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What Is a Burpee Exercise?

author image Patrick Dale
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.
What Is a Burpee Exercise?
Burpess are a tough but effective full-body exercise. Photo Credit: LIVESTRONG.COM

People often have a love-hate relationship with burpee exercises. They love them because they deliver results, require no exercise equipment and can be performed just about anywhere. They hate them because they are so tough. They're primarily used by mixed martial artists, the military and other hardcore exercise groups. They're sometimes referred to as the ultimate bodyweight exercise.

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How Burpees Got Their Start

Burpees combine a squat, push-up and vertical jump into a sequence of moves performed in quick succession. It's named after its inventor, Royal H. Burpee, an American psychologist who wanted to design a test for agility, coordination and fitness. It was subsequently adopted by the Army and Navy as a means of assessing recruits' fitness for World War II. The military now sees it as a simple but effective conditioning exercise.

Proper Burpee Technique

To get the most from burpees you need to do them correctly. With your feet together, squat down and put your hands on the ground just in front of your feet. Keep your feet together and jump them back so you land in a push-up. Bend your arms and do a single push-up. Jump your feet back in and under your body and then leap up and into the air. Land on slightly-bent legs and repeat.

Benefits of Burpees

Burpees use virtually every muscle in your body which makes them a very efficient exercise. It places a significant load on your cardiovascular system so you get a cardio workout without having to run a single step. It's also an effective calorie burner, though that depends on other factors such as your reps and current body weight.

Burpee Variations

The burpee can be adapted in several ways to make it easier or harder. Beginners can skip the push-up and/or jump. Advanced exercisers can add an obstacle to jump forward or sideways over between reps. They can also do them wearing a weighted vest or holding dumbbells. Some will even add a pull-up between reps.

Incorporating Burpees Into Your Workouts

Try performing 100 burpees as fast as you can, or see how many you can complete in 10 minutes. Alternatively, try the 20-to-1 descending burpee pyramid. Do 20 burpees, rest a moment, and the do 19 and rest again. Continue doing one less burpee per set until you reach one rep. Advanced exercisers can complete this challenge in under 20 minutes. You can also do burpees for distance with a long jump replacing the vertical jump. See how long it takes you to cover 100, 200 or 400 yards doing burpees.

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