Installment 8 of our MOVE WELL TO MOVE OFTEN education series: Mountain Climbers.
This is a GREEN corrective movement pattern that focuses on the knee traveling in a straight plane from the hip and aids to strengthens the hip flexors for hurdle steps, running mechanics, steps ups and all other sagittal plane movements. The mountain climber also involves the shoulders and core and may be considered a better exercise than crunches to strengthen the core.
Start on toes and hands with hands directly under the shoulder. The hand placement is KEY to execute this corrective properly. If the hands are under the face or extended farther away, you could actually hurt rather than strength the shoulders and torso. The line from the neck to the sacrum (tailbone) should form a table top or have a slightly bowed shape. This keeps the hips down and engaged. The body position does not resemble a pike or capital A, but rather has a flat profile.
From this position, bring the knee in a straight line toward the same side elbow, return to the starting position and repeat with the other side. Avoid rocking by keeping the knees traveling in a straight line and not crossing under the body. If you can only do a few mountain climbers with this proper form, then use a raised platform for your hands (like a box or racked barbell). The form is more important than “cheating” the movement. Your strength will increase as you focus on proper form.
To progress the mountain climber, slow the tempo and hold the knee at the elbow for 2 seconds. Once the core stability is strong, you can progress to moving the knee to the outside of the same side elbow OR bringing the foot toward the same side hand in a “spiderman lunge”. Only attempt to increase speed when these other progressions are mastered.