The 5 Best Burpee Modifications (That You Actually Won’t Hate)

Modifications like squatting instead of jumping can help you build the strength to conquer the full burpee.
Image Credit: Getty Images/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

The 30-Day Burpee Challenge helps you master your form, discover new variations and build up to doing 50 burpees in one day. Click here for all the details on the challenge.

The burpee is both celebrated and hated for the exact same reason: It's extremely complex and difficult to pull off.

Not only are you simultaneously working your lower and upper body — shoulders, chest, core, legs and butt — but you are essentially performing a combination of several different moves during this super-taxing and explosive exercise.

Burpees work your shoulders when you're in the high plank position, your chest when you push your body up from the floor, your legs to stand and your glutes to jump, says New York City-based certified personal trainer Rustin Steward, CPT, a mix that "gets your heart rate up in a matter of seconds."

The problem, according to Steward, is that a lot of people get the burpee flat-out wrong. From rounding the back to letting your hips sag to jumping your feet too close together, common burpee mistakes not only affect the efficacy of the move, they also make it less fun and more dangerous.

Before you attempt the perfect burpee, you should first make sure that you have mastered squats, push-ups, planks and squat jumps, Steward says — all individual exercises that make a guest appearance during the burpee.

Your shoulders and triceps need special attention, as well. "Having strong shoulders is essential for performing a beautiful burpee, so doing standing shoulder presses helps with gaining strength in your shoulders, and triceps pushdowns help with making your triceps stronger, which will help you hold that high plank with perfect form," he says.

How to Do a Perfect Burpee

JW Player placeholder image
Skill Level Advanced
Region Full Body
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms by your sides.
  2. Bend your knees, keeping your back straight and letting your butt drop down into a squat.
  3. Reach your hands forward, placing them on the floor shoulder-width apart.
  4. Kick your feet back to come into a high plank.
  5. Lower your chest and belly down to the floor.
  6. Press through your hands to quickly push your body back up.
  7. Jump your feet back in, making sure they land wider than your hands.
  8. Lift your hands, and press through your heels to stand.
  9. Jump straight up, reaching your arms overhead.
  10. Land gently and immediately lower into your next rep.

Tip

Make sure your feet are wider than your hands when you jump them back in so that you can shoot straight up into the jump, Steward says.

Burpee Modifications for People Who Hate Burpees

One reason you might love to hate burpees is because you're just not ready for them yet. (No judgment!) Don't be afraid to modify, individualizing the burpee to your needs and current fitness capabilities with these versions.

If You Hate: the Squat

Try: the Incline Burpee

Elevating your body takes pressure off of the shoulders and wrists and makes your whole body feel lighter. But anyone with hip mobility issues can benefit from this modification, too, Steward says, because you are no longer forced to crouch all the way down.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides with a bench positioned in front of you. (A couch works, too!)
  2. Bend your knees and place your hands on the bench.
  3. Kick your feet out, coming into a high incline plank with your body in a straight line from your head to your heels. Your wrists should be stacked under your shoulders.
  4. Jump your feet back in.
  5. Stand up, then quickly jump up as you reach your arms straight up overhead.
  6. Land gently and immediately lower into your next rep.
  7. Aim for 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

If You Hate: the Jump Up

Try: the Frogger

The frogger is also known as a half burpee and still delivers full-body strength and cardio. Plus, constantly popping into the low squat position stretches out the hips and the ankles for better overall mobility.

  1. Start in a low yogi squat (Malasana): With your feet wider than hip-distance apart, sink into a squat, keeping your back straight and chest up.
  2. Plant your hands on the floor in front of you.
  3. Kick your feet back, coming to a high plank, hands stacked directly under your shoulders and core engaged.
  4. Jump your feet back in, making sure to keep them wider than hip-distance apart and return to your low squat.
  5. Lift both hands up, ensuring all of your weight is in your feet.
  6. Repeat for 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

Related Reading

If You Hate: the Jump Back

Try: the Walk-Back Burpee

"The jumping part of the burpee challenges people's form because they don't have the core strength or body control to go from explosive to stability," Steward says. Stepping your feet out and then back in is the perfect modification if that sounds familiar.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms by your sides.
  2. Bend your knees, keeping your back straight and letting your butt drop down into a squat.
  3. Reach your hands forward, placing them on the floor shoulder-width apart.
  4. Step your feet back one by one to come into a high plank, hands stacked directly under your shoulders and core engaged.
  5. Step your feet back in, one by one.
  6. Lift your hands, and press through your heels to stand.
  7. Jump straight up, reaching your arms overhead.
  8. Land gently and immediately lower into your next rep.
  9. Aim for 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

Tip

Planks, side planks and bird dogs can help you build up the core strength required for a full burpee, Steward says.

If You Hate: the Push-Up

Try: the Hand-Release Push-Up

One of the toughest parts of the burpee is getting your body up off the ground. This takes major core and arm strength, Steward says, which is why this variation is all about breaking down the push-up portion to help build exactly that.

  1. Start in a high plank with your hands shoulder-width apart and your wrists directly under your shoulders. Keep your core engaged and glutes squeezed to maintain a straight spine throughout the movement.
  2. Bend your arms and lower yourself down in a slow and controlled motion.
  3. Once your chest and belly are touching the ground, lift your palms off the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. Place your hands back down and push yourself back up to a high plank.
  5. Repeat for 3 sets of 5 reps.

Related Reading

If You Hate: the Push-Up and the Jump Up

Try: the Squat Thrust

Even without the push-up or the jump at the end, this move still makes you work.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms by your sides.
  2. Bend your knees, keeping your back straight and letting your butt drop down into a squat.
  3. Reach your hands forward, placing them on the floor shoulder-width apart.
  4. Kick your feet back to come into a high plank.
  5. Jump your feet back in, making sure they land wider than your hands.
  6. Lift your hands, and press through your heels to stand.
  7. Repeat for 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

Tip

Brace your core to prevent your hips from sagging. Droopy hips could create unwanted pressure on your lower back.

references