Burpees are well known in the fitness industry. But, if you haven’t heard of them, that’s ok — keep reading to learn more about the hype and how you can make them work for you, regardless of your fitness level.
For the most part, burpees tend to find their way into many High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), cardio, and strength training workouts due to the fact that they challenge you from head to toe. So whether you’re looking to build strength and endurance, kickstart a cardio workout, or burn calories, burpees are a great addition to tackle many fitness goals.
Although there are many ways to define the movement, it's important to learn how to do a burpee safely and effectively for your body.
How To Do a Burpee
Essentially, it’s a push-up followed by a jump squat. But, there are technicalities to the movement. A single burpee repetition looks like this:
- Begin in the squat position — and don’t forget proper form when it comes to your squat! Your back should be straight and your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
- Place your palms flat on the ground, shoulder-width apart.
- With your weight shifted over your hands, jump your feet back so that you’re in a push-up (or high plank) position. (Friendly reminder: keep your back straight in this position and try to avoid shifting your hips up into the air.)
- Do a full push-up. A traditional burpee involves touching your chest to the ground before pushing your body back up to push-up position.
- Jump your feet back up to meet your hands.
- Push through your heels (with power!) into a jump, landing in a squat position.
Like we mentioned before, burpees are a fan-favorite (and dreaded, too) because they can be added into any workout. Along with that, they can be done just about anywhere. All you need is your body — no gym or equipment necessary. You don’t need much room, either — only as much room as you’d need to complete a single push-up.
Want to increase your overall strength? Do some burpees! Think about it: push-ups engage the core, the back, and obviously, the upper extremity. Squats, while also utilizing the core, are a lower body exercise. Combine the two (ahem, do a burpee), and you’ve pretty much hit every major muscle group with one simple exercise.
While the movement does make you stronger, it serves as a double threat by also increasing your cardiovascular fitness. As a multi-planar movement (meaning you quickly transition from your stomach to standing), burpees really kick-start the cardiovascular system and get your blood pumping.
Related: Test your limits with FitnessBlender’s 100 Burpees Workout Challenge
How To Do a Good Burpee, Even with Modifications
The other fantastic thing about burpees is how scalable they are. They can be made easier or harder depending on your fitness level and joint health.
It’s important to ease into an exercise that involves so many muscle groups like a burpee does, especially for a beginner or someone returning from injury. If you need modifications, try some of the ideas listed below.
- Skip the push-up and the squat jump. Begin like a standard burpee, but step back instead of jumping into the high plank position. Then step your feet back to your hands one at a time, stand up, and complete the squat. This low impact version is ideal for people with joint problems, a history of injury, or burpee beginners.
- If your upper body strength is lacking, ease into burpees by only removing the push-up. While this requires more core strength to maintain the high plank, it can lessen the load on your pecs and triceps.
- Cardio fitness takes some time to build. Feel free to skip the jump at the top if you feel your heart rate getting too high, too quickly. This modification may also be suitable as your body begins to fatigue. Remember, safety comes first, especially when doing a challenging coordinated exercise like a burpee.
Burpees tend to be associated with lower back pain, but this is almost always related to poor form. Placing an emphasis on proper form can avoid inevitable injuries. They’re tiring, too! Take extra care not to compromise your form when exhaustion starts to set it.
How To Do a *Spicy* Burpee
Yes, burpees can be made easier. But we can also make them harder, if you’re looking for a challenge or a little bit of variety. You can incorporate a handful of gym equipment to up the ante, including:
- Add a box jump. Rather than jumping straight up, jump onto a box. When you go into your push-up, place your hands on the box for an incline push-up. You’re adding yet another plane of movement to the exercise, making it more difficult and also adding to the ever growing list of benefits to burpees.
- You can add to your upper body strength by holding a bosu ball throughout the duration of your burpee. On top of that, you increase the involvement of your core muscles. But, be prepared for sore abs afterwards.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells. Do your burpee, but instead of jumping up at the end, complete a bicep curl to overhead press. Full body movement, personified.
- Medicine ball slams can really increase the intensity of your burpee, especially when it comes to a cardiovascular challenge. With the medicine ball resting in front of you, complete the push-up portion of your burpee as normal. After jumping your feet towards your hands, grab the medicine ball, stand up straight, reach overhead, and slam it back on the ground.
If you’re looking for a spicy burpee challenge, try Tasha’s recommendation: Strength and Cardio EMOMs (Every Minute on the Minute) Workout.
A word of caution, regardless of your fitness level: Never hesitate to go back to the basics when you’re doing burpees. Start slowly, and make sure you have the basic components of the exercise down before adding anything else to your burpee.
While they may not be your favorite exercise, burpees are undeniably effective. With so many alternatives, nearly everyone can do a burpee regardless of fitness level. And the health benefits? They’re endless. Next time you’re stumped with what exercise to do next at the gym or during your home workout, consider burpees. Don't worry — you’ll be thanking yourself later.