders.

The secondary muscles a mountain climber will work are your quads, calf muscles, triceps, back, glutes and hamstrings.

Although you may think the abs will be getting the most work, many people will say their shoulders get the most work because they are holding your body in plank position for an extended period. This is one reason you may find mountain climbers so hard to do. This will also be the case if you’re a true beginner and have not exercised much in your lifetime.  

How many mountain climbers should i do?

You should do as many mountain climbers as you can do safely and effectively, with good form.

A moderate exerciser may go for 100 mountain climbers a day whereas an advanced exerciser may go for 500 mountain climbers a day.

A general rule of thumb is doing an exercise to fatigue, but only if you are able to do the exercise with proper body mechanics.

As a beginner doing mountain climbers, take it easy at first, especially if you think you can do more.

You need to prime your muscles and joints for the movement itself, so you don’t end up working too hard and injuring yourself, setting you back even farther.

This general rule of thumb also applies to how many sets you should be doing.

In the beginning, you may only want to do 3 sets of 10.

As you progress week to week, maybe you will increase to 5 sets of 20 or more.

Is it better to do mountain climbers slow or fast?

If you are doing mountain climbers as a beginner, it’s better if you start off slow.

Over time, you can increase speed as you get more used to the exercise.

You need to mountain climbers in a safe and controlled fashion in the beginning, and progress to more challenging sets as you go on.

Can mountain climbers give you abs?

Mountain climbers alone will not give you abs.

You need to incorporate the mountain climber exercise as part of an entire workout and diet routine.

Yes, mountain climbers are a great asset to help you burn calories and extra fat but will not work as the sole mechanism for weight loss.

Diet will be the greatest contributor in acquiring a 6-pack.

If you are wanting a good abs article, check out: How to Get a Six Pack in a Month

Is mountain climbers good cardio?

Mountain climbers will definitely work your cardio capacity.

You can do them as an aerobic or anaerobic exercise.

If you do them as an aerobic exercise, you will want to do them at a slow or moderate pace, and in a controlled manner, shooting for longer times.

If you are doing them as an anaerobic exercise, you will want to work very hard for a short amount of time and take a quick break.

You want to use this method in your HIIT workouts and if you’ve been working out at least a couple months prior to.

Either will work, it just depends on how you like to train and what your goals are.

Mountain climber alternatives and variations

There are many alternatives and variations you can replace mountain climbers with.

Variation #1 Bring your knees up to the sides instead of to the chest. This will focus the attention on the obliques.

Variation #2 Only do one leg at once, then switch. This will really challenge one side of the body, forcing your muscles to stabilize the imbalanced nature of the exercise.

Variation #3 Try cross body mountain climbers. This is where instead of pulling your knees straight up to your chest, you cross them under your body, aiming for the opposite shoulder.

Variation #4 If you’re a complete beginner, do mountain climbers standing. You can also put your hands on a wall or chair for extra support.

Variation #5 Do them on suspension straps or gliders. The suspension straps or gliders are going to make them much harder and force your body to stabilize that much more.

Alternative #1 Jump both knees in and out at the same time. This is a much more challenging exercise than the traditional mountain climber

Alternative #2 Do them while pushing a weighted sled. This will add an element of strength and endurance to the exercise.

Alternative #3 Alternate 10 mountain climbers with 2 pushups. This will challenge your core and chest area that much more.

Alternative #4 Put bands around your ankles and attach them to a pole. This will put extra resistance on the muscles themselves.

Alternative #5 Do tuck jumps. This will be a challenging exercise and should only be done if you’ve advanced to it.

30-Day Mountain Climber Challenge (For Beginners)

Before you start this mountain climber challenge, please make sure to always warmup, do the exercise slow and controlled, and drink plenty of water.

Day 1 – 3 sets of 10

Day 4 – 3 sets of 12

Day 7 – 3 sets, 20 seconds

Day 10 – 4 sets of 8

Day 13 – 5 sets of 6

Day 16 – 3 sets, 30 seconds

Day 19 – 4 sets of 12

Day 22 – 5 sets of 10

Day 26 – 2 sets, 45 seconds

Day 30 – 3 sets, 45 seconds

Summary: Mountain Climbers for Beginners

Mountain climbers is a challenging exercise for beginners, but if done right, can pay off over time giving you a stronger core, better cardio, while burning calories and belly fat. Make sure to start slow and safely, giving your body time to adapt, then pick up the pace over time. Try different variations and alternatives to make your workout more challenging and you will be will on your way to doing a proper set of mountain climbers as a beginner.

If you liked this article, find out if Push-Ups Good for Weight Loss.

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