“Buck Furpees”. “Burpees don’t like you either”. “Burpees suck”
We’ve heard it all, but why so much hate? For many of us there are certain exercises, movements, or machines that really challenge us. They expose gaps in our fitness and it’s uncomfortable, so our attitude gets defensive.
What if we changed our mindset to focus on the benefits of the exercise instead of the discomfort they cause? ‘How can I be better at this?’ ‘How can I improve my technique so this movement isn’t so tough?’
Let’s talk burpees.
How does a burpee relate to regular life?
Let’s say you want lay in the sun to get your tan on. You lay your blanket down, set both hands down on the ground, jump your feet back and sink into the soft ground. Not a second later a giant spider has walked onto your blanket and is inches from your face. You spring to your hands, tuck your feet underneath you and within a millisecond you jump a foot off the ground.
I, personally, could not think of a better reason to regularly train to get better at burpees. Even though preventing a spider attack provides a great benefit, there are so many more benefits that burpees offer:
Full Body Movement – take our entire body through range of motion, from flexion and extension of all the major joints.
Conditioning – just like running, cycling, swimming or rowing, burpees are a great way to increase your aerobic capacity. There is less impact than running, they utilize upper and lower body unlike cycling and burpees don’t require a swim-suit or any equipment.
Functional Body Weight Movement – Whether you are 8 years old, 80 years old or anywhere in between, research has proven the value of body weight exercises.
If you look at fitness as a lifestyle and something you want to do for the rest of your life, body weight exercises are something that fits that criteria. Yes, back squatting 400 pounds is awesome, but when you are in your 80’s/90’s is it still a high priority? What is necessary at that age, or any age, is the ability to move your body, whether that is sitting on the ground and standing back up, playing with your kids on the floor, or getting in and out of your low riding sports car!
Okay, okay, even with all the facts you may still be of the mindset that burpees are unpleasant. I am totally okay with that. There are things in life that in the immediate are unpleasant but in the long run are for our benefit. Let’s focus on the WHY! Why do you even want to do burpees? Why do you think you should do them? Why do you want to be healthy? If you tie in your immediate tasks to a long-term goals things will make a lot more sense. Check out Amanda’s story about conquering burpees and crushing goals.
In 2015 I was at a packed conference that was standing room only. As the lecture went on the majority of us opted to find a seat on the floor. When the end of the lecture was approaching I found myself dreading the need to stand up. How was I gracefully going to get up off of the floor? I was surrounded by my professional peer group and I'm going to have to figure out how to get off the floor without asking for help. How did I let this happen? I was only 35 years old!
After that I joined a women’s only fitness challenge to try to address my inability to do what should be simple tasks. During our workout on our very first night we were assigned the dreaded Burpee. I couldn't do it. I could not do a burpee! I literally had to drop onto my knees, crawl back to lay on the floor, hoist myself up to crawl back up and then step up one leg at a time. The finishing jump at the end was more like an after thought. It was a rude awakening! I remember crying in my car on the way home. I also remember deciding at that moment that I may never fall in love with the burpee but one day I would be able to do a proper burpee without having to give it much thought.
I stuck with it. I crawled through them until I eventually was able to jump my feet back and then crawl back up. Next I started to be able to jump one foot forward at a time in quick succession. Finally, the day came when I was able to kick both feet back and drop to the floor, then push up and jump both feet forward, then transition into a little jump.
I had mastered the burpee!!! I still hated the burpee but the satisfaction I got from finally being able to complete the task was overwhelming. My car has seen a lot of post gym tears, both frustrated and happy!
This past September I was at another packed conference and was preparing myself to leave the room when all of a sudden I realized that for the first time in my adult life I had gotten up off of the floor without giving it a thought. Thank you burpees!
How To (See the images to follow the movements in our Digital Edition:
THE DOWN PORTION
- squat down, butt back, place hands on ground, kick both feet all the way back and drop your chest to the floor
- keep tension in your core and keep shoulders down/back (not forward/in your ears)
THE UP PORTION
- push chest up off ground (careful not to lose tension in your core. Your back will arch/extend, but keep your core contracted)
- jump feet up and underneath you, keep your chest facing forward and jump up to full extension OR (instead of jumping) step one foot up underneath you and then the other foot (keep chest facing forward the whole time) and jump to full extension.
CYCLING THROUGH MULTIPLE REPS FOR SPEED
- keeping tension throughout the core is key here. Think of an elastic, this is useless without creating tension first. Same thing with the core here, keeping tension helps us move fast and protects our back from injury.
- Minimize the amount of steps you are taking. One jump back, one jump forward, and one jump vertical.
The worm/ Flop on the floor – If you lose tension in your core you will flop down on the floor uncontrolled and will look like a worm slinking up off the floor. Not only does this slow down your burpees but could set you up for injury of your back or something else.
1 – Sprawl (jump or step back) – This is a great modification for pregnant women. You place your hands down as you normally would, instead here you stop at the top of a plank position. You don’t drop your body all the way to the ground.
2- Step back and up – the step back and step up replaces the jump back and jump feet back up.
3- No Jump – The down portion is the same and the up portion would end with jumping the feet together. There is no vertical jump. This modification is good to decrease the load on the calf and achilles.
4- Sprawl onto a bench – Instead of placing hands on ground, you place them on a bench or elevated surface and jump or step back. The back portion of this should look like a plank. There is no bend in the arms here.
Want to INCREASE the intensity?
5- Burpee Pull up – Do a regular burpee and in the vertical jump at the end, jump into a pull up.
6- Burpee Box Jump Over – Do a regular burpee and instead of the vertical jump, jump over or onto a box. Repeat on the other side.
7- Burpee Muscle Up – Same as a burpee pull up, except just into a bar or ring muscle up.
8- Burpee with a weight vest – Want to feel like you’ve gained 15 pounds? Add a weight vest to increase the intensity.
9- Burpee holding dumbbells – Instead of placing hands on ground, place hands on a set of dumbbells, on the vertical jump, jump with them in your hands. This is also a great modification for people with wrist issues, placing hands on dumbbells eliminates wrist extension.
10- Burpee Back flip (just kidding… or am I?!) Maybe just google this one!
Meaghan Becker - Crossfit Armoury