If you're doing the LIVESTRONG.com 30-Day Burpee Challenge with us, you'll be doing a lot of burpees, which makes nailing proper form absolutely essential. And even if you're not part of the challenge, doing this full-body exercise correctly is important for injury prevention, not to mention maximizing your efforts.
But as they say, you don't know what you don't know, meaning you could be making a few crucial errors while doing burpees and not even know it. So to help you evaluate your performance, here are eight common things you might be doing wrong, along with how to fix them.
1. Not Warming Up
Even though burpees are a full-body, body-weight exercise, they shouldn't be used as a warm-up and they shouldn't be done while your muscles are still stiff. So if you're doing your burpees first thing in the morning or after sitting for a long time, you'll want to get your muscles warmed up before doing your daily set.
Fix it: Walk around for a bit, jog in place or take your body through a series of dynamic stretches — butt kicks, high knees, side bends, swimmer's hugs, arm circles — anything that gets your muscles moving, takes your joints through their range of motion and elevates your heart rate.
2. Rushing Through Them
Sure, many people hate burpees, but speeding through them so that they're over sooner is a recipe for injury.
Fix it: You don't need to move like you're sinking in quicksand, but you should take your time with the exercise. Assess your form with each rep and keep yourself in check.
3. Letting Your Lower Back Arch
Though you may have seen CrossFitters doing burpees with an arched back at the bottom of their plank, this can be dangerous if you're a beginner. In general, letting your lower back arch like that puts you at greater risk for injury.
Fix it: When you're in the plank, pause and make sure your abs are engaged. If you concentrate on tightening your abs, your lower back likely won't arch.
4. Incorrect Shoulder Position
Remember: You're doing a plank in the middle of this exercise, so you need to keep proper plank form. Doing a burpee with your shoulders out of alignment puts undue stress on both your shoulders and your wrists, putting you at risk for injury.
Fix it: Don't let your shoulders drift over or behind your hands; they should be directly in line. If you find you can't easily fix your shoulder position, try modifying by stepping back into a plank and dropping to your knees for the push-up until you're stronger.
5. Landing With Stiff Legs
It can be tempting to collapse back to the ground after your jump, but landing with your legs straight and your knees locked is another way to injure yourself while doing burpees.
Fix it: Protect your knees by keeping them slightly bent.
6. Not Giving It Your All
Even though you're technically doing them, if you're not putting forth a significant amount of effort, you're not reaping the full benefits of the exercise.
Fix it: What's the point in torturing yourself if you're half-heartedly going through the motions? If you're going to do burpees, give your best effort on each and every rep.
7. Not Knowing When to Rest or Modify
Sure, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" might make for a great motivational poster, but when it comes to complex exercises like burpees, it's best not to push yourself past the point of exhaustion. And if you're a newbie, it's totally acceptable (and actually encouraged) to modify your burpees.
Fix it: Listen to your body: Are you in pain (not just discomfort)? Stop. Do you feel lightheaded or like you can't catch your breath? Take a pause. Doing burpees isn't about who can do the most the fastest, it's about pushing yourself in a smart and sane way to get stronger.
If you need to modify, try stepping in and out of the plank instead of jumping or taking out the jump and/or push-up.
8. Holding Your Breath
Just like with any other exercise, when you're doing burpees, you need to remember to breathe! There's a lot going on and so many things to remember, but forgetting to breathe shortchanges your efforts and deprives your muscles of the oxygen they need to function.
Fix it: If you find yourself holding your breath, stop for a second, get your breathing under control and then resume.