How to Perform TRX Mountain Climbers

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

TRX Mountain Climbers
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Suspension running planks

Targets: Core, quadriceps, hip flexors

Equipment Needed: TRX Suspension Trainer

Level: Intermediate

The TRX mountain climber uses suspension straps and your body weight as an alternative way to perform the basic mountain climber. Instead of doing running planks on the floor, you are suspended from an anchor point at the feet and performing a running movement in the air. The exercise also requires you to balance on your hands while suspended.

Suspension mountain climbers, like all TRX exercises, work by challenging your body in conditions of instability. This forces you to constantly engage your core to perform each exercise. It also helps improve your balance and overall strength.

Because you are suspended during the exercise, it takes the traditional mountain climber to a whole new level. The balance component challenges multiple muscle groups, especially your core during the movement. It’s said to be an effective full-body workout as nearly every muscle group is firing while you work.

Some of the muscle groups challenged during the TRX mountain climber include the core, quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, shoulders, and arms. Your heart rate also increases as a response to the exercise intensity. Because the exercise is working almost the entire body, it’s said to be a great way to improve overall strength and cardiovascular health.

The TRX suspension bands used during the mountain climber and all suspension training exercises are adjustable and suitable for the novice exerciser to advanced athlete. This means the mountain climber and all exercises can be modified to fit your fitness level.

You may have considered adding suspension training to your workout routine for an added challenge or it may have been recommended as a great way to correct body imbalance. Either way, if you are new to this exercise method, it may be a good idea to enlist the help of a certified TRX coach or a qualified personal trainer.

Benefits

The TRX mountain climber provides an increased challenge to the traditional mountain climber performed on the floor. It requires more core engagement to balance your body in unstable conditions. Nearly all muscle groups are targeted including:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hip flexors
  • Abdominals/Core
  • Hamstrings
  • Shoulder muscles
  • Biceps/triceps
  • Heart muscle

Performing TRX mountain climbers is an effective way to build core strength and mobility according to research. The suspended position targets multiple muscle groups, while the increased challenge gets your heart rate up.

Your center of gravity is always out of balance during the TRX mountain climber leaving no choice but to engage your core, back, hips, and shoulders to stabilize the movement. This creates a more dynamic exercise and enables you to work your full body in just one movement. This exercise time-saving feature is just one of the many benefits of TRX training.

TRX mountain climbers and other suspension exercises are shown to have numerous positive benefits and studies have indicated the following:

  • Lean mass gains
  • Improved strength
  • Improved stability/balance
  • Increased core strength
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Decreased body fat
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Corrected body imbalance
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Reduced fall risk
  • Better gait (walking)
  • Improved functional fitness (day-to-day activities)
  • Practical and effective exercise alternative
  • Increased exercise confidence 

The balance component of the TRX mountain climber and other suspension training exercises greatly improves balance and neuromuscular response. This comes in handy if you take a misstep off a curb or need to react quickly to a falling object.

Step-by-Step Instructions

The great thing about TRX training is portable cables that offer the ability to workout anywhere. It just requires an area where they can be securely attached and you are ready to exercise.

Follow these simple steps to perform the TRX mountain climber:

  1. Attach cables to an anchor point above your head adjusting the straps to hang down about six inches from the floor or ground.
  2. Place your feet in the straps and walk out into a full plank position.
  3. Maintain a tight core, straight back, and keep hips tucked under to prevent your back from arching.
  4. Bring the right knee toward your chest keeping the left leg extended.
  5. Switch legs by quickly bringing the left knee toward your chest and extending the right leg.
  6. Alternate the right and left knee to chest movement for a determined amount of reps or timed interval.

Common Mistakes

The TRX mountain climber is performed in unstable conditions and special attention is required for proper form and technique. The following are common mistakes to avoid during this exercise:

Unequal Strap Tension

Proper suspension strap setup is important for this exercise. Incorrect length and tension will misplace your body and potentially cause the straps to slip during the movement. This is easily remedied by taking the time to adjust the straps to the proper length and making sure your body is placed to remove all slack from the straps.

Dropping the Hips

Be aware of proper body mechanics while performing TRX mountain climbers. If you become tired or fatigued, there is a tendency to drop the hips during the movement. This can increase your risk of low back discomfort/injury. It is important to maintain a tight core and straight back during the exercise for effective and safe execution of the exercise.

Modifications and Variations

The TRX mountain climbers can be performed in a variety of ways to accommodate your fitness level.

Need a Modification?

If you're new to mountain climbers and TRX training, you may want to apply a few modifications as follows:

  • Perform mountain climbers on the floor before adding suspension straps. This will allow you to get comfortable with the movement before introducing unstable conditions. As you gain confidence with the basic mountain climber, you will soon be ready to progress to the TRX version.
  • Hold a plank position with your feet in the suspension straps without alternating the knee towards the chest. This will introduce you to the unstable conditions from suspension straps and build up your core strength.

Up for a Challenge?

TRX training is a progressive exercise method suitable for all fitness levels. This means you can increase the intensity of your workout as you become stronger. The following applied modifications make the TRX mountain climbers more advanced:

  • Move your body further away from the anchor point to create more resistance during the exercise. You will feel increased tension in the straps and have to work harder to pull your knees toward your chest. 
  • Increase your speed for increased intensity. Running in the air at a quicker pace will get your heart pumping faster and muscles working harder for a superior full-body workout.
  • Add a BOSU for an even more advanced version of the TRX mountain climber. This requires a significant amount of upper body and core strength for the proper execution of the movement. Balancing from head to toe occurs with the BOSU as you perform the TRX mountain climber holding the BOSU dome down while balancing in suspension straps at your feet.

Safety and Precautions

The TRX mountain climber is performed in unstable conditions and requires keen body awareness during the exercise. Because of this instability, it’s important to be aware of your body position/movement at all times.

The following tips will help you perform the TRX mountain climbers correctly and reduce the risk of injury:

  • Take the time to properly adjust your suspension straps about six inches from the floor and that both straps are at equal lengths. 
  • Maintain a tight core and straight back at all times during the exercise to reduce the risk of low back discomfort/injury. 
  • Be aware of any sag in your hips or arched back during the exercise. This could be an indicator of being tired, fatigued, or not enough core strength to perform the movement. 
  • Work at your fitness level for this exercise to increase overall strength and balance before adding more challenge.
  • If you experience pain or discomfort that doesn’t feel right during the TRX mountain climber, discontinue the exercise.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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