Though they have a somewhat funny name, burpees are a staple of metabolic conditioning and body weight workouts that deserve a spot in your workout routine, especially if you’re looking for efficient moves that will help get you shredded. With that said, it should come as no surprise that exercises that truly deliver results aren’t easy, and if you’ve never heard of burpees, you’ll learn they are no exception to this rule. Be prepared for your heart rate to spike, your lungs to challenge the bounds of your rib cage, and your muscles to burn. But hang in there — the benefits of burpees are worth the pain.
Burpees are essentially a three-part exercise, involving a squat, push-up, and vertical jump, which is what bestows them with the total-body conditioning benefits they provide. Because burpees are complex, dynamic combinations of these three moves, it can take a little practice to master the proper technique and feel like you’re able to perform them smoothly as one fluid motion without having to think through every step. If you stick with it though, you’ll soon be able to bang them out without consciously thinking through each step. Keep reading to learn the proper technique for burpees and the benefits of doing them. Though they aren’t likely to ever become “easy” to perform, you can become a master of burpees and squat, push, and jump your way to a shredded body.
The Benefits of Burpees
Much like the often-true purchasing adage “you get want you pay for,” burpees may cost a lot in terms of physical effort, but they boast a lot of benefits, including the following:
They get your heart pumping
Burpees are a great exercise move to add to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts because they elevate the heart rate as long as you’re performing them rapidly and pushing yourself.
They burn a lot of calories
If you’re completing the average 20 burpees per minute, a 185-pound man will torch about 15 calories per minute. Keep this us for ten minutes and you’ll burn 150 calories. The more you weigh, the more you’ll burn.
They boost your cardiovascular fitness
As a high-intensity exercise, burpees challenge both your aerobic and anaerobic fitness, imposing a demand on your heart and lungs.
They improve your endurance
The cardio benefits of burpees enable them to advance your endurance, especially if you perform them for several minutes without rest. You’ll also improve your muscular endurance, improving the duration your muscles can work without rest.
They don’t require equipment
Burpees are a total-body bodyweight exercise, meaning you don’t need any weights, bands, machines, or spotters to get a great workout.
They strengthen your entire body
From your shoulders to your ankles and calves, burpees strengthen nearly every major muscle in the body including the deltoids (shoulders), triceps, pecs (chest), lats and traps (back), abs, back extensions, glutes, hips, quads, and calves.
They can be performed anywhere
Because they don’t require equipment, burpees can be performed just about anywhere — from your bedroom to a hotel room, the gym to a park. As long as you have a little bit of room, you can do your burpee.
How to Perform a Burpee
If this is your burpee debut, the number of steps can feel overwhelming, particularly in comparison to most other body weight exercises. Burpees are complex because they involve a fluid blend of three exercises, so be patient with yourself as you are learning the steps. As you get better at performing burpees, increase your pace, going as fast as you can while maintaining proper form and using the correct technique. Like jumping jacks, you’ll want to keep going as fast and hard as you can to reap the metabolic conditioning benefits.
Burpees can be thought of as a full push-up followed by a jump squat cycled continuously together. Here are the steps that go into a burpee:
- Begin in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Lower your body into a squat by bending your knees and sitting your hips all the way back, as if reaching your butt back to sit in a chair. Engage your core, maintain a straight back, and keep your chest up and proud.
- Drop your hands to the ground in front of your body about shoulder-width apart.
- Shift your weight to your palms and jump your feet back behind you so that you’re in push-up position with your weight on your hands and toes. Your body should be in a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.
- Perform one complete push-up by bending your elbows and lowering your chest to the ground and then pushing through your palms to lift your body back up until your elbows are extended by not locked out. Be sure to engage your core and glutes and keep your hips in line with your body.
- Load your weight into your palms and jump your feet forward toward your hands, back to their starting position, so that you’re in a tuck position.
- Push through your hands and feet to stand up, raising your arms so that they are straight overhead, fingers pointing toward the ceiling.
- Jump up vertically as high into the air as high as you can, reaching up toward the ceiling.
- As soon as you land, bend your knees to cushion the landing, transitioning immediately into a full squat to begin the cycle again.
How to Modify Burpees
As you build up your fitness and get stronger, you can perform modified burpees to make them a little easier. The following are suggestions to try to simplify things:
Skip the push-up: After the squat, drop your hands to the floor and jump your feet back into a push-up position, but don’t actually perform the push-up. Simply jump your feet into the position and then jump them immediately forward again. You can do this on every rep, or alternate skipping the push-up and then banging it out on the next rep.
Skip the jump: When you finish the push-up, jump your feet forward and stand up, but don’t jump up into the air. As soon as you’re fully standing, just move immediately into the squat. Again, you can use this modification for every rep, or throw it in when you need a bit of a breather during your interval of burpees.
Skip both the jump and the push-up: Feel free to skip both the push-up and jump, particularly if you’re just getting back into working out, or beginning to build up your fitness.
Step your feet forward and back: After the squat, when you drop your palms to the ground, you can step each leg back into push-up position one at a time rather than jump them back together. Similarly, after the push-up, you can step each foot forward as you prepare to stand rather than jump them into a tuck position simultaneously. This will make the exercise less vigorous.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you can bang out burpees for minutes on end, barely breaking a sweat, progress the exercise by holding on to hex dumbbells (so they won’t roll during the push-up). This will make the jump and squat harder, plus you get a weighted overhead raise. You can also wear a weighted vest for additional resistance. Another option is doing a box jump instead of a vertical jump. Set up behind a plyometric box, and when you get to the jump, jump up so that your feet land up on the box, then jump down backward, lowering into the squat.