Want More Burn From Mountain Climbers? Try These 4 Ab-Sculpting Variations

Incline mountain climbers are a good variation for beginners.
Image Credit: Kanawa_Studio/E+/GettyImages

Whether you love or hate mountain climbers, there's no debate that these ramped-up running planks provide a powerful ab workout. As both a cardio and strength exercise, mountain climbers challenge your core stability while delivering a potent plyometric burst to increase your heart rate and burn calories.

The exercise's explosiveness means it doesn't take long to feel the burn in your midsection. But over time, even mountain climbers can become less effective as your body adapts and you build strength and endurance.

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Once you've mastered the standard mountain climber, you can refresh your fitness routine and dial up the intensity with these four sweat-inducing variations for stronger, sculpted abs.

First, Master the Standard Mountain Climber

JW Player placeholder image
Time 30 Sec
Type [ "Cardio", "Strength" ]
  1. Press up into a high plank like you're about to do a push-up, with hands beneath your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
  2. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and anchored to the floor on the balls of your feet.
  3. Keep your hips level and don't let your lower back sag.
  4. Bring your right knee into your chest, engaging your abs at the same time.
  5. Return your right knee to starting position.
  6. Bring your left knee into your chest, then shoot it back, switching legs at your desired pace.
  7. Keep your breath steady throughout the exercise, breathing in and out through your nose.

Now Try These 4 Ab-Burning Mountain Climber Variations

"Mountain climbers are great for your lower abs but even better to get your heart rate up," says Tatiana Lampa, CFSC, NASM-CES, creator of the Training with T app.

One way to get your heart pumping faster (and your body working harder) is by speeding up the movement, she says. Think: quick, powerful knee drives to the chest. Just be sure your form doesn't falter.

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Incorporating other variations will also increase the intensity of mountain climbers for an even tougher ab workout. You can add almost any move that starts in a plank position including push-ups, plank jacks, shoulder taps or bear crawls, Lampa says.

This engages more muscles and forces your core to work overtime to stabilize your body while it also boosts your heart rate, torches more calories and improves your strength and endurance.

1. Wide-Stance Mountain Climber

1. Wide-Stance Mountain Climber
Image Credit: Tatiana Lampa/LIVESTRONG.com
Time 30 Sec
Type [ "Cardio", "Strength" ]
  1. Start in a high plank, hands underneath shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
  2. Step your right foot next to your right hand, pressing your whole foot into the ground.
  3. Bring your right foot back to your plank.
  4. Then quickly switch feet, bringing your left foot to your left hand.
  5. Continue to alternate legs.

Tip

To make the move more challenging, speed up the pace.

2. Spider-Man Push-Up

2. Spider-Man Push-Up
Image Credit: Tatiana Lampa/LIVESTRONG.com
Reps 10
Type Strength
  1. Start in a high plank, hands underneath shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
  2. Bend your arms and lower down into a push up. At the same time, bend your right knee and bring it toward your right shoulder, engaging your oblique muscles.
  3. As you come up from your push up, return your leg to the ground in starting position.
  4. Repeat the move, alternating legs with each rep.

3. Cross-Body Mountain Climber

3. Cross-Body Mountain Climber
Image Credit: Tatiana Lampa/LIVESTRONG.com
Time 30 Sec
Type [ "Cardio", "Strength" ]
  1. Start in a high plank, hands underneath shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
  2. Keep your hips level and don't let your lower back sag.
  3. Drive your right knee across your body toward your left elbow.
  4. Return your right leg to the starting position.
  5. Drive your left knee across your body toward your right shoulder.
  6. Return your left leg to the starting position and continue to alternate sides with each rep.

4. Reverse Plank Mountain Climbers

4. Reverse Plank Mountain Climbers
Image Credit: Tatiana Lampa/LIVESTRONG.com
Time 20 Sec
Type [ "Cardio", "Strength" ]
  1. Sit with legs extended and place your hands slightly behind you.
  2. Lift your hips into alignment with your legs and chest. Rest on your heels and palms, fingers spread. Point your fingers toward your feet instead of away, as in a traditional plank.
  3. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to hips to feet. And your hands should be directly under your shoulders.
  4. Drive your right knee to your chest, then return it to starting position.
  5. Switch legs, bringing your left knee toward your chest.
  6. Continue alternating with each rep, careful not to let your hips drop.

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