Burpee header

Burpees header

Burpees will Make You Curse, Scream, Tremble, Cry… And Lose Weight Fast!

Burpees are the real deal.

As I write this, in two days’ time I will be embarking on my first obstacle course race of the season. 

This particular race has a rule that if a participant can’t complete an obstacle, they must do 30 burpees to continue the race.  That’s right, you read that correctly, 30 burpees! And, there are up to 30 obstacles in the race. In other words, I might be doing a lot of burpees!  

Burpees may seem like a complex movement, but almost anyone can find a way to start working on this uber-fat-burning exercise.  

Although I am hopeful for only a few sets of burpees during the race, I work this exercise into my training routine just in case. And you should too! 

Because I like to keep things fresh, I enjoy experimenting with different varieties of burpees.  Although burpees may seem both athletically challenging any physically draining, there are so many different ways to do burpees that they are accessible at all levels of fitness.

That is if you use a little creativity and demand of your will to try! 

History of Burpees

Before we dive into how-to’s, here is a fun little aside on the history of the burpee.

Royal Burpee was an exercise physiologist, an avid outdoorsman, and bodybuilder who worked at the YMCA in New York. While working on his Ph.D. at Columbia University in the 1930s, he wanted to find an efficient way to test physical fitness. So he created his namesake exercise, the “burpee.”

Sounds like a cool guy. I’d totally hang out with him!

Benefits of Basic Burpees

A burpee is the total-package, full-body exercise.  If you are short on time, burpees are the perfect go-to exercise.  

With Burpees, you get cardio. Burpees will increase your cardiovascular capacity, burn fat fast, and build lean muscle mass. And, you get strength -both  upper body and lower body. And you get everything else in between, too!

First off, let’s talk about the traditional burpee, a.k.a, the “base variation” form.

How-To Basic Burpees: Form and Motion

Burpees Gif

Stand upright with your feet hips-width apart. 

The first movement, both hands to the floor in a forward-fold position bending your knees in a squat like position.  From there, hop both feet back into the plank position.  

From plank, lower yourself down to the floor, all the way.  Then push up back to plank position. Hop your feet up under your hands to a squat position, then stand upright. Once there, throw your hands above your head and jump.  

That’s a burpee. If you think it sounds easy, you’re in for a surprise!

Some burpee purists will note that to be a true burpee, the chest must hit the floor. They also might claim you must stand completely upright (no slouching, sagging head, etc…) and that your hands must go above the head in your jump. 

It is also of note that the original burpee created by Royal Burpee did not include a pushup or a jump! 

Burpees Variations

Now that you understand the basic burpee,  onto the variations!

Elevated Burpees

Elevated Burpees

Elevated burpees are a great regression to use to modify the full burpee. If you’re just not up to doing full burpees yes, Elevated Burpees are a bit easier and more accessible meaning you can do more reps.  

You can do any version of burpee on an elevated surface like a bench, step, or even your couch.  Rather than going all the way to the floor, use the elevated surface to do the pushup part of the exercise. 

The Elevated Burpee makes them a lot easier because you will not go all the way to the floor.

Half Burpees 

As shown in the video, the ½ burpee is a great way to ease yourself into burpees. 

You can choose to omit really any piece of the full burpee. But traditionally, the half burpee looks like a plank to a jump -or step in, – then back to plank. 

The half burpee omits the push up as well as the standing jump. 

Push Up Burpees

Push up Burpees

In this version of burpee, you may need to slow down a bit to concentrate on those pushups and your pushup form.  

From your plank you will either go into full pushup – shoulders over elbows, elbows  over wrists, elbows track back, not out. As you lower the whole body down – keeping your core tight, – your chest should come about fist’s distance from the floor.  

With your fingers wide, push yourself up. Keep your shoulders level as you push up to the plank position. And, keep your head in line with your spine.  

You can also do a modified version by dropping to your knees from the plank, then doing your pushup. Make sure there is no twisting of your legs.

Burpee Jacks

Burpee Jacks

Burpee Jacks add a fun variety to your traditional burpee. And, you can add this variation of the traditional burpee in several ways. 

A few variations include:

  • Burpee-to-Jumping-Jacks-to-Vertical Jump.
  • Burpee-to-Jumping-Jacks-to-Broad Jump.
  • Jack Burpees With and Without Push Ups.
  • Elevated Burpee Jacks. 

Broad Jump Burpees

The burpee broad jump gives you an additional challenge with respect to agility. 

In place of the standing jump, you jump forward for distance.  You can do these across a room or in place by turning around immediately after your broad jump.  

Added bonus:  Try a single leg broad jump!

Box Jump Burpees

Box Burpee

Now if the broad jump burpee was tricky, welcome to the next level!

 The box jump burpee consists of replacing the jump in the burpee with a box jump. 

You can experiment here with box height and box jump types galore. This one will really get your blood pumping.  

Pro tip: make sure to step far enough away from the box as you come down to give space to do the chest to floor, you may have to add an additional step back, no one likes bonking their face on the box! 

Conclusion

Now that I have given you several ideas of how to do a burpee, I want you to know it’s my opinion that all is fair in love and burpees!  What I mean by that is, don’t be afraid to modify to make it accessible and fun. Don’t be afraid to add variety to keep it fresh. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself! 

Who cares if you cannot do a full push up yet?  Try it elevated. Or, on your knees. Or, take a 5-minute nap on the floor after you lower yourself down, then get up and do it again!  Like all things in exercise, it’s your commitment to them that matters, and over time your love of them and your ability to do B A variations and progressions will come.   

Now go out there and do some burpees!

Coach Christine: ACSM, AA
Christine Bettera grew up playing competitive softball, where her coaching journey began. She then gravitated toward solo alternative sports like skateboarding and snowboarding. She completed her personal training certification from Lake Tahoe Community College where she also studied nutrition, took health, fitness and wellness classes and participated in a training internship. She is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine, and is also certified in Aqua Barre, TRX training, and Progressive Calisthenics.