My favorite exercise happens to be the burpee. Some begin to quiver at the mere uttering of the word burpee. If you’ve ever done one, you know the challenge they pose. If you haven’t done one but have watched someone else do a burpee, you probably got winded just watching them and vowed never to put yourself through that terrible misery. But fear not, today I am going to tell you why this exercise is my personal favorite and why you should add it to your repertoire at the gym. Because there are so many variations of a burpee, surely there is one for everyone, of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels.
So, what exactly is a burpee? The burpee is a total body exercise. No muscle goes untouched with this one and that’s the beauty of it. It’s not only an effective cardio exercise that will get your heart rate up after only one, but it also aims to tighten and tone all the right areas of one’s body…and who doesn’t want that?!
Why do I love the burpee so much? Burpees are one of my go-to exercises solely because you get so much bang for your buck. I am not a runner; in fact, I practically abhor it. Why you ask? Because running is boring to me and it takes a lot of energy, time, and is rough on my precious joints…oh and not to mention the excruciating calf cramps I get- but that’s a whole other topic for another day. In the amount of time it takes to run 3 miles, I could have completed my burpees, burned just as many if not more calories, left the gym, went into the grocery store, and drove home. Well, maybe not quite all of that but you get my drift. Burpees are one of the highest calorie burning exercises out there. Why? Because you are literally using your entire body- moving that body up and down, in and out. These things are fast and furious!
Let’s learn some history of the burpee and find out where it came from.
The burpee was first developed in the 1930’s by Royal H. Burpee. Royal H. Burpee was an applied physiologist from Columbia University and was the first one to coin the burpee test. He created this exercise as part of his PhD thesis “as a quick and simple way to assess fitness.” Could you imagine if our only fitness test to this day to assess our fitness was a burpee test? Yikes. And it’s to no surprise, the exercise then became popular in the United States Armed Services. The burpee test was used to test recruits for World War II to quickly and effectively assess for agility, coordination, and strength.
So, the burpee not only burns big calories, but it also offers great benefits as a cardio exercise and works all of your major muscles. What’s not to love?
Another thing I love about burpees is their portability. And by portability, I mean you can do them anywhere your body goes because you don’t need a single piece of equipment. Now that’s great! So, next time you’re traveling for work or need to squeeze in a quick and effective workout at home before the kids get home from school or wake up from their nap, whip out a few burpees. I promise you’ll be sweating in no time and feel like such a star when you’re finished. Their empowering and actually quite fun, at least for this fitness guru. I hope you find them just as empowering and effective!
Let’s Break Down the Burpee
The burpee at its core combines a squat, a push-up and a jump. Here’s how to do it in 4 steps.
Step 1: Stand with your feet hip width apart. Squat down and place your hands, palms down, on the floor in front of you directly under your shoulders, being sure to keep your knees over your ankles (like a proper squat) and your chest lifted.
Step 2: Jump both feet back and extend your arms so that your body is in a high plank position- long and symmetrical. Be sure to create a straight line with your back and keep your hips slightly lifted.
Step 3: Pull your legs back in so you are in a crouching squat position with your palms on the floor in front of you.
Step 4: Stand and jump straight up in the air with your arms extended upwards, landing softly on the balls of your feet with your hips shifted back and knees in line with your ankles, like a proper squat.
** Remember to engage your core the entire time! This is also a great core exercise! **
This is the basics of a burpee. If you want an added challenge, add a push-up in between step 2 and 3. A burpee with the pushup is the form the Military most commonly uses.
Like I said before, there are many variations of a burpee. If you have problems with your joints and do not like to jump, simply step your feet back and in and skip the jump up in the air in step 4. You can also simply step your feet back and in if you are overweight and need something with less of an impact and a little easier to begin with. You can always work up to jumping the feet back and adding the jump up at the end.
Below I will share a few variations of the burpee. Some of the variations include removing or shifting an arm or a leg (requiring more core stabilization) or working in a different direction or adding a more explosive move to increase strength and power in the body.
- Mountain Climber Burpee: Perform the standard burpee steps. When you get to the plank position to do the push-up, perform a mountain climber instead of the push-up. To do a mountain climber, alternate pulling one leg into your chest, alternating each side twice. Be sure to keep your hips from sagging and keep a flat back, core engaged. Return to the plank position before finishing the remaining steps of the burpee.
- Jump Variations: You can also add variety to the jump at the end of the burpee. Varying the jump causes the lower body to do more work by controlling the hips, knees, and ankles. Adding jump variations helps your body to build strength, power, and stability in different planes of motion. Some different jump variations include a tuck jump, broad jump, and a single leg jump.
For the tuck jump burpee, complete the burpee as usual and at the end instead of simply jumping straight up, jump straight up and tuck your knees in towards your chest.
For the broad jump, instead of jumping straight up, jump out trying to cover as much distance in front of you as possible.
The single leg burpee adds great challenge because it requires a lot of core stabilization and balance. You can either do the push-up and the final jump on a single leg or just the final jump on a single leg. Be sure to draw that core in to help you stay balanced and jump as high as you can on that single foot, landing softly.
So, there you have it. I hope you feel inspired to add a few burpees to your next workout. Start with one and work your way up. Once you’ve mastered the regular burpee, try some of these variations. Take it slow and listen to what your body says. Even if you can’t do the jumps and you’re slowly stepping your feet back one at a time and coming up slowly, you are still burning a lot of calories by moving your entire body up and down and you are working on core stabilization, balance, and coordination.