Every now and then I like to get a bit creative with exercises and test out variations.
Some don't really seem to add a whole lot to the original exercise in terms of progressions or challenge.
Although occasionally I'll find some that up the intensity of the exercise which makes for great progressions.
In this case, I've been playing with some Mountain Climber variations and everyone who I have been testing on them (myself included) could feel significantly more ab and core involvement.
Everyone seems to love feeling their abs burn.
And calling me names for making them do these exercises.
So win win. I think.
Let's back it up a second.
If you're not familiar with a mountain climber, it looks like this:
Essentially, you're in press up position, keeping the abs tight, and you breath out as you drive a knee straight up towards the chest on the same side.
Mountain climbers can either be done quickly for more of a metabolic conditioning type exercise, think of running whilst in a press up plank. I like using them as part of a fat burning circuit for time, especially the Valslide version.
The other way is to slow the speed down and focus on really feeling the abs do the work, I generally fall more this way with beginner clients.
Mainly because of technique. Too often, people go too quickly with mountain climbers and you start seeing their butt rising higher and higher into the air.
Once the basic mountain climber is mastered, the next progression is the cross body mountain climber, where the knee drives up towards the opposite side chest / elbow.
After the cross body version, most people seem to draw a blank.
So here are the variations and progressions I have been testing out.
Mountain Climber to Cross Body Mountain Climber
I remember seeing this version some time ago but for the life of me, I cannot remember who it was.
If you're reading this and think it was you, drop me a message so I can update this part!
In the press up position, you drive the knee straight up and extend the leg back but don't let the foot rest on the floor.
You then drive the knee to the opposite side and again extend the leg but don't let the foot touch the floor.
Only when you've completed all the reps / time on one side do you let the foot touch the floor then switch sides.
The Triple Mountain Climber
I'm sure someone, somewhere has already come up with the following two variations (if not, go me!). However I haven't seen them so I thought calling this one the triple mountain climber was more catchy than its full name of:
Cross Body Mountain Climber to Mountain Climber to Spider Man Mountain Climber
See, Triple Mountain Climber is far better and a lot less typing!
1) The foot doesn't touch the floor until the end of the set
2) Breathe out every time you drive the knee up
3) Keep abs tight
Start with the Cross Body (knee to opposite side) to Mountain Climber (Knee to same side) to a Spiderman Mountain Climber (Knee to outside of elbow)
That is one rep.
Then back to the Cross Body and repeat.
The Triple Mountain Climber Progression
This is the same exercise as before but instead of starting back at the Cross Body you just reverse the exercises so the order goes:
Cross Body Mountain Climber
Spiderman Mountain Climber
Cross Body Mountain Climber
High Tension Mountain Climbers
Again, I'm sure someone, somewhere has already come up with this variation. It hits a lot of core muscles and even with some of my stronger clients, this exercise is tough.
So what makes this so tough?
You're trying to create as much tension as possible in the whole abs and core area. Then maintain that tension throughout the exercise which is a lot of work for the abs to do.
1) In the press up position, think about pushing the upper back as far away from the floor as you can. This reaching motion should already have you feeling it in the abs.
Keep this reaching motion throughout the whole exercise.
2) Drive the knee up and across the body as far as you can whilst breathing out hard.
3) Keeping the knee up as high as you possibly can, draw it across the body and out into the top of a Spiderman mountain climber.
4. Extend the leg back to the start position but don't let the foot touch the floor.
That is 1 rep. Complete all reps on one side before switching sides.
If you've tested out the high tension version, you'll be pleased to know there is a progression you can do. Yippee.
Quite simply, after you extend the leg bring it back out into the top of the Spiderman position and drive the knee across the body and extend the leg back.
Again, no foot touching until the end of the set.
Try to keep maximal tension throughout.
Hopefully this will give you some ideas for ways to spice up the standard mountain climber and work your core in some new and unusual ways.
There are ways to add some progressions even to these to make them even tougher... but I'll save that for another time ;)
This is my, mostly, Personal Trainer musings and information which I hope you'll find helpful!