Health & Fitness

One exercise that targets whole body - VIDEO


AV Fitness Trainer Justus Ngumi demonstrates a Cross Mountain Climber. FILE PHOTO | NMG



  • If there is one exercise that you ought to do daily, it is mountain climbers.
  • The exercise can be performed anywhere, be it at the gym or home.

If there is one exercise that you ought to do daily, it is mountain climbers. The exercise can be performed anywhere, be it at the gym or home.

However, that is where its simplicity stops. It is one of the single best full-body workout that strengthens the abdominal area, improves physical fitness and burns calories at one go.

The workout targets the entire body but specifically, the muscles around the arms, shoulders, thighs, stomach and the back.

How to perform mountain climbers

Go into a push-up position with hands on the floor, back flat and core tight. The body should be in a straight line from head to toe.

Drive the right knee, without moving the left one, up to the chest in one smooth motion then extend it back to the starting position.

Switch the legs while keeping your arms in the same position. Continue this back-and-forth pattern for the specified reps or duration.

“Executed in a plank position, one will be alternating the knees bringing one knee to the chest, then back out again, speeding up each time,” says Justus Ngumi, a trainer at Active Virgin (AVfitness) centre in Kilimani, Nairobi.


Mountain climbers are good because they work on the core and the lower body targeting the abs, obliques— the largest and outermost of the three flat abdominal muscles — and the quads.

During the workout, the movement of the shoulders, arms, and chest work to stabilise the upper body, the core stabilises the rest of your body while the quads are also exercised.

“Being a total body workout, mountain climbers have a range of benefits including cardio, joints and core strength, core stability, and agility,” he explains.

The trainer points out that the exercise is a cardio exercise. As the heart rate is raised during the exercise, one also burns calories.

There are different types of mountain climbers:

Elevated mountain climbers


This involves using a box or a chair to achieve an elevation raising the body at an angle. Put the arms on the raised structure but make sure your body aligns with the chest.

The spine should be in a flat position. Move the knees towards the chest in an alternating manner increasing speed as time goes by.

“This modification focuses on the core muscles as the elevation will put much stress on the shoulders and the chest thus targeting the core muscle.”

Army crawl mountain climbers

For this variation, get into a forearm plank position with a neutral spine and hands curled into fists. Bend your right knee moving your right foot toward the right elbow.

Still maintaining the same position, bring the left arm forward then bend your left knee moving your left foot toward your left elbow and bring your right arm forward.

Place your left foot over your right foot to get into a forearm side plank with your body facing the left side.

Engaging your core for balance, lift your left hand to the sky with your fingertips reaching for the ceiling. Return to the starting position and begin the exercise on the left side this time.

“This type of mountain climbers imitates treading through mud and barbed wire thereby engaging your abdominal muscles, obliques, shoulders, and arms while also challenging your stability,” he explains.

Unstable mountain climbers


This involves performing the mountain climbers on an unstable surface. To achieve this, one can use a medicine ball, Bosu ball or basketball, or football. The ball will move to create instability.

The instability can also be achieved by placing the feet in suspension straps creating instability forcing the core to create stability.

“This works the core muscles as placing your hands on a medicine ball makes the exercise unstable, which increases the demand on your core muscles and shoulders to maintain balance and stability.”

Plank jack mountain climbers

Get into a high plank position with the shoulders and the hands aligned. Using your lower abdominal muscles, do three jumping jacks, landing softly on the balls of your feet. Keep your upper body still and your shoulders and triceps engaged.

Bring your feet together and hop forward to meet your hands. Stand up tall and repeat.

“This workout not only tests the limits of your heart rate but also works your abs, thighs, and glutes,” says Mr Ngumi.

Cross-body mountain climbers

Start in a high plank position maintaining a stable spine. Then pick up your right foot bringing the right knee towards the left elbow before returning to the starting position.

Pick up your left foot, and bring your left knee towards your right elbow then return to the starting position. Continue to alternate sides.

“Moving the legs in opposite directions creating an X-like formation targets the oblique muscles as the movement challenges your core to prevent rotation of your body.”

Banded mountain climbers

Here, one can use a mini-band band wrapped around the feet to offer resistance during leg drive forcing a slower and more deliberate leg action.

“This is better for building stronger, toned hips, especially the hip flexors,” says Mr Ngumi.

Mistakes to avoid

Mr Ngumi warns against committing the following mistakes while performing mountain climbers as they can lead to injuries.

Failing to touch the ground with the toes while bringing the knees towards the chest when speeding leading to an incomplete movement.

Hand placement: The hands should not be placed away from the body but right under the chest. Failure to which, the shoulder will be stressed can lead to injuries.

Lack of breathing: Most people fail to alternate inhaling and exhaling with each leg change by sometimes holding their breath.

Shifting your weight back: Some people fail to keep their weight balanced and shoulders over the wrists hence shifting their body weight back ending up in a down-dog kind of movement. This leads to bad posture which can lead to spinal or back injuries.

Bouncing up and down while making the movements may put stress on your lower back.

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