All About the Burpee

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Burpees: The exercise we all love to hate! All About the Burpee www.runnerclick.com

There’s a reason why burpees are often preceded or followed by some choice four-letter words. They are hard. And adding them into your cardio or strength routine might seem like just about the last thing you want to do. Be that as it may, you might want to reconsider if you have been reluctant to do so in the past. This is because burpees give you a BIG bang for your buck, as far as strength training, cardio, calories burned, heart rate elevation, and muscles used are concerned. Even just aiming to do five to ten a day would rev your heart rate up, burn some extra calories, and make those arms, abs, and legs burn.

What are the benefits?

Burpees translate into much more than a quick way to spike your heart rate. Burpees are considered a high-intensity workout, and incorporating them into a HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workout will mean major return on investment in calories burned. Studies show that HIIT workouts that involve short bursts of extremely intense exercises that really crank up your heart rate, even when only performed for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, actually burn more calories over time than extended cardio runs (i.e. a weekend morning long run). This is because the body actually takes longer to recover from HIIT workouts. Heart rate stays elevated and the body has to work harder for it to come down to normal, muscles are engaged and have to recover in overtime in order to repair. Ultimately, the body’s resting metabolic rate ( the rate at which it burns energy to sustain itself) is increased for an entire 24 hours after the HIIT workout has completed, before it levels back out to “normal”.

And because burpees are considered a “full body” exercise, engaging the upper body, core, and lower body all at once, your strength training routine can become more streamlined and efficient. Plus, burpees are versatile and convenient. They benefit all athletes, ranging from runners and swimmers to football and rugby players, and they can basically be performed anywhere (i.e. in the gym, on the field, in the hotel room… heck, even in the office if you have to!) Burpees do not require any equipment: just a bit of space for you to spread out in and the wherewithal to get ‘em done!

How many and how often should I be doing them?

Like any type of fitness you are new to, it’s best to start out slow and work your way to faster times and more reps. This is especially true for HIIT workouts (like burpees) that might be dangerous and cause injury if you do them incorrectly. To start, aim to incorporate 5-10 burpees into your regular workout routine. Then set a goal for yourself to work toward. For instance, you could aim to increase your burpee number by 10 burpees each week, working your way up to 40 burpees at the end of a month. Really there is no maximum number that you should stop at, so long as you aren’t performing them with poor form or risking injury. And there’s really no minimum either since they are such an excellent total body exercise and even smaller amounts will benefit you.

But then, like all great exercises and conditioning opportunities, a quick Google search will clue you into the various burpee challenges that exist – some only virtually online but some in your own gym or fitness arena! Grab a friend or a group of your workout buddies to join in on the challenge for some added fun and accountability.

Once you have built your base and learned the basics of the burpee, try your hand at the 100 Burpee Challenge Workout, (complete 100 consecutive burpees in a time trial; the goal is to work your way down to 12 minutes, then 10 minutes, then even under 8 and 6 minutes!) Merciless Burpee Workout, (a CrossFit style workout that incorporates just 6 moves – including regular burpees and burpee pull-ups – for 2 minutes each to get that heart rate bumping) and the 30 Day Burpee Challenges (30 days of burpees; start in the 10-30 burpees per day range, and work your way up to the 55 to 65 burpee range by day 30). So long as you are healthy and not injured, these are an excellent way to increase strength, cardio, and endurance.

What about burpee variations?

Burpees come in all shapes and sizes. The traditional full burpee starts in a standing position. Then, squat down and place your hands on the ground and kick your feet out behind you, and seamlessly transition into a full push up as your feet are pushed out behind you. After performing a full push up, then thrust your knees back into your chest and land on your feet, then immediately jump up with your hands in the air. That completes one traditional full burpee. A half burpee is all of that but without the push-up.

A weighted burpee involves a traditional burpee but involves raises weights (dumbbells, kettlebells, plates, medicine ball, etc) over your head during your jump. A burpee pull-up involves a traditional burpee but incorporates a pull up instead of just a jump. 

There are also a number of jumping burpee variations you can try (instead of just a typical vertical jump up from the push-up position). You can try box jump burpees in which you jump up on a box or lateral jump burpees in which you jump to the left or right (challenge yourself by jumping left/right OVER an obstacle). Or if you want to stay with a vertical jump, try bringing your knees up to your chest in a tuck jump burpee. Basically, you can get as creative as you want with your burpees, which is another reason why they’re so versatile.

Proceed with caution

Burpees are an incredible exercise to include in your workout routine, but just like any exercise, if you’re performing them incorrectly, you risk injuring yourself. Burpees are often performed with speed in mind, so you might be challenging yourself to get through a certain number of burpees in only a little time – which is great for getting your heart rate up but might mean you sacrifice form and hurt yourself. Because you’re coming down off of your jump directly into a push-up form, you risk putting too much weight onto your shoulders, elbows, and upper body with the full force of your body weight in motion. The same is true for the repeated pounding of landing on your knees, legs, and joints when you come down from your jump. Make sure you always stretch well before you perform burpees, and work your way up slowly to doing more burpees at a faster rate. Your body will thank you!

Sources

  1. Kendal Boyd, 30 Variations Of Burpees You Can’t Wait To Try, Lifting Revolution Blog post, Aug 29, 2016
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