Mountain Climbers vs Burpees

Which exercise is better, Mountain Climbers or Burpees? When it comes down to deciding who wins the battle of Mountain Climbers vs Burpees, there are a few key items we need to evaluate.

Both the Mountain Climber and the Burpee are full body weight exercises that can be done anywhere at any time. These two exercises build strength and endurance through use of large muscle groups working to stabilize and power your body. Mountain Climbers and Burpees work your core, extremities, spike your heart rate, and leave you breathless. But what one does a better job of this?

Some may think that the Burpee has the upper hand as it combines planking, push-ups, and jumping. But don’t forget, the Mountain Climber is one long plank while running in place. Because of these reasons and the heart pumping results, we typically develop a love-to-hate relationship with both exercises.

So we can agree that both movements work the full body, build strength, and cardiovascular endurance. One involves jumping, the other involves running. But that still doesn’t answer which one wins the battle. Luckily there has been research done to help weigh in on the matter. In this study, 20 male subjects performed High Intensity Interval Training, including Mountain Climbers and Burpees. The amount of work for each exercise equaled 5 sets of 30 seconds. When comparing Mountain Climbers to Burpees, this is what they found.

Greater muscular strength required and more muscular fatigue in Burpees vs Mountain Climbers.

Higher physiological demand and greater cardiovascular response in Burpees vs Mountain Climbers.

Higher Heart Rate during Burpees vs Mountain Climbers.

Rate of Perceived Exertion was similar for both Burpees and Mountain Climbers.

As a result of moving a greater amount of mass with greater technical difficulty, there is more strength required and a higher physiological response to Burpees vs Mountain Climbers. However, there are equal Ratings of Perceived Exertion for both exercises.

What does this mean? Do whatever exercise works best for you, but you will probably get more bang for your buck with Burpees.

Now that we have an answer, how do we know if we are performing these movements most efficiently and how can we incorporate them into our workout routine?

Mountain Climber vs. Burpee Form

Both exercises involve planking, driving with the legs, and pushing off through the feet. But one involves running the other involves push-ups and jumping. Let’s look at the movements.

Mountain Climber            Burpee

Start in a plank, supporting your weight on your hands and toes. Arms straight and legs extended.           Start in a standing position and drop down into a squat.

Keep your core braced and your shoulders, hips, and feet in a straight line.           Quickly transition, bringing your hands to the ground just in front of your feet.

Bring one knee towards your chest, then return to starting position.         Kick your feet back behind you, keeping your arms extended so you are in a plank.

Repeat the movement with your other leg and continue alternating for the desired repetitions.         Drop down into the bottom of a push-up. Then push yourself back up with arms extended.

               Jump your feet back towards your hands and jump straight up, landing back in your starting position. Repeat the movement for desired repetitions. 

During both exercises you will want to ensure you keep your core braced, spine neutral, and rely on your strong shoulders and hips to help support your body weight evenly.

With the Mountain Climber, watch out for bouncing up and down, letting your hips rise up, or not bringing your knee all the way to your chest. These easy mistakes with cost you. Plus you won’t be getting the workout that this exercise is intended to give you.

And with the Burpee, make sure to keep your core braced as you kick your feet back and drop down into the bottom of a push-up. Losing core tightness in this transition can cause increased low back extension and stress to your spine.

Heart Pumping Variations

The best thing about body weight workouts is the ability to perform them anytime, anywhere, but also the fact that they can be easily modified for injury or for those looking to increase intensity.

If you are injured try these variations, they will still get your heart pumping.

Mountain Climber            Burpee

Hands on a countertop to decrease work through your arms and core.     Instead of kicking your feet back behind you, step back, one leg at a time.

Standing high knees, quickly alternating one knee at a time.         And instead of jumping your feet forward towards your hands, step forward, one leg at a time.

Slow down the movement, allowing more of a stretch into your hip          You can skip the push-up and the jump into the air at the end.

If you are looking for an increase in intensity, try these variations.

Mountain Climber            Burpee

Plank-Jacks, perform your normal Mountain Climber, but every 10 reps, perform 5 Plank-Jacks by jumping your toes out and back in.         Perform a normal Burpee with one dumbbell in each hand. As you come back up to standing, bring the dumbbells from ground to overhead. AKA the Devil’s Press.

Cross body, bring your knee across to the opposite elbow.Cross body, but this time bring your knee across to your opposite hand, creating a more unstable surface as you unweight one arm.             This one also uses dumbbells, one in each hand. Perform the normal Burpee/ Devil’s Press but when you get to the top of the push up, perform a single arm row, on each side. AKA the Man Maker.

Mountain Climber vs. Burpee Challenge

Now that you know the similarities and differences in the Mountain Climber and the Burpee, let’s look at fun challenges that can be done with your current workout routines. These challenges ought to strengthen your love-to-hate relationships with these exercises.

One Minute Max

One minute max Mountain Climbers

Rest one minute

One minute max Burpees

Tabata Mountain Climber

20 seconds Mountain Climber

10 seconds rest

20 seconds Cross Body Mountain Climber

10 seconds rest

20 seconds Plank Jacks

10 seconds rest

Repeat 3 times

100 Burpee Challenge

See how long it takes to complete 100 Burpees

Related questions

What exercises should I do if I hate Mountain Climbers?

If you can’t stand Mountain Climbers and don’t want to give Burpees a shot, try these alternative movements: Plank-Jacks, high knees, butt kickers, plank taps, and bird-dogs.

What exercises should I do if I hate Burpees?

If you just can’t stand Burpees, give the Mountain Climber a try. If you still need other ideas, here is a list of other heart pumping movements: Squat jumps, plank jumps, plank up-downs, ball slams, and hand release push-ups.

References

Clinics Journal: Description of training loads using whole-body exercise during high-intensity interval training

CDC: Perceived Exertion (Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale)

CoachMag: How To Do The Mountain Climber Exercise

CoachMag: How To Do A Burpee And The Benefits of Burpees For Fat Loss

Duwe Fitness: How to Do a Mountain Climber with 3 Progressions for Beginners to Advanced

CaveMan Training: The Devils Press

WODWell: Man Maker