October 4, 2023

Rock climbers are a full-body workout. Here’s the right way to do them

Mountaineering is a common exercise, but people are afraid of it – and for good reason! The move is tough. The exercise gets its name because the move simulates the intense workout of climbing a mountain. Emphasis on intense.

Because the exercise is so commonly incorporated into workout routines and seems simple enough to perform, it is often underestimated. But rock climbers are a high-intensity, calorie-burning exercise that works your entire body.

Whether you want to improve leg and core strength or get your heart rate up, rock climbers are a move that gets it done. But maintaining proper form is essential to performing the move correctly and getting the most out of it while keeping yourself safe.

The advantages of mountaineers

Mountain climbers are an exercise that gives you great value for money because they target many major muscle groups at the same time, including the abs, lower back, hamstrings and glutes. Strong glutes and core muscles help us maintain good posture, and rock climbers are the perfect move to strengthen both areas.

While rock climbers are high intensity and help raise your heart rate, they are also low impact. Low-impact exercises are great for people who suffer from joint pain. However, it is sometimes difficult to find low-impact exercises that are effective at burning calories. Rock climbers are accessible to most people and are a great move to incorporate into any exercise routine.

The common mistakes people make in rock climbing

Like the plank, rock climbers require a specific position to perform well and avoid injury. Many of my clients arch their backs and raise their hips too high. This disengages the core and will devalue the movement while also straining the back.

Moving too fast and bouncing on toes is another mistake many of my clients make. While going faster can feel like a more intense workout, it makes it more likely that you’re not engaging your core properly. To fix these errors:

  • Keep your back flat and straight instead of curved. Make sure you don’t tilt your hips and that you keep a straight line from your head to your heels.

  • Remember to keep your body in the plank position while performing the mountaineer. Although you will be moving, the position of your back and hips should be the same as in a plank.

  • Keep a steady pace. Faster doesn’t mean better in this case, so be sure to engage your core with every move and don’t compromise form for speed.

How to do a custom rock climber

modified mountaineer

modified mountaineer

Mountaineers need a lot of precision and full-body involvement. If you’re not there yet, there are plenty of tweaks that will help you gain the confidence and strength to do the real thing correctly.

Use a chair to lean on to perform a modified rock climber. This improves stability and reduces the intensity of the movement. Place the chair in front of you. Place your hands on the seat directly under the shoulders with your arms straight. Extend your legs straight out behind you and balance on your toes; your body will be slightly slanted. Start by performing a marching motion, bringing your left leg to your left elbow, then your right knee to your right elbow. Continue to alternate legs and squeeze your core.

How to perform a mountain climber correctly



Follow these step-by-step instructions to make sure you’re performing rock climbers properly:

  • Start in plank position, keeping your back straight, hips low and core engaged.

  • Bring your right knee under your chest to your right elbow.

  • Return your right leg to plank position; bring your left leg under your chest to your left elbow.

  • Repeat while alternating legs and keeping a steady pace.

  • Don’t forget to breathe and focus on contracting your abs, glutes, and hamstrings.

4 exercises that will help you master the rock climber

It’s normal to make mistakes while performing rock climbers, especially if you’ve never tried them before. Here are some moves that work the same muscles; try them first to build strength that makes performing climbers easier.




Being able to perform a solid plank will definitely help you perform rock climbers well. Place your hands on the floor below your shoulders and keep your arms straight. With your back straight and hips low, lift your body weight and squeeze your core. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

high knees

high knees

High knees

High knees require the same kind of leg movements rock climbers do, but instead of being on the ground, you’re standing. Hold your arms at your sides in a “cactus position” with your elbows bent 90 degrees and your hands pointing toward the ceiling. Cactus arms mimic the stationary upper body in rock climbers, which recruits more of your core muscles. Keeping your arms still, bring one knee up to your chest and stop at hip height so that you’re at a 90-degree angle at the knee. Alternate your legs and keep a fast pace. Repeat 10 times on each knee.

Plank jacket

Plank jacket

Plank jacket

The plank jack falls between plank and mountaineers in intensity, making for a perfect springboard. In plank position, start jumping your feet out and in as if you were doing a standing jumping jack. Keep your core and glutes engaged and try not to bounce your hips. Repeat for 10 jumps. (To modify: Step each foot out to the side and back instead of jumping.)




Mountain climbers need strong glutes, so performing squats beforehand will activate these muscles. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend at the hips as if you were
sitting back in a chair. Stand back up and squeeze the glutes at the top and repeat. Use your glutes and abs to raise and lower your body. Repeat 10 times.

More ways to master the move

This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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