The no muscle left behind exercise "burpee".
Burpee exercise has been deemed the ultimate exercise because it builds strength, cardiovascular endurance, burns an insane amount of calories, and can test even the most seasoned athletes.
Both CrossFit enthusiasts and military personnel utilize burpees to build endurance and strength.
Below, we will discuss the history of the burpee, how it came about and how to perform one correctly.
Learn why it is such a popular exercise and discuss how to establish an effective burpee workout routine.
What is Burpee?
The burpee is a full-body weight exercise that combines many different elements in physical fitness. This exercise can be used to build both muscular strength and aerobic capacity.
The basic movement is performed in four steps and known as a four-count burpee:
Step 1: Begin in a standing position.
Step 2: Drop into a squat position with your hands on the ground. ( Count-1)
Step 3: Kick your feet back, while keeping your arms straight. Forming a straight line form your head to your heels. ( Count-2)
Step 4: Quickly jump your feet back to the squat position. ( Count-3)
Step 5: Jump into the air from the squat position. ( Count-4)
History of The Burpee Exercise
A New York-based physiologist named Royal H. Burpee invented the move in the 1930’s as a sort of fitness test.
It was a slightly milder version of the grueling exercise we know today and was intended to only be performed 4 times in a row.
In fact, burpee was known to discourage anyone from performing numerous times. Because only 2 copies of Burpee’s original thesis remain, his granddaughter (Sheryl Burpee Dluginski) has made it her mission to explain the actual history behind this tormenting exercise.
Dluginski explains that her grandfather was a huge fitness fanatic.
He wanted to devise a simple way to assess the various fitness levels of everyday individuals utilizing one single test.
In 1939, when Burpee was a PhD candidate at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University, he invented a 4-count movement as an accurate and fast way to evaluate an individual’s level of fitness.
Dluginski states that this 4-count movement was known by many names before it was widely known as just "a burpee". It began as a squat thrust, then a "4-count burpee".
Later on it was called a "front leaning rest", and then a Military burpee.
Originally, the move was quite simple and was as follows:
- Bend at the knees into a squatting position, with both hands on the floor in front of you.
- Pushing off of your hands, jump your feet backward into a plank position.
- Jump your feed forward.
- Return to the beginning standing position.
To begin the fitness test, Burpee would record five separate heart rate measurements before and after four burpees had been performed, and then devised an equation that would accurately assess the heart’s blood pumping efficiency.
He determined that this was an accurate measure of overall fitness.
The burpee that is performed today is a little different than the original, in that it contains six movements instead of four.
It is performed as quickly as possible, and requires the individual to move through the positions quickly and fluidly. The burpee of today is performed like this:
- Bend at the knee and place both hands on the floor in front of you.
- Pushing off of your hands, jump your feet back until you are in a plank position.
- Drop down into a pushup position until your chest touches the floor.
- Push yourself back up into a plank position.
- Jump your feet forward, toward your hands.
- Jump into the air using an explosive motion, with your arms extended straight overhead.
As you can see, the burpee of today is a little more difficult to perform than the original.
The benefits of burpee exercise
There is a good reason why elite military groups, CrossFit practitioners and football teams utilize the burpee in their training routines- it is a full-body exercise that can increase aerobic capacity and strength in one movement.
A few benefits of performing the burpees are:
- Increased strength: The burpee is a complete strength training exercise. Each repetition strengthens your arms, chest, deltoids, hamstrings, thighs and abs.
- Increased fat burning: Because you engage your entire body when performing a burpee, it is considered one of the best exercises known to burn excess body fat. A study conducted by Dr. Christopher Scott at the University of Southern Maine shows that performing high intensity exercises can burn 50 percent more fat and calories than conventional exercises. Burpees have also been proven to increase metabolic rate, which helps to burn more calories when the body is at rest.
- Enhanced conditioning: Because burpees are extremely taxing on the cardiovascular system, they are a highly efficient way to increase endurance and enhance overall body conditioning.
- No expensive equipment: Burpees utilize body weight only, therefore you do not have to purchase any expensive equipment in order to perform them.
How many calories do burpees burn?
The number of calories burpees burn does not only depend on the body weight of the individual performing them, it also depends on the intensity at which the exercises are being performed.
According to the American Council on Exercise, when performed correctly, an individual weighing 130 pounds can expect to burn around 400 calories during an intense two-minute burpee session.
Are burpees safe for everyone?
Burpees are a staple move in CrossFit workouts. However, they have been used by the military for many years for conditioning and also punishment.
Gone are the days of dropping and doing 20 push-ups.
Now it is more along the lines of dropping and doing 20 burpees. Cadets who arrived at their training stations late were often made to perform 20 burpees for every minute of tardiness.
Although burpees are utilized by CrossFit enthusiasts and military personnel, you do not have to be in top physical condition in order to perform them.
However, overweight individuals may find them almost impossible.
In order to perform them correctly, each move must be executed accurately and in perfect form in order to avoid injury.
Overweight individuals may lack the balance or ability to perform them accurately, therefore increasing their risk of injury to the lower back and joints.
Your first goal should be to reduce your overall body fat and increase your endurance before attempting this challenging move.
This is the same reason you will not find an overweight individual performing sprints on a running track. You must work your way up to it in order to protect your body from injury.
Burpee exercise Variations
We briefly touched basis on how to do a basic burpee above. Now, let us take a more in-depth look at how to perform this move efficiently and safely before we discuss variations.
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Bending at the hips and knees, lower yourself into a squatting position and place your hands flat on the floor in front of you.
- Your hands should be outside of your knees.
- Jump both of your feet back behind you, so you are now in a push-up/plank position.
- Your back should be straight and your abs should be fully engaged. Do not let your hips fall towards the floor.
- Bending your elbows, lower your chest down to the ground as if you are doing a push-up. When your chest touches the ground, straighten your arms.
- Engage your abs and jump forward with your feet until they are in the place where your hands were, while simultaneously jumping straight up into the air and extending your arms straight overhead.
- Repeat all of the above steps as quickly and fluidly as possible for a full 2 minutes.
If you are an absolute beginner, do not jump into the air at the end of the move. Simply stand up straight and extend your arms overhead.
As with any exercise, your body can become accustomed to burpees.
This is where a variation of this classic move becomes useful. Many CrossFit enthusiasts perform burpee variations to mix up their routine, such as the burpee box jump or burpee lunges.
Now let us take a look at how to perform these two variations.
Burpee box jump
- Begin in a push-up position with your chest on the ground, in front of a 12 inch tall, sturdy box.
- Push your body upward using your arms and core, while jumping your feet forward where your hands were.
- Swing your arms behind you and jump on top of the box, then stand up straight.
- Jump back down into the push-up position and repeat.
- Perform a standard burpee, except instead of jumping straight up into the air at the end, jump into a lunge position.
- Alternate your legs with each burpee.
Burpees are a challenging move, and beginning a burpee routine can seem like a daunting task.
However, by taking it slow and pacing yourself, you can soon perform 30 burpees in a row within a one month period.
Practice performing a burpee very slowly a few times before bringing yourself up to speed.
Set yourself a 30-day goal and perform one burpee on day one, two burpees on day two, three burpees on day three, and so forth. By day 30, you should be able to perform thirty burpees in a row without stopping, and see a significant improvement in your fitness level.
Because burpees can be hard on your body, you should stop at any time you feel pain or discomfort when performing them. Always remember to warm yourself up properly before beginning your burpee routine and perform adequate stretches afterward.