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Sometimes all I want in a training session is to get sweaty and feel strong — fast. This craving typically pops up when I’m short on time or low on ­motivation, or when I simply feel an itch to mix things up. And when the mood strikes, I turn to a training format called “up and down the mountain.”

It was introduced to me in a bootcamp class, though I don’t know its origin. It describes a circuit that begins on the floor (the base of the mountain), moves up to standing (the summit), and returns down.

Putting myself in the mindset of climbing and descending a metaphorical mountain is energizing. A tough workout becomes doable; flagging motivation is transformed into confidence: Yes, I can take one more step!

The circuit becomes more than a series of exercises I need to complete: “Up and down the mountain” is an exciting story I want to see play out.

Though the name implies that you must begin with floor work and gradually make your way to standing, feel free to make it your own: Go down and up instead! Start standing, descend into a “valley,” and make your way back up. The exercises, the number of moves, and the reps are customizable, too.

This is my go-to version, which focuses heavily on jumping and lower-body moves.

The Workout

You’ll need a mat and a timer, and you might want a towel and some water. Set your timer to go off every 30 seconds. Perform as many good-form reps of each exercise for the prescribed interval as you can, then move immediately to the next exercise on the list.

Work from the first move (the bottom of the mountain) up to the last move (the top) and then all the way back down. One up-and-down will take 15 minutes. If time, energy, and interest allow, repeat up to three times.

If you need to rest, pause for 30 to 60 seconds at the bottom before repeating the circuit. But the idea is to pace yourself so you don’t need to stop for rest: Each exercise is meant to be a “rest” from what came before. That said, this is a great opportunity to listen to your body. If you need to rest, rest. If you need to make modifications to help pace yourself to avoid rest, make those modifications. In this imaginary climbing scenario, your goal is not to die on the mountain. Take care of yourself.

1. Hollow Hold

30 seconds

  • Lie on your back, knees pulled up toward your chest.
  • Press your lower back into the floor and lift your head and upper back a few inches, as though you were doing a crunch.
  • Extend your arms overhead and your legs outward, feet and hands hovering at about a 45-degree angle with the floor.
  • Maintain that position as long as you can with good form. Begin with 10-second holds and work up to holding for 30 seconds.

Make It Easier: Bend your knees, keeping toes pointed and heels drawn close to your glutes. Raise your arms and hold them close to your sides, actively reaching fingertips toward your toes and engaging your lats as if pushing down on an imaginary box. Extend your legs straight up and gradually lower them without sacrificing the hollow shape.

Make It Harder: Lower your legs as close to the floor as possible without losing the hollow shape in your midsection. Raise your arms completely overhead without lowering your shoulders to the floor.

2. Glute Bridge

30 seconds

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. From this position, engage your core, press your back into the floor, and begin squeezing your glutes.
  • Keep the glutes engaged and weight even across both feet as you press your hips up. Extend your hips fully so your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  • Hold this position for one breath, continuing to squeeze your glutes. Take care not to overextend and arch your back by keeping your ribs in proper alignment.
  • Slowly reverse the movement — keep squeezing your glutes and don’t collapse to the floor — to return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Tip: Keep your arms at your sides, or if you are adding weight, use them to support the weight in the hip crease.

Tip: Brace your core throughout the movement to avoid overextending your lower back.

Tip: If your knees cave in toward each other, squeeze your glutes and pull your knees apart until they are in line with your hips and heels.

3. Marching Glute Bridge

30 seconds, alternating feet

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor about hip width apart.
  • Engage your core by pressing your back into the floor, and squeeze your glutes. Begin to lift up off the floor, pressing through your feet to raise your hips. Extend your hips fully so that your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. (Take care not to overextend and arch your back.)
  • Shift your weight into to your right foot and lift your left foot slightly off the floor.
  • Keep your hips level and don’t let your back arch. You should feel your right glutes engage.
  • Keep your hips fully extended as you lower your right foot with control, then raise the left foot. Alternate sides for the desired number of reps.

4. Plank Jack

30 seconds

  • Start at the top of a pushup, in a high-plank position. Place your hands under your shoulders and engage your core.
  • Without moving your hands or compromising your core engagement, jump your feet out to the side and land softly on the balls of your feet, just wider than shoulder width. Don’t let your hips hike up or dip down as you jump.
  • Jump your feet back in with control.

5. Plank to Down Dog With Reach

30 seconds

  • Begin in high plank position.
  • Press your hips up and back into downward facing dog and reach one hand to the opposite-side ankle (or shin).
  • Replace your hand and return to plank.
  • Repeat, reaching with the other hand to its opposite-side leg.
  • Alternate sides per rep.

6. Mountain Climber

30 seconds

  • Begin in high plank position.
  • Engage your core and drive one knee toward your chest.
  • As you return your raised foot to the floor, drive the opposite knee toward your chest.
  • Alternate sides per rep.

7. Burpee

30 seconds

  • Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms at your sides, squat down and place your hands on the floor, about shoulder width or slightly wider.
  • Keeping your arms extended, jump your legs back and land in a plank position. Your body should be in a straight line from head to heels.
  • Jump your feet toward your hands to return to the squat, then jump into the air with arms overhead, fully extending your hips and squeezing your glutes.

Make it easier: If jumping is uncomfortable, step back and forward instead.

Make it harder: Add a pushup only if you can maintain good form.

8. Curtsy Lunge

30 seconds on each side (60 seconds total)

  • Stand with feet about hip width apart.
  • Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, step your right foot back and to the left, allowing the front (left) knee to bend until it forms a 90-degree angle.
  • Allow both knees to bend, but keep your hips and shoulders squared to avoid wrenching your body.
  • Keep your front knee in line with the middle toe. Your back knee can graze the floor, but take care not to relax at the bottom of the move.
  • Reverse the movement by stepping your rear (right) foot back to the starting position.
  • Complete desired number of reps, and repeat on opposite side.

9. Punch Jack

30 seconds

  • Stand with your feet together. Make loose fists with your hands and hold them up at about face height, with elbows close to your body.
  • Jump both of your feet out a little wider than shoulder width apart; simultaneously punch one fist out in front of you. Actively engage the arm as it extends and turn your fist to angle your knuckles down.
  • Jump your feet back to the starting position, landing softly, and draw the extended arm back toward your face.
  • Repeat the jump, this time punching with the opposite arm.
  • Continue in this fashion, jumping with both feet and alternating your punching arm with each rep.

10. Sidestep Squat

60 seconds, alternating sides per rep

  • Begin standing with feet about hip width apart. Step to the right and lower into a squat. Stand up as you step your right foot back in. Repeat with the left foot stepping out. Alternate sides per rep.

11. Reverse Lunge With Knee Raise

30 seconds on each side (60 seconds total)

  • Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Step back with your right leg and bend both knees to about 90 degrees to perform a reverse lunge. Plant the balls of the right foot behind you.
  • Drive through your front leg to return to standing, and simultaneously draw the right knee up toward your chest.
  • Repeat to complete all reps on one leg before switching sides for the next interval.

12. Jumping Jack

30 seconds

  • Stand with your feet together and your arms by your sides.
  • Jump both of your feet out a little wider than shoulder width apart while simultaneously bringing your arms over your head. Keep your arms actively engaged, and work toward completing a full range of motion. Jump your feet to shoulder width or slightly wider apart and land softly with each jump.
  • Bring your arms back down and jump your feet back together to return to your starting position.
  • Maintain an upright posture, shoulders stacked over hips, throughout the move. Keep a slight bend in the knees and avoid locking them out.

Tip: If coordination is tricky, think about opening your arms and legs at the same time, and closing your arms and legs at the same time: Open, close. Open, close.

Maggie Fazeli Fard

Maggie Fazeli Fard, RKC, is an Experience Life senior editor.

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