Only one exercise is enough to bring even the fittest few to their knees — or NOT knees, as the case may be. Which one? It is the much-maligned, oft-dreaded burpee. The truth is that burpees get a bad rap. Not only are they not as awful as most people think they are, but they are actually awesome when it comes to delivering a full-body workout.
Here’s a closer look at burpees, along with tips for getting the most out of this extremely efficient, effective exercise.
What Are Burpees?
Burpees owe their rather unfortunate name to a person; Columbia University applied physiology doctoral student Royal H. Burpee originated this bodyweight exercise all the way back in 1939 when looking for a way to administer fitness tests. He included it in his thesis, and fitness history was made.
Since their debut nearly a century ago, burpees have evolved into their modern, six-part incarnation comprising squatting, jumping, and a plank for good measure.
The basic burpee goes like this. From a standing straight position, lower to a squat with your hands placed on the floor in front of you at shoulder width. Jump both feet back into plank position, lower your chest to the floor, then return to plank. Jump your feet to the squat position and jump up into the air with your hands raised overhead. Finish with a clap for good measure.
You don’t have to stick to just a standard burpee, however. Variations incorporate push-ups, pull-ups, tuck jumps and clapping. Additionally, burpees can also be modified to be low-impact by replacing the jumps with walking your feet back and forward.
The Many Benefits of Burpees
Burpees may take some getting used to, but they’re well worth the effort given the many body benefits they offer. For starters, they’re one of the best full-body workouts around. If you’re looking to burn more calories in less time, burpees are the way to go. The best part? The more you amp up the intensity, the more calories you burn.
Here’s another burpee benefit. You can do them anywhere. Don’t have time to squeeze in a fitness class and all of the cardio machines are full? You can bust out a burpee anywhere and still walk away feeling the burn. Not only that, but burpees work FAST. Just a few pulse-racing, dynamic burpees are a terrific conditioning exercise.
In addition to helping you lose weight and reach your fitness goals, burpees deliver something even greater: functional fitness. In other words, the strength, endurance, and agility you gain from doing burpees carries over to your everyday activities. From playing with your children to lifting heavy items, you can tackle life’s physical challenges better thanks to burpees.
4 Tips for Better Burpees
1. Tighten your core.
Burpees work the whole body, but if you want all of their benefits, make sure your abs are tight. By keeping your core engaged, you prevent stressing your back. Also, avoid arching your back during the plank/pushup portion of the burpee, as this can also lead to back pain.
2. Use gravity and momentum.
A tight core doesn’t mean a rigid body. Gravity is your friend during a burpee. To avoid fatigue, lighten up on the way down and let physics take over. Giving yourself this brief break can help you do more burpees for longer. Speaking of breaks, pace yourself correctly. When you stop to rest in the middle of your reps, you lose momentum, making it that much harder to pick up and get going again.
3. Use your heels.
Landing on the balls of your feet can tire out your calves. Focus on jumping onto your heels instead.
Practically anyone can do burpees unless they’re holding their breath, that is. This is a common mistake for those new to the movement and can cause you to fatigue faster. Forgetting to breathe can also lead to dizziness, fainting, and blackouts. Take a breath!
While they may have a funny-sounding name, burpees deliver a serious workout.