Although the terms squat thrust and burpee often are used interchangeably, they do not refer to the same exercise: They are variations of the same exercise. Both movements incorporate aerobic training and strength training into one sequence, working your cardiovascular system, legs and upper body. The burpee is a more advanced movement with a plyometric portion that the squat thrust lacks. The squat thrust is a beginner-level exercise that you can use as a stepping stone to the burpee exercise.
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The technique is similar for both exercises, but the burpee adds a jump at the end of the movement. Start in a standing position, squat down and place your hands flat on the floor in front of you. Explosively kick both feet back so you finish in a plank position -- your body in a straight line from your neck to your ankles. Explosively push through both feet again to return to the squat position. This is the point where the two exercises veer apart. For the squat thrust, simply stand back up. For a burpee, explosively jump into the air.
The burpee is a more challenging exercise because of the jump at the end, which increases the cardiovascular challenge and the leg power required. If you are new to this exercise, start with the squat thrust and perfect the exercise form before advancing to the more intense burpee. Once you can easily complete 15 to 20 burpees with good form, try some of the burpee variations.
You can incorporate these variations into the squat thrust or the burpee exercise. Add a push-up into the movement sequence to work your chest and triceps muscles. After you land in the plank position, complete one push-up repetition before kicking your feet back into the squat. You can also add external resistance by wearing a weighted vest or holding weight, such as dumbbells or a medicine ball, in your hands. The eight-count bodybuilder is a variation of the burpee used by the military. It adds an extra kicking motion to the sequence. Start as you would for a squat thrust or burpee. Once in the plank position, do a push-up and then kick your legs out laterally, landing with them spread apart. Jump and kick them back together before finishing the exercise.
For either the burpee or the squat thrust, drop down into a squat by pressing your hips back and bending your knees. Do not bend over at the waist as if you are picking a piece of paper up off the floor. The burpee may be contraindicated if you have had a knee injury or have any condition that makes the joints sensitive to impact. Always consult a physician prior to starting an exercise program. Before performing the burpee or squat thrust exercise, warm up your muscles and get your blood pumping by doing an aerobic activity, such as jogging, walking or biking, for 5 to 10 minutes.