The Most Hated Exercise In The World: The Burpee
If you are going to read this blog post I’m going to assume you are fearless. Fearless because burpees are taxing. NO ONE likes to do burpees. NO ONE has ever smiled at me when I told them to do burpees. To be honest I hate doing them too. But they are a fantastic full body exercise for fat loss and total body conditioning. They will require every inch of your body to work hard.
You can see burpees prescribed in different training contexts. Crossfitters do them in their WODs (workout of the day). MMA fighters use them as part of their conditioning. You can see them be done in personal training sessions and in all sorts of bootcamp classes.
What is a burpee?
You basically perform a pushup, you then stand up and then you jump. That’s a burpee in a nutshell. You don’t need any equipment and you barely need any space. However, I will cover different modifications that will be suitable for different people.
Burpees for cardio: Intensity vs Duration
If you want to get better at swimming, then you should swim. If you want to get better at running, then you should run more. But If you simply just want to torch some calories and get fitter in the process then consider doing burpees. You don’t do burpees for 45 minutes or even 30 minutes. Burpees require all out effort. You generally perform them for a short period of time or in intervals.
When you perform long cardio sessions with a steady pace, your body will burn more fat, rather than carbohydrates or sugar. However, performing intense bouts of cardio can burn a greater amount of total fat and calories AFTER you are done with your workout. This is due to the anaerobic nature of the physical activity.
Anaerobic meaning your body will break down sugars to fuel that activity. With aerobic cardio fitness your body uses oxygen.
Performing continuous burpees is a strenuous task. It will push your heart rate up the roof. It will turn your body into a calorie-burning machine for hours following your session. With intense workout comes cellular damage and oxygen debt that puts the body through a physiological state called EPOC or Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption.
Your body will strive to return back to its normal physiological state or homeostasis. During this process your body will try to restore its normal temperature and oxygen levels, as well repair muscle tissue with protein. All this requires extensive energy in the form of calories.
Only strenuous physical activity that tap into our anaerobic energy system can achieve levels of EPOC. And for this reason burpees are ideal.
Burpees are only useful if we do them with great form. Your form is more important than the intensity. This goes for burpees or any other exercise. First make sure you have great form, once you do, you can increase the level of complexity or difficulty. A very common mistake with burpees is to solely use your spine to lower yourself instead of using your legs ans hips.
In the next section I will go over the three most common variations. The more advanced and conditioned you are, the more variations of burpees you can do.
Note: You don’t really have to clap at the top of the burpee, lol.
This variation is suitable for someone that wants to get their feet wet with the exercise. You perform the movement in segments and you don’t have to do a push up or jump. In the video above I am finishing off with a hop. You can add this too if you wish. Another way to make this exercise even simpler is to place your hands on an elevated platform, such as a bench or on top of a gym box/step.
With intermediate burpees you kick your feet back instead of walking them back. This version looks very similar to a “sprawl” usually seen in a mixed martial arts gym. Try your best not to let your lower back sag when you are shooting your legs back. To increase the intensity of the exercise simply perform the movement quicker and jump at the top instead of performing a hop.
Now it’s time to add push ups. Adding push ups to this already demanding movement will require new muscles to come into play, specifically your chest, shoulders and triceps. And unlike the previous versions, you will perform a jump at the top of the exercise.
Crossfit Burpees: There’s a subtle difference between the traditional burpees and the Crossfit ones. With the advanced burpees you perform regular strict push ups, and with the crossfit burpees it’s more of a chest-to-floor movement where your chest, legs and hips come in contact with the ground.
The purpose of the Crossfit burpees is that they allow you to do more repetitions. It takes less time to complete them. Strict push up burpees require more control and strength but take longer to finish.
Crossfit burpees can get you less sore than strict push up burpees. This is because the lowering portion of the Crossfit burpee is almost non-existent, it goes by really fast.
The controlled lowering portion of any exercise can cause more soreness than the lifting portion.
Burpee Pull Ups: By adding a pull up to the burpee exercise we are making the exercise more complete by including our pulling muscles; back and biceps.
Burpee Tuck Jumps: These are extremely explosive. When you jump at the top, you’re going to tuck your knees as high as you can towards your chest.
Dive Bomber Burpee: In this version, you are going to start in a downward facing dog position. You then lower yourself, bringing your face close to the ground.
Make sure to fully extend your arms at the top to complete the push up, as soon as you do, hop your feet towards your hands and then jump.
Burpee Box Jumps: We are going to add a forward jump at the top of the exercise in this version. To progress this exercise simply jump on top of a higher platform.
Burpee-Squat-Jump: In this final burpee variation we are making the exercise longer by adding a squat in between the push up and the jump portion of the movement.
Here some older burpee variations from my YouTube Channel.
Battle Rope Burpees: https://youtu.be/ggREbG6w6hY
Burpees with Different Pull Up Grips: https://youtu.be/YztGQ3ISLCg
Explosive Burpee with Roll Back: https://youtu.be/umKEmVPyRZo
There’s tons ways you can incorporate burpees into your workouts. You can do them in between other exercises in a circuit. You can do them as workout finishers at the end of a circuit. You can even simply dedicate a short of amount of time solely to them or you can integrate them into bodyweight complexes.
Complexes are two or more exercises performed back-to-back. For example, you take three exercises such as bodyweight squats, burpees and glute bridges. You perform all the specified reps (usually between 6 -10) for each exercise to finish of a set. You do the exercises in a fast pace and you don’t rest between exercises.
As I mentioned before, you can also do them in an interval format. With intervals you perform exercises with moderate to high intensity followed by a brief period of rest or low intensity. The biggest mistake I see with interval training is that people don’t select an exercise or weight that will challenge them enough or they rest too long between movements.
These workouts will not require any weights whatsoever. You will be using your own body weight for resistance. There’s a total of 9 different short but purposeful workouts, 3 in each fitness level. Each section will have different work and rest periods.
Make sure you are healthy and injury free before you commence any training programs, even the beginner ones. Consult with your doctor before engaging in intense physical activity.
Beginner Bodyweight Complex
You have three different beginner workouts to choose. Even though these circuits utilize the beginner burpee variation, you can still get a great calorie burn from them.
Volume: You will do 3 sets of any workout you select. Each subsequent workout will get progressively more difficult with more repetitions and more challenging movements. Remember, you move from exercise to exercise until you complete the set. So with workout #1 in the example above, you will do 5 beginner burpees immediately followed by 5 push ups and then finish off with 5 jumping jacks. That’s one set.
- Weeks 1-2, rest 2 minutes between sets.
- Weeks 3-4, rest 90 secs between sets.
Note: If one workout isn’t enough for you, then complete two.
Intermediate Bodyweight Workout- Intervals
You’re going to need an interval timer for the following workouts. There’s a bunch of free timers you can download from the App Store or the Google Play Store.
In these workouts you will integrate the intermediate burpee variation and the exercises become slightly more difficult.
Volume: You will do 3 sets of any workout you choose. You’re going to perform 25 seconds of each exercise. Like in the beginner bodyweight complex, you will only have 3 exercises to do. It will take you about 7 minutes to complete one workout. Every two weeks you will decrease your rest period and thus complete the workout a lot quicker.
- Weeks 1-2, rest 25 seconds between exercises.
- Weeks 3-4, rest 20 seconds between exercises.
- Weeks 4-6, rest 15 seconds between exercises.
Advanced Bodyweight Workout- Intervals
These next workouts are not for the faint hearted. They are intense and will cause the most metabolic disturbance. We will be incorporating the advanced burpees I showed your earlier.
Volume: Again, there are 3 workouts to do. You’re going to perform 20 seconds of each exercise and 3 sets per workout.
- Weeks 1-2, rest 20 seconds between exercises.
- Weeks 3-4, rest 15 seconds between exercises.
- Weeks 4-6, rest 10 seconds between exercises.
Maybe you like burpees a lot. Maybe you like them so much you want to do them everyday. If that’s the case here’s a 30 day burpee challenge for you. However, we are going to spice things up with squats on alternating days. This way you will target your upper and lower body throughout the month.
How about pairing up the burpee with the kettlebell swing? Sounds crazy? Maybe a little. But these are two total body exercises that will efficiently contribute to your fat loss efforts.
Advanced Burpee Challenge
OK, maybe you need more. Maybe you are a super conditioned person that really wants a butt kick. This is why I made this advanced challenge.
Again, I included bodyweight squats so that the workout can be more complete.
Check out my Pinterest board where I have more 30 Day Challenges.
You haven’t fallen in love with the burpee yet? That’s ok. We don’t have to like it, we just have to know that it works. Happy training!