What is a burpee and why do trainers love them so much?
As a trainer what I love about the burpee is that it covers lots of muscle groups and it makes you suck in air to get it done, which means I can get my clients doing a lot of work in just one single movement, and lets face it they came to see me because they want a workout and I want to give them value for money – so I give them a burpee. The burpee works all these muscles pecs, obliques, abs, quads, glutes, hamstrings and calf! The simplest (and the original) version of a burpee is performed like this:
- Squat down and place both hands on the floor in front of you.
- Jump feet back into plank position
- Jump feet back to their original position
- Return to standing
Most trainers these days will have you jump in the air with your hands up at the end of each one and drop your chest to the ground and then push-up again from the plank position too! The burpee is a force not to be stopped and has evolved into countless variations as well, so the modern trainer can actually torture you with burpees again and again and you can’t even complain that you’re bored because you have to do the same thing over and over – ha!
Royal H. Burpee
The second thing I love about burpees is that they are named after a guy called Royal H. Burpee, what an awesome name!
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the exercise was named for American physiologist Royal H. Burpee, who developed the Burpee test. Burpee, a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Physiology at Columbia University, wanted a simple way to assess the fitness of average people (starting with the new members of the YMCA in the Bronx, where Burpee worked), so he invented an, as-yet-unnamed four-count movement that would provide a quick and accurate way to evaluate fitness in 1939. The exercise was popularized when the United States Armed Services adopted it as a way to assess the fitness level of recruits when the US entered WWII. Consisting of a series of the exercises performed in rapid succession, the test was meant to be a quick measure of agility, coordination and strength.
Tips for a good burpee workout
1. Maintain a consistent pace – it’s much better to just keep going when you are doing burpees, than to stop altogether and start again. Most people stop because they are tired, but then it’s too hard to get going again so it’s better to slow down a bit and complete all your reps in one go than go fast and burn out and have to start again.
2. Go into auto-pilot- if you can, try not to think about how much work you are doing and think about each step of the movement, squat-plank-push-up-jump up – it will help you maintain your form throughout.
3. Breathe – Don’t forge to breathe! (Sounds dumb but people do all the time) Try to keep your breathing as steady as possible. It doesn’t really matter at which point you breathe in and which point you force the air out as long as you figure out what works for you and you keep it the same for each burpee.
4. Don’t arch your back many people, in their urgent desire to get back up off the floor, tend to arch their back almost like an upward dog (yoga) position. This can lead to lower back pain, so back to the first point, slow and steady is better.
5. Work on Full-Range of Motion – The whole chest should touch the floor, you should look up when you reach the squat position with legs wide and hips open so you can spring up off the floor.
Burpee to pull-up, Burpee to box jump, Burpee with a kettlebell, Burpee with a medicine ball, Burpee with two push-ups, Burpee with mountain climbers, Burpee up your lunch because you ate too much and then went to the gym….(just checking to see if you’ve read this far!) I think you can see where I am going here, there millions of variations out there, and you don’t even need equipment so you can do them even when you’re not in the gym! Which means you can join me on a…
There are plenty of burpee challenges floating around out there, but I think we won’t be too excessive, let’s make ours a two week challenge. You can start today, or tomorrow I don’t care, but for 14-days is succession you are going to do ‘x’ number of burpees. You pick, you know your fitness level, I don’t. I am going to do 30. Twenty would probably be a bit too easy for me and 50 would definitely be too many and I would give up. So choose a number that will be a little challenge (but not too hard) and stick at it. GOOD LUCK!