Mountain climbers are one of the critical and essential parts of bodyweight training.
I always advise people to include mountain climbers for their ability to target the upper and lower body parts. It also provides an aggressive cardio workout for a quick high-intensity workout session at home.
Here I am going to provide the details of the exact muscles which work during the mountain climbers. It shall help you in understanding the muscles that need to be focused on.
Thereafter, I shall introduce to the several kinds of variations by using resistance bands with the mountain climbers.
By the end of this article, you shall be able to do the mountain climbers with any type of resistance bands you have.
So how to do resistance band mountain climbers? The resistance bands can be used to resist the legs movement by wrapping them around the feet. Alternatively, the exercise bands can also be wrapped around the upper back to increase the engagement of abdominal muscles. In any case, we need to hold a plank position with arms extended. After that, flex the knees alternatively while bringing them close to the chest by contracting hip flexors.
Let us learn the behavior of the muscles engaged in the movement and other variations of banded mountain climbers with their limitations and benefits. There are dozens of insights in this article to avoid injuries with intense exercise such as mountain climbers.
❝ Hi, I am Ravi, your companion and a passionate fitness athlete, cyclist, runner, gym enthusiast who just loves the concept of resistance bands for their extreme flexibility. I have been using resistance bands as one of my primary fitness equipment for the last many years ❞
Let us begin –
What are the exact muscles that are targeted during mountain climbers?
The mountain climbers are an updated version of the plank exercise. The posture we maintain during a plank becomes the base for mountain climber exercise.
Here are the muscles that are targeted with mounting climbers-
Rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis muscles-
Do not get intimidated by the names of muscles. The rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis muscles are the groups of abdominal muscles that surround your stomach area.
The transverse abdominis muscles are the inner layer of abdominal muscles that surround the abdomen. Whereas the rectus abdominis muscles are the long muscles that originate from the lower part of the rib cage and ends at the pelvis bone.
Many of you must not have heard about the iliopsoas muscle. However, you must have heard about hip flexors. Iliopsoas muscles are the scientific name of muscles, which are also referred to as hip flexors.
The iliacus muscle is a group of two muscles, namely iliacus and psoas major muscles. The iliacus muscles originate from the hip bone and end at the femur (thigh bone), whereas psoas muscles originate from the lower spine and end at the femur (thigh bone).
While abdominal muscles and hip flexors act as the primary muscles, there are several other muscle groups that work in synchronization with these muscles to assist you in making the explosive movements of mountain climbers.
The lower body muscles such as quadriceps muscles, hamstrings, calf muscles work very closely to the intensity of hip flexors and abdominal muscles. Whereas the upper body muscles of the chest, upper back and arms work as stabilizing muscles in isometric mode (active engagement without a change in length)
How primary and stabilizing muscles help you make movements of mountain climbers?
Now you well understand the basics of the muscles that work during mountain climbers. Now let us know how these muscles extend and contracts during mountain climbers.
Once you can visually imagine the muscles contracting during a workout, it shall be much easier for you to understand the technique and avoid loopholes.
Here are the steps in which different muscle groups are employed during mountain climbers-
1) Muscles behavior during plank position-
Initially, during mountain climbers with the resistance bands, we need to hold the body in a plank position with the elbows extended and toes pressing against the ground.
During this position, the primary challenge is to prevent the lower abdominal area from sagging towards the ground. To prevent this from happening, the rectus abdominis muscles pull the rib cage towards the hip.
Meanwhile, the transverse abdominis muscles (inner abdominal muscles) need to squeeze inwards towards the spinal area for keeping the spine along with rib cage from falling.
To prevent the hip from giving way, the hip flexors muscles (iliacus and the psoas muscles) pull the lower spine towards the thigh bone (femur). In addition to the above, the quadriceps muscles also need to contract isometrically (no change in length) to avoid the upper legs from sagging towards the floor.
2) Muscles behavior during the lower body movement in mountain climbers –
When we move our legs explosively towards the chest area in an alternate manner, the hip flexors must work harder to pull the upper leg towards the upper body.
The abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis) also have to work rigorously to keep the middle body in line with the chest, neck, and toes.
? FACT –
During mountain climbers, it is always instructed by the coaches to keep the abdomen tight and squeezed. Here, in technical terms, it means that the transverse abdominis muscles need to be contracted by pressing them towards the lower spinal area.
That is the reason, for newcomers, due to lack of practice, awareness, and weakness of abdominal muscles, the bodyweight pushes the spine towards the ground.
Types of resistance bands assisted mountain climbers-
Some of the readers here might be having pull-up assist power bands, while some others may have mini loop resistance bands (booty bands) or tube resistance bands.
Do not worry! I have the variation of mountain climbers with each of the major types of resistance bands.
So let us begin with mounting climbers using booty bands.
1) Mountain climbers using mini loop resistance bands-
Here are the exact steps that we need to take while doing mountain climbers with mini loop resistance bands-
- Wear a mini loop resistance band of an appropriate size around the ankles.
- Bring the body in a plank position with the elbows in extension mode (straight). Keep your hands and toes pressed against the floor.
If you experience extreme pressure on wrists, you can also grip the dumbbells or an elevated surface instead of the floor to keep wrists in a neutral position.
- Keep your transverse abdominis muscles squeezed towards the spine to avoid dangerous curving of the spine.
During the plank position, the bodyweight pushes the back and butts towards the floor due to gravity. If your abdominal muscles are weak and cannot hold the spine in a neutral position, you should not be practicing plank and mountain climbers in the first place.
There are several floor exercises such as crunches, leg raise, straight-leg sit-ups, which should be practiced to develop abdominal strength. Only then, the various plank variations can be tried.
? Here is the one such article where I explained resistance band assisted sit-ups with complete details for beginners and advanced athletes – Correct Ways To Do Sit-Ups With Resistance Bands – Assisted | Resisted
- Now that you are in a plank position, it is time to move one knee just beneath the chest area of the same side by stretching the mini loop hip band. To perform this action, as described earlier, the hip flexors need to be contracted and pull the femur (thigh bone) towards the spine with the assistance of rectus femoris muscles.
Just in case, your hip flexors are weak, you will not be able to do a high number of repetitions. Better strengthen the hip flexors through exercises that involve rotation of hip joint through safer ways.
- Try to bring the knee as close to the chest as possible by stretching the mini loop band depending upon the strength of hip flexors while keeping the other leg extended (straight).
- Now, bring the flexed leg (bent at knee joint) back towards the original position.
- Perform a similar movement with the other leg as well while engaging the mini loop band is a similar fashion.
- Perform 10 to 15 repetitions for each set. Do 3 to 4 sets of the above exercise.
It takes negligible time to set up mini loop bands around the ankles and start exercising.
Limitation of mountain climber using mini-loop band –
The major limitation associated with mountain climber using hip circle bands is the inability to increase the velocity of moving legs towards the chest. The booty bands may slip from the feet during explosive movements of legs.
As such, this exercise is only suitable for beginners.
? Possible Solution –
Why not wrap a mini loop band around the thighs instead of the ankle. It feels more comfortable than wearing a band around the ankles. Further, you can speed up the mountain climber intensity a bit.
Alternatively, use a fabric loop band instead of the latex rubber bands, which are wider and come with a better grip.
There is another variation possible for mountain climber exercise by making a slight change. Here, instead of bringing the knees alternatively towards the chest, simply direct them outwards near each side of the shoulder.
The above variation helps you engage internal and external obliques more effectively.
2) Banded mountain climber using tube resistance bands-
In case you possess cylindrical tube resistance bands, they can be effectively used for mountain climbers.
Here, we need to wrap a pair of ankle cuffs around the legs. Then, just anchor the tube resistance band through the centre in some door or an object. Clip the radial ends of the tube resistance bands around the ankle cuffs.
Now, just follow the steps already mentioned in the previous exercise and get a nice burn, you deserve.
The main benefit associated with mountain climbers using tube resistance bands is the ability to accelerate the legs movement as much as we can. There are no chances of slipping of tube resistance bands as in the case of mini loop resistance bands.
? Limitation –
It consumes time to set up tube resistance bands before we can start doing mountain climbers.
? IDEA –
Why not wrap the tube resistance band around the upper back instead of the ankles. Just press the ends of the tube resistance bands against the floor using both hands.
The only difference here shall be the shift of focus from hip flexors to the abdominal muscles, which needs to work much harder to stay the body inline against the resistance of tube bands.
? Some users feel uncomfortable while doing banded mountain climbers with the above method.
This article on banded push-ups on Unique Addict explains the various innovative ways to deal with similar discomfort – Best Methods To Perform Banded Push-Ups – Practical | Prevent Rolling
3) Mountain climbers using power loop resistance bands-
The power loop bands are also referred to as pull-up assist bands or only flat bands. The set-up of power loop bands is quite similar to the tube resistance bands.
Just anchor the power loop bands at the mid-length around some pole or door anchor. Loop the two ends of the flat band through the toes of both feet, and you are good to go.
? Limitation –
We are not able to freely move our legs (similar to the mini loop resistance bands) due to the chances of slipping of power bands from the feet.
? Possible Solution –
a. If you have a pair of ankle cuffs (a part of tube resistance bands kit), then just wrap them around the ankles. Attach the loop ends of the power loop bands to the ankle cuffs through the clips.
The only limitation with this method is the increased time for setting the loop bands before you can start climbing mountains like a pro.
b. Wrap power loop band around the upper back instead of the toes while pressing the loop ends against the floor. However, the primary muscles affected by the resistance bands become the abdominal muscles instead of the hip flexors.
One of the best alternatives to the frequent slipping of loop bands from the feet during mountain climbers is the ankle training resistance bands, which come with a pair of ankle cuffs and a waist belt. These creative bands system provides a dynamic workout during lower body movement while walking, jogging, and other leg workouts, including mountain climbers.
? Here is one such booty training band from Unique Addict.com
Other variations of the banded mountain climbers –
Other variations are possible by adding some additional movements to the traditional banded mountain climbers.
NOTE – All these moves/variations of mountain climbers are meant only for advanced athletes.
A. Banded mountain climbers with push-ups –
After every four alternative movements of legs, add a push -up to contract chest muscles actively along with the abdomen and hip muscles.
B. Banded mountain climbers with a roller –
Adding massage roller to the mountain climbers creates tons of instability in the upper body, which forces the body to engage additional muscle fibers for quicker gains.
Simply rest your hands over the roller instead of the floor while wearing resistance bands around the feet. Maintaining the right posture while climbing is a huge challenge here.
C. Banded Mountain climbers with elbow touch –
After every four alternate movements of lower legs, touch the elbows alternatively to the ground to include the arm and chest muscles in the circuit.
D. Resistance band mountain climbers with alternative plank jacks-
Add a pair of plank jack movements (side to side) after every 5 to 6 repetitions of traditional mountain climbers.
? Here is a valuable resource where I have explained the banded plank jacks with numerous variations for all levels of athletes at Unique Addict – How Do I Correctly Perform Plank Jack With Resistance Bands
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