The 8 Worst Burpee Mistakes You Can Make

Mike Donavanik demonstrates proper burpee form
If you’re just starting out, mastering proper burpee form is essential. (Image: Raphe Wolfgang/LIVESTRONG.COM)

Now that you’ve made it through the first week of the LIVESTRONG.COM 30-Day Burpee Challenge and established a baseline of good form, it’s time to take things up a notch in week 2.

Here’s what you have to look forward to (see below for full calendar):

  • Day 8: 13
  • Day 9: 15
  • Day 10: 17
  • Day 11: 19
  • Day 12: rest (thank goodness!)
  • Day 13: 21
  • Day 14: 23

Whoa! That’s 108 total burpees for this week! We’re definitely taking things up from last week. With so many reps to do, it’s easy to let your form slip. Keep reading for the worst mistakes you can make while doing burpees.

Printable LIVESTRONG.COM 30-Day Burpee Challenge Calendar
Screenshot this photo to keep on your phone! (Image: Gracie Wilson/LIVESTRONG.COM)

1. Not Warming Up

Even though burpees are a full-body, body-weight exercise, they shouldn’t be used as a warmup and they shouldn’t be done cold. 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.

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 Them

Sure, many people hate burpees, but speeding through them so that they’re over sooner is a recipe for injury. 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.

So 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. Don’t let your shoulders drift over or behind your hands; they should be directly in line.

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. If you find you can’t easily fix your shoulder position, try modifying until you’re stronger.

Mike Donavanik demonstrates proper burpee form
Make sure you land with knees slightly bent. (Image: Raphe Wolfgang/LIVESTRONG.COM)

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. Instead, 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. So what’s the point in torturing yourself? If you’re going to take part in the challenge, give your best effort on each and every rep.

7. Not Knowing When to Rest

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.

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. This challenge isn’t about who can do the most the fastest, it’s about pushing yourself in a smart and sane way to get stronger.

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. If you find yourself holding your breath, stop for a second, get your breathing under control and then resume.

Stay Connected!

Have you joined the LIVESTRONG.COM Challenge Facebook group yet? Make sure you're tuning in for motivation and accountability from your fellow burpee challengers.

And follow our challenge co-hosts Mike Donavanik and Vanessa Villegas on Instagram for additional workout motivation.

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