benefits of mountain climbers, negative knee cap pain
The benefits of mountain climbers are numerous. They build strength in the arms, shoulders, and upper back while producing a robust cardiovascular response without stress on the lower body joints.
In addition to burning an impressive amount of calories, they can help runners work towards better alignment and joint health while improving their running form. As we know from our “Dirty Weight” series, we want to be mindful of where and how our time is spent on exercise selection if we’re going to get the best results possible with the least risk for injury or overuse.
The negative side to mountain climbers is that they can lead to a bad case of too-tight hamstring muscles. You are learning how to climb correctly and deal with that pesky ache in your knees, hamstrings, or shins.
Let’s look at some of the most common problems associated with this new workout trend and tips on best dealing with them while still reaping all of the benefits. Before we get into that, though, let’s talk about what exactly goes on when you step up onto that box or bench for another round of mountain climbers.
What exactly are muscle imbalances?
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Muscle imbalances occur when two opposing muscle groups fail to develop at similar rates. In the case of a muscle imbalance, one group becomes dominant and overused while the other becomes weaker.
The resulting joint asymmetry then leads to compensation in standard movement patterns and can result in pain or injury. While many people believe that they train “balanced” because they do the classic bicep curl for both arms, this is not true.
Every time you work out, there is an imbalance until your muscles are roughly balanced once again (which may take anywhere from 3-8 weeks), depending on whether or not you’re back training every day like most bodybuilders (a great way to speed up strength gains but also speed up imbalance).
The issue with mountain climbers comes down to foam rolling, specifically spending too much time on your hamstrings and not enough time on your quads. For those of you who don’t understand the biomechanics behind this, let’s say it like this: When a muscle is tight for an extended period, the brain will stop firing that muscle as much as possible.
This conditions a phenomenon called reciprocal inhibition, making a stricter muscle group less active over time. In this case, the hamstring becomes inhibited from being used as much because it’s familiar from all of our low-intensity running. As a result, the quadriceps become more dominant and assertive with increased volume while weakened by reduced activation.
Negative symptoms associated with imbalances
Since foam rolling is one of the most popular new methods for dealing with muscle imbalances, it makes it easier to determine what exactly is going wrong. This is why many runners experience problems with imbalances once they start working on their posterior chain more.
The adverse side effects come down to two potential issues: pain in the outside of your knee or your hamstring seizing up because you’ve overworked it so much through excessive foam rolling/massaging.
Here are some helpful tips for dealing with these common problems…
One way to help deal with pain at the front of the knee due to too much hamstring tightness is by tweaking how quickly you climb each round. If you still have a problem after slowing it down, try taking more extended rest periods between rounds (3-5 minutes) since resting will give your muscles more time to recover.
Since tight hamstrings are usually the result of foam rolling too much, that means that they may take some time (3-8 weeks) before they’re back up to par. The best way to speed this process up is by applying heat after your workout and stretching them out properly.
Keep in mind, though; if your hamstring pain is stemming from the incorrect running form, then you might need to work on your running style first before worrying about the hamstrings themselves.
This is where seeing a professional therapist specializing in sports performance can help with prescribing exercises that will strengthen each leg equally instead of just pointing you towards another roller session.
If foam rolling isn’t working for you, it’s probably time to try something else. The most important thing to remember about muscle imbalances is that the only way to fix them is by getting stronger, which means you need a leg up on your competition by using these foam rolling tips from Adam Macke.
What do mountain climbers do for your body?
Mountain climbers are one of the best exercises that can be done for your core because it engages almost every muscle in the midsection. As a result, this means you’re working not just your rectus abdominus but also maxing out on your obliques, transverse abdominus, serratus anterior, intercostals, and even hip flexors!
These muscles all play an essential role in engaging your core.