The mountain climber exercise does not only look intense. By challenging your body to safe extents you can get a variety of benefits.
While some of these benefits are more unique to mountain climbers than others, they can all make it worth considering this movement for your exercise routine.
1. Mountain climbers can benefit weight loss
Modern life makes it easier to gain too much body fat which is not good for human health. Luckily, you can still avoid getting to this point and lose the body and belly fat again.
To make this happen, you need to get in a situation where your body needs more energy than is coming in. In this situation, your body starts using energy stores like body fat to get the difference.
A popular way to approach this concept is by increasing the amount of energy (calories) you use with intenser movements like mountain climbers.
How many calories mountain climbers burn depends on many details which are not always easy to measure. At the same time, there are still a few rough estimations to give you an idea.
The average person burns around 118 to 203 calories while doing vigorous mountain climbers for 15 minutes.
If you consider that one pound (0.45 kg) of body fat is around 3500 calories, it becomes clear that you will need a lot of repetitions.
Just doing something like 100 mountain climbers a day will only take two minutes and will not help weight loss that much.
Even if you implement longer mountain climber workouts, keep in mind that the things you eat and other ways to burn calories still play a big role in the weight loss principle above.
2. Mountain climbers work a few muscles
For most people, mountain climbers will be a cardiovascular workout but it is fair to say that they will also work a variety of muscles.
Some of the muscles worked with mountain climbers include:
- Hip flexors (front hips)
- Glutes (butt)
- Hamstrings (back thighs)
- Triceps (back upper arms)
- Deltoids (shoulders)
You should likely not expect too much, if any, actual muscle growth from mountain climbers. For most people, the exercise will not be challenging enough for this.
However, engaging your muscles with mountain climbers can still offer benefits.
Some of these include improving muscle endurance, slowing down degradation, and improving muscle health.
In theory, you could wear a weighted vest or ankle weights to make mountain climbers more challenging for the muscles involved.
In practice, you should like see this benefit as a nice bonus to your cardiovascular workout and instead turn to weight lifting exercises for muscle-related fitness goals.
3. Doing mountain climbers can improve your mood
While your mood and thoughts may feel like very “mental” things, these are actually also influenced a lot by what you do with your body.
Additionally, after reading about all the other benefits, you will likely feel good about pushing through any energy-conservation instincts and doing the mountain climbers anyway.
Lastly, doing mountain climbers is typically also good for your general health. This tends to reduce your risk of negative conditions that negatively impact your mood.
4. Mountain climbers can improve cardiovascular health
As briefly mentioned, mountain climbers are typically a cardiovascular workout which means they will mostly be challenging for your heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
This is because the more challenging movements make it so your body parts need more oxygen and nutrients and produce more waste products.
If you work your cardiovascular system hard enough (but not too hard), this can actually start processes that make it stronger over time.
The option to make this happen is a benefit of mountain climbers because strengthening your cardiovascular system tends to reduce your risk of a variety of conditions that can be really bad (4, 5, 6).
One potential disadvantage of the mountain climbers exercise is that it is somewhat awkward to do at very high speeds.
If you really want to work your cardiovascular system as much as possible, certain mountain climber alternatives could be better choices.
Besides that, how many mountain climbers you should do to improve cardiovascular health is not the most precise.
Even just something simple like 15 minutes of mountain climbers at an above-average pace can benefit your cardiovascular system.
5. You can do mountain climbers almost anywhere
A downside of many exercises and sports is that they require equipment that it is not at-home-friendly or a specific sports field.
This is suboptimal in the sense that you have to spend extra time going to your local gym or another specific location.
The extra time you spend in one workout is not that much. However, even if you just work out 3 days a week, the amounts of time really add up.
That being said, one of the benefits of mountain climbers is that you can do them almost anywhere. You only need a small amount of room on the ground and you can start doing high knees in a plank position.
You may also notice that this makes it easier to stay consistent with your workouts. The extra transport time adds a surprising amount of friction.
Additionally, because you can do them anywhere, you could theoretically do a few minutes of mountain climbers whenever and wherever you have some spare time.
6. Doing mountain climbers could improve your sleep
Many people know they need more and higher-quality sleep because this is important for mood, cognitive function, and general health.
However, not everyone is aware of how they can actually make these things happen.
Something you do want to keep in mind is that doing intense mountain climbers right before you go to bed could actually reduce sleep quality and duration.
If you have the option, you likely want to keep your mountain climbers for earlier in the day. Preferably at least more than two hours before you plan to sleep.
7. Mountain climbers can improve your coordination
Mountain climbers are not the most complicated when it comes to technique but initially the timing of your body parts can feel somewhat awkward.
However, as you do them more and more, you will notice that you are better able to move your legs as intended. In simpler words, you are improving your coordination.
It would be interesting to see some type of study that investigates if this benefit in the mountain climber position also transfers to daily life.
In theory, this increase in coordination could help you avoid bumping into things and misstepping.
8. Improved cognitive function
Another mental benefit of doing mountain climbers is that they can improve your cognitive function in a few different ways.
In turn, brain plasticity is related to learning things faster, seeing the connection between things faster, and remembering things better.
Additionally, workouts like mountain climber sessions also tend to reduce cognitive decline. More specifically, implementing an exercise habit tends to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease (13).
In short, doing more mountain climbers could improve your performance in a variety of areas that benefit from good cognitive function. This includes academic performance, job performance, and much more.