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The mountain climber's exercise effectively works the core muscles of the abdomen, quadriceps, and hamstrings while also strengthening the cardiovascular system. This plyometric exercise is performed by getting in the push-up or plank position with arms and body straight and palms of hands and toes on the floor. The exerciser pulls one knee toward the chest, resting the foot on the ground. Then, with a jumping motion, he switches the position of the feet, with the starting leg extended to the rear and the opposite knee pulled to the chest. The exercise is repeated, alternating legs quickly for about 20 to 30 seconds. During the exercise, the hands stay in their original position on the floor.
This exercise is so named because the motion resembles the leg motions used during climbing. Beginners can easily learn this exercise and perform it for longer periods as they advance and gain endurance. More advanced versions of the mountain climber's exercise are performed by pulling the knees closes to the shoulders during a repetition, keeping the torso lower and more horizontal and moving more quickly. This keeps the abdominal muscles constantly engaged and makes the exercise more difficult.
For more advanced exercisers, the mountain climber's exercise can be performed using a stability ball. Instead of arms straight with hands on the floor, the arms can be bent and forearms rested on a stability ball during the movement. This creates the added challenge of balance during the exercise. For even more of a challenge, the arms can be straightened and rested on the stability ball.
Beginners can make the mountain climber's exercise easier by elevating the hands on a small, sturdy step or bench. Those just starting out can perform the exercise more slowly to control heart rate. Range of motion can be decreased by making shorter jumps with the feet and not bringing the knees as close to the chest.
When performing the exercise, proper form involves keeping the weight evenly distributed between each foot and the hands. The hips should stay as low as possible during movement, and the knees should be brought in close to the chest, as close as possible to being directly under the shoulders.
The mountain climber's exercise is an effective full-body exercise. It is considered a plyometric exercise because of the explosive movements of the feet as they switch places. The movement also builds abdominal and arm strength by holding the muscle contraction statically. The rapid movement of the feet raises the heart rate and strengthens the cardiovascular system, bringing aerobic benefits.