The burpee is the king of bodyweight exercises. The single most challenging, effective and complete, whole-body conditioning exercise there is. No other movement will work as many muscle groups, while at the same time improving your endurance, stamina and cardio conditioning.
The burpee was originally a military calisthenic exercise but has been used by fighters and more recently adopted by CrossFitters. The average gym-goer may have heard of burpees, but most likely never done one.
The burpee, or squat thrust, is a full body exercise used in strength training and as an anaerobic exercise. The basic movement is performed in four steps and known as a “four-count burpee”.
How can you use burpees in your training program?
First you must learn to perform the burpee correctly:
- From the standing position, drop down into a squat with your hands palms down on the floor in front of your feet.
- Kick your feet back in one quick motion to the push-up position.
- Kick your feet forward and return to the squat position.
- Stand and return to the upright position.
Those are the steps of the most basic burpee. Once you have the basics mastered, there are many variations you can add to increase the difficulty and effectiveness. For example, when you are in the pushup position, perform a pushup or two. To increase the challenge further, as you come up from the lower squat, jump up rather than stand. Want even more challenge? Perform your jumping, pushup burpees under a pullup bar and as you jump, grab the bar and perform a chin up or pull up.
Once you are proficient in performing burpees, there are several approaches to incorporate them in your workout, and several ways to use them AS your workout.
Here are three examples:
1. 5X10 Burpees
Start with a workout of 5 sets of 10 basic burpees with a one minute break between sets. Once this is no longer a challenge, do the same workout using push up burpees, and then as you advance, do jumping pushup burpees. Keep your towel and water close by. Another option would be to work up from 5X10 to 10X10 for 100 reps.
2. Tabata Burpees
Using a timer or stopwatch, do as many burpees as you can in 20 seconds followed by a short recovery of 10 seconds. Repeat this pattern as many times as time permits. This is an ideal approach to burning max calories in the shortest time.
3. Prison Burpees
Start with 20 burpees, basic for beginners, push up and or jumping once you are more advanced. Rest for as little time as possible to recover for the next set which will be 19 burpees. Again, recover as quickly as possible and then perform 18 burpees and continue in this pattern until you struggle with your last single burpee. This is a total of 210 burpees in as few as 20 minutes.