Breaking Down One of the Most Popular Exercises

Doing burpee Source: Freepik

The burpee is a combination of several sequential elements: squats, push-ups, and jumps.

Almost no high-intensity, group, or crossfit workout is complete without burpees, and you can see people performing them in any gym. The exercise’s popularity is easily explained: it’s an excellent way to tone the body, burn calories, and increase endurance. Moreover, you don’t need any equipment or a lot of space to do it.

We’re going to discuss the origins of the burpee, its benefits, and how to perform the exercise correctly.

What’s Inside:

  • The History of the Burpee
  • Effectiveness and Benefits of the Burpee
  • Contraindications
  • Muscles Engaged
  • Calories Burned
  • Burpee Technique
  • Common Mistakes
  • Workout Programs with Burpees

The burpee originated in the 1930s, not as an exercise, but as a fitness test. It was invented by American physiologist Royal H. Burpee from Columbia University in New York. He had subjects perform four burpees in 20 seconds and then measured their pulse and the time it took for their pulse to return to normal.

In the initial version, there were no floor push-ups or jumps. Participants had to alternate between a standing position and a plank through squats. Nevertheless, the Burpee method was appreciated by the U.S. Armed Forces. In the 1940s, it began to be used to assess the fitness of recruits and in soldier training programs.

The name became associated with the exercise at the end of the century when it gained popularity in wider circles. This happened thanks to the emergence of CrossFit: former gymnast Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, borrowed the burpee from military fitness manuals. He added jumps and push-ups to the exercise.

Effectiveness and Benefits of the Burpee

The burpee is one of the most challenging bodyweight exercises. It falls under high-intensity exercises and often becomes part of interval workouts. It is included in weight loss and core-strengthening routines. The advantage of the burpee is that it engages the entire body.

Doctors confirm that the burpee helps with weight loss and metabolism acceleration. The author of the YouTube channel Billy Brendan illustrated this: as part of an experiment, he did 20 – 50 burpees a day and lost four kilograms in a month. It’s worth noting that the blogger also did several other exercises during these 30 days and made changes to his diet, reducing the intake of calorie-dense and unhealthy foods.

Studies involving teenagers have shown that burpees are beneficial for improving endurance and strengthening all major muscle groups. Additionally, they have a positive impact on cognitive functions: short-term memory improved in schoolchildren.

Like any intense workout, burpees enhance psychological well-being. Physical exercises reduce the likelihood of depression and increase stress resistance by promoting the release of adrenaline and serotonin during and after training.

Contraindications for Doing Burpees

Burpees are included in many workout programs and online weight loss marathons. However, few people realize that this exercise, like many high-intensity activities, has a lot of contraindications:

  • Pregnancy
  • Most cardiovascular conditions: hypertension, arrhythmia, orthostatic hypotension, etc.
  • Most musculoskeletal conditions, spinal injuries, hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow joint problems, etc.
  • Certain neurological disorders, such as epilepsy
  • Certain gastrointestinal conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Obesity

It’s not recommended for beginners to do burpees, especially in the initial workouts after a long break, as well as when feeling unwell for any reason. Before incorporating burpees into your workout routine, it’s advisable to consult a doctor or a trainer.

Muscles Engaged When Performing Burpees

The advantage of the burpee is that it engages all major muscle groups: calf muscles, thigh muscles, glutes, core and chest muscles, triceps, and shoulders.

Burpee Helps Improve Wrist Mobility and Faster Recovery from Falls in Everyday Life

Kaitlyn Jones, a trainer, points out that burpees also help improve wrist joint mobility and the ability to get back on your feet quickly after falls in daily life.

Burpee is an excellent cardiovascular exercise. When performed continuously, it increases the heart rate, promoting better blood circulation, and contributes to endurance development. However, even for those without cardiovascular issues, it’s important to be cautious and gradually increase the intensity to avoid abrupt changes in heart rate.

Calories Burned During Burpee Execution

According to data from the Burned Calories portal, one minute of doing burpees burns about 10 kilocalories – equivalent to a brisk walk. On average, people perform around 20 burpees in that time frame. This means that 100 repetitions help burn around 50 kilocalories.

However, this is just an approximate calculation. The actual number of calories burned depends on several factors: body weight, workout intensity, and exercise technique. The more repetitions you do, the more calories you’ll burn. But if you’re new to high-intensity exercises, it’s better not to push yourself too hard during the initial workouts. Gradually increase the intensity under the supervision of a trainer.

Proper Burpee Execution

The essence of the burpee involves alternating between dropping to the floor and jumping up. There are several variations of burpee execution, categorized by difficulty level. The starting position is always the same: feet shoulder-width apart, hands down by the sides of the body.

Low Difficulty Level: This variation resembles the original Burpee test, without jumping or push-ups, and with smoother transitions between positions. If desired, you can add knee push-ups. Suitable for beginners and individuals with lower physical fitness levels, as well as those aiming to maintain a relatively low heart rate.

How to Perform:

  1. Bend down and place your palms on the floor.
  2. Step back to a plank position on straight arms without jumping. Your body and legs should form a straight line, and your palms should be directly under your shoulders.
  3. Step your feet back towards your hands.
  4. Stand up to return to the starting position.
Low Difficulty Burpee Execution Source: Minus The Gym

Medium Difficulty Level: The standard burpee involves active jumps and push-ups. Suitable for those prepared for a substantial cardiovascular load.

How to Perform:

  1. Start with a squat position, placing your hands on the floor in front of you.
  2. Jump back into a plank position on straight arms.
  3. Perform a push-up by lowering your body while keeping your elbows out to the sides.
  4. Jump back to the squat position by bringing your feet towards your hands.
  5. From this position, jump upwards.
Medium Difficulty Burpee Execution Source: Well+Good

High Difficulty Level: Similar to the medium level, but with several additional elements. Suitable for those familiar with the exercise and looking to increase the intensity.

Remember to always prioritize proper form and technique to prevent injury and get the most out of your burpee workouts.

How to Perform:

  1. Begin in a squat position and place your hands on the floor in front of you.
  2. Jump to transition into a plank position on straight arms.
  3. Perform a push-up by lowering your body, keeping your elbows out to the sides. Your chest should touch the floor.
  4. Return to the squat position by jumping your feet towards your hands.
  5. From this position, jump upwards. During the jump, try to bring your knees towards your chest.
High Difficulty Burpee Execution Source: Live Lean TV

There are numerous variations of the exercise with different techniques, including one-legged burpees, weighted burpees, burpees with pull-ups, jumping onto an elevated surface, and more.

Common Mistakes When Performing Burpees:

Sitting on your heels during the squat position. This puts strain on your ankles and knees. It’s better to rise onto your toes, placing the weight on your forefoot to engage your calf muscles.

Arching your back during the plank position. It’s important to maintain a straight line with your hips, torso, and knees. To achieve this, engage your glutes and core muscles. Arching can lead to lower back pain.

Transferring weight to your hands too abruptly. When jumping back from your hands to the plank position, shift your weight smoothly from your legs to avoid strain on your wrists and shoulders.

Starting with advanced variations of the exercise. Beginning with complex variations without proper preparation can lead to injuries. Gradually progress in difficulty over time.

Exercising too intensively. Unnecessarily high cardiovascular stress can be dangerous. It’s important to increase intensity gradually.

Skipping warm-up before exercise. Proper warm-up is necessary to prevent muscle and joint injuries.

Workout Programs with Burpees

Burpees are often included in high-intensity functional training routines. They are frequently part of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts, which involve several rounds of exercises with short rest periods in between. Here’s an example program for beginners, aiming for five rounds. You can adjust this based on your fitness level:

1.10 burpees.
2.10 squats.
3.10 push-ups.

There are also workouts centered solely around burpees. Here’s one variation where each exercise should be performed for 30-60 seconds:

1.Burpees without push-ups.
2.Burpees with push-ups.
3.Burpees with a plank jump.
4.Burpees with dumbbell raises overhead.
5.Burpees with dumbbell chest raises.

For more advanced individuals, Men’s Health offers a workout involving running, which is best done outdoors. You’ll need to gradually increase the number of burpees, working up to 20:

1.One standard burpee.
2.Shuttle run of 80 meters.
3.Two burpees.
4.Shuttle run of 80 meters.
5.Three burpees.
6.Shuttle run of 80 meters.

In Conclusion

Burpees are one of the most effective exercises for high-intensity and crossfit-style workouts. They engage major muscle groups and can replace full cardio workouts.

You don’t need extra equipment or much space to perform burpees. The standard technique involves transitioning from a standing position to a squat, placing your hands on the floor, jumping into a plank, performing a push-up, jumping back to a squat, and finally jumping up.

There are numerous variations of burpees, from simpler versions without push-ups and jumps to more advanced ones involving one-arm movements, pull-ups, dumbbells, and more. You can incorporate burpees into your existing workout routine or build an entire session around them.

Before attempting burpees, consult with a trainer, learn proper technique, and warm up properly. Due to their high complexity, mistakes can lead to joint injuries, muscle strains, and unwanted strain on the cardiovascular system.

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