Burpees 101: What They Are & Why We Do 'Em

We don't blame you for cursing the very day the burpee was invented. That's probably comparable to how we felt when E! aired 'What Would Ryan Lochte Do?' last year.

May 30, 2014
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If you've heard of burpees before, there's a good chance you love to hate 'em. The six-count bodyweight movement is used across the country in workouts by coaches, fitness fans, and trainers alike as an all-around conditioning exercise that gets the heart rate up. In layman's terms, a burpee is a squat that moves into a quick plank position, then back to standing in one quick movement.

"A burpee is somewhat equal to a push up, good morning, air squat, and a vertical jump all in one," says Reebok CrossFit Games athlete Annie Thorisdottir. If done correctly, the exercise will train the pushing muscles of the upper body, all the muscles of the lower body, and the core muscles. Not too shabby, eh?

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More: HIIT Workouts: What They Are & Why They Work

Granted, different trainers and gyms will have different burpee expectations. Thorisdottir recently gave us the lowdown on the proper way to do this hellish exercise (hey, you were thinking it, too!) as well as her top burpee benefits.

Breaking It Down

1. Start by standing up straight. Bend over at the hips, pushing the hips back and reaching down to touch the floor with your hands while keeping your whole foot on the floor (your knees can bend, but you want to make sure you're loading your hamstrings while you do this).

2. From there, jump back with your feet into a push-up plank position.

3. Your chest should then touch the floor. You don't necessarily need to do a true push-up, but you can let your knees go to the floor and then roll down to your chest without compromising back position.

4. Return to plank position by pushing up with your hands (again keeping the core pretty tight).

5. Pop up using the power from your hips to bring your legs in toward your hands. Try to land on the whole foot in the same position as you passed on the way down, then stand up from there.

6. Explosively jump upward, most people add a clap or throw their hands up into the air for the final hoorah.

To practice getting the hips fired up, it's a good to practice the burpee with your feet together and then play around with the foot position. Just keep in mind that if your feet go further out than your shoulders, it will be harder to use your hips when jumping back up.

 

More: Perfect the Pushup in 4 Moves (Yes, Even YOU.)

Burpee Benefits

"There are a lot of benefits that come from doing burpees, the most obvious of which is being able to get up quickly after a fall," jokes Thorisdotter. "It's a movement that develops strength,  endurance, explosiveness, and coordination because there's SO much going on."

And while the Reebok athlete says that you can reap the benefits of burpees no matter your form, she also reiterated that there are no set in stone rules on how to get from standing to the floor and back up again, there are ways to make the whole process a whole lot more efficient. "The perfect burpee is one where you are able to access and use the power from your hips while keeping your body in a good strong position without 'worming' your way through the movement," she says.

"By doing your burpees in a stronger position, you will not fatigue as fast and will be able to keep going therefor for much longer," says Thorisdotter, who notes there's also time and place to think about form. In a high rep burpee workout -- think more about good form. When you're working for speed, think less is more, move faster.