Okay, so burpees (also sometimes called squat thrusts—who knew?!) aren’t always ~fun~ in the moment. But trust me (and you should because I’m a certified personal trainer!): All that jumping, pressing, and sweating isn’t for nothing. Burpees are an awesome functional exercise.
They predominantly give you a cardio challenge, while also building strength and mobility. But they’re also great for conditioning your body for other high intensity exercises. And their ability to burn fat and be done anywhere with absolutely no equipment needed is a definite win.
Another key benefit? Burpees can prep you for everyday life by triggering your flight or flight response and bolstering your reaction time. And if you do enough burpees on a consistent and long-term basis, they can result in major muscle gains. (Think: stronger, more defined arms and toned legs.)
In other words: They’re hard—but they’ll work your body, burn off calories, and give you some much-needed heart conditioning.
But before you rush off and start doing burpees, it’s important to mention that this exercise can also result in serious injuries if you do them incorrectly, especially in your wrists and shoulders where most of your bodyweight will be supported as you jump up and down. So here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about the exercise—from how to do a basic burpee to variations, modifications and everything in between.
How To Do A Burpee
How to: Stand in a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart, arms by sides. Drop body down into a low squat position, with hands on the floor. Then kick feet back, landing in a pushup plank position. Reverse the motion: Jump feet forward to the outsides of hands to come to a low squat position, then stand back up. That’s one rep. (Optional: Complete a pushup while in plank position, or try one of these other burpee variations.)
Form tip: Regardless of variation, watch your form when you’re in plank position—don’t let your hips sink down.
Reps/sets for best results: Aim for three to four sets of 10 to 15 reps.
Benefits Of A Burpee
Burpees are considered a cardio-strength move, meaning they increase your heart rate but also build muscle—and are on par with similar exercises like mountain climbers and jumping jacks. They’re a full-body exercise, especially working your arms and shoulders.
Make Burpees Part Of Your Workout
If you want to incorporate burpees into your workout, it’s actually pretty simple. It’s a very versatile exercise, but they’re best used in a) warmups and b) as active recovery.
Burpees make for a great warmup because the move engages several muscle groups at once, plus it gets the core body temperature up and the muscles ready for continued work.
For active recovery, pair burpees with an accessory arm exercise like biceps curls. Biceps curls have a high fatigue rate and performing burpees in between sets minimizes the downtime for recovery and maximizes your work efficiency.
When you do burpees, stick to 10 or 15 reps. If you’re just doing one set, feel free to push past this number. But if you’re doing more than one set, you’ll get more out of each round if you stick to this rep range, rest for 30 seconds to a minute, and then hit it again. (Three to four sets is a good goal.)
And you can do burpees several times a week, as long as you have strong and healthy shoulders. Because you focus so much bodyweight into this area when you drop down, it’s easy to overdo it if your shoulder strength isn’t where it needs to be. But otherwise, don’t be afraid to make this workout move a regular part of your fitness routine.
How To Make A Burpee Harder
Let’s say you’ve already mastered the burpee and are looking for more of a challenge. For an extra cardio boost, instead of standing from the low squat position, jump straight up into the air. Be sure to land with soft knees as you seamlessly move down into the next burpee.
How To Make A Burpee Easier
If you’re struggling to complete this intense exercise, that’s okay too. You can always modify the movement to make it a little easier. To lighten your load (whether you’re new to conditioning or exhausted halfway through your set), skip the jump in and out of the pushup position. Instead, step your feet back and into the low squat. Less pressure, but still effective.
Variations Of Burpees
- Mountain Burpee: This is a great variation for people looking for a challenge. In the low position, instead of doing a pushup, alternate jumping legs and forth (like with mountain climbers) for about 10 repetitions, or five each leg. Then stand up. This way you get the benefits of both a burpee and a mountain climber.
- Shoulder-Touch Burpee: If you want to focus more on your balance and core stability, shoulder-touch burpees are the way to go. In the low position, kick legs out, then take left arm and touch right shoulder. Stabilize, and right arm to touch left shoulder. Do two to three touches with each arm to get those delts and arms really fired up.
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