Achieving lower abs is tough.
In fact, you can do all the sit ups and crunches you want, perhaps even produce some great upper abs, but your lower abs are always left behind.
That being said, mountain climbers are classed as a fantastic all-round core exercise, but are they the missing link to lower abs?
Mountain climbers mainly work the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis, which is ideal for strong and defined abs. The fact that your legs are moving during the movement means that mountain climbers will definitely target the lower abs. You can increase lower ab activation by performing mountain climbers in a slow and controlled manner.
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Here’s Why Mountain Climbers are a Great Lower Ab Exercise
The most popular ab exercises tend to be sit ups, crunches, and planks.
These exercises are mainly focused on strengthening and toning the core muscles.
However, what they don’t offer is the ability to burn fat at the same time, which is what most of us require to reveal our abs.
In fact, you can guarantee that the vast majority of the population already possesses 6-pack abs, but unfortunately they are hidden below excess body fat.
That being said, I know many people have managed to produce great upper abs, but their lower abs are nowhere to be seen.
Enter mountain climbers.
What sets mountain climbers apart from the other ab exercises I’ve mentioned is that they involve moving your legs, and are typically performed at pace.
This is absolutely fantastic for the lower abs.
Basically, moving your legs during ab exercises will activate various abdominal muscles, which may not be as well stimulated during conventional ab exercises.
Plus, this will also bring the hip flexors more into play.
Essentially, you’re working more of the core muscles, while also ensuring your lower abs are brought into play.
Additionally, when performed at pace mountain climbers also become a cardio exercise.
In fact, mountain climbers will increase your metabolic rate, which is ideal for burning fat.
So, if you’re looking to burn fat and produce lower abs, mountain climbers are definitely one of the best ab-related exercises to focus on.
The “Rules” For Lower Abs
That being said, the body is inclined to store fat in the lower ab area.
Plus, producing lower abs is mainly about your diet and eating healthily at a calorie deficit.
As an example, a man would require approximately 6-13% body fat to produce visible abs, and nearer to the lower end of the scale for his lower abs to show.
This increases to approximately 14-20% for women, although once more this needs to be at the lower end of the scale for visible lower abs.
Realistically, you can do all the fat-burning workouts and ab exercises you want, but if you’re not eating in a manner to support your goals you could be stuck with a 2-pack or 4-pack forever.
How to Target Your Lower Abs Even More With Mountain Climbers
Okay, I’ve spoken about burning fat and your diet being the best way to reveal your lower abs.
Plus, I’ve also mentioned that mountain climbers are generally performed at pace.
However, in order to best target your lower abs you should actually slow down the pace at which you do mountain climbers.
You’ll want to perform your reps in a slow and controlled manner, while keeping your hips and back as level and still as possible.
Imagine balancing a cup of coffee on your lower back, your aim is to perform mountain climbers in such a way that you don’t spill a drop (I wouldn’t recommend actually doing this with a boiling cup of coffee).
By keeping yourself fixed in this position, while performing slow and controlled mountain climbers, you can really stabilize and strengthen the muscles of the lower abs.
That being said, there is obviously still a place for fast-paced mountain climbers, as this is an excellent way to burn body fat.
Personally, I like to perform a full mountain climber workout every once in a while, which involves 3 variations performed both slowly and at speed.
Firstly, there is the standard mountain climber.
Next, is the cross-body mountain climber, which involves touching your knee to the opposite elbow.
Finally, the spiderman mountain climber, whereby you bring your foot alongside your hand before returning to the starting position and repeating on the other side.
3 Exercises to Improve Mountain Climbers (& Still Target Your Lower Abs)
Okay, so you now know that mountain climbers are a great exercise and they’ll definitely target your lower abs.
However, mountain climbers can be tough if you’re new to the movement.
So, I’d like to introduce you to 3 exercises that still mainly target your abs and core, but that will also help you to get better at mountain climbers.
Planks are probably one of the best exercises for overall ab development.
In fact, mountain climbers are basically a moving plank.
However, being able to hold yourself in the plank position for sufficient time is vital for performing mountain climbers.
So, get down to the floor and into the push up position, rather than on your elbows.
Obviously, you can perform planks on your elbows or your hands, and the same can be said for mountain climbers too.
Your aim is to hold a solid plank position without allowing your midsection to drop towards the floor.
Hold this position for as long as possible, and look to increase the time you can hold a plank with each training session.
I’ve spoken of the requirement to move your legs in order to target the lower abs.
However, you don’t actually need to be down on the floor to achieve this.
High knees actually mimic the leg movement of mountain climbers really well, but they are easier to perform as there isn’t any gravitational pull on your body.
You should bring one knee at a time up towards your chest to approximately waist height.
Then repeat with the other knee.
You can do this fast-paced, which will also bring your cardiovascular system into play.
This is fantastic for burning fat and raising your metabolism.
Another plank variation, but the movement of your feet once again introduces a cardio-element to this exercise.
I guess you could say that plank jacks are a horizontal version of jumping jacks, although your arms won’t actually move.
You simply want to jump out and back in with your feet.
That being said, it’s important to contract your abs and glutes throughout your set, while trying to keep your hips from moving up and down.
Key Learning Points
- Mountain climbers mainly target the rectus abdominis and the transverse abdominis.
- Due to the movement of your legs you’ll target your lower abs and hip flexors.
- Mountain climbers performed in a slow and controlled manner will better target the lower abs.
- The best way to obtain lower abs is through your diet, burning fat and raising your metabolism.
- A great mountain climber workout includes conventional, cross-body, and superman mountain climbers. Perform all exercises at pace and then in a slow and controlled manner.
- Planks, high knees, and plank jacks are great alternatives, which will also improve your ability to perform mountain climbers.
Now, take this opportunity to learn more about why your hips pop when performing mountain climbers.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.