You can’t walk within 100 yards of a gym or CrossFit studio without hearing about “burpees.” That’s because the exercise is one of the most effective and efficient bodyweight exercises you can perform. It dials up your metabolism. It builds stability. It strengthens every major muscle group. It helps you lose weight. All of this is to say that when you can’t make it to the gym very often — hint hint, busy dads — they’re an ideal move to include in your at-home routine. And, as they’re a bodyweight exercise, the only thing you need to perform them is a bit of floor space — and a decent tolerance for pain. Here’s why the movement is so effective.
They Work Every Muscle Group
“Quite simply, burpees train your whole body,” explains Chris Stevenson, CSCS, and owner of Stevenson Fitness in Oak Park, California. “Through their explosive range of motion, they target both large and small muscle groups.” The large ones include your chest, back, and thighs, while the smaller, accessory muscles include your torso, shoulders, and arms. “Each of these muscle groups is engaged in a very intense, very kinetic way,” adds Stevenson. “And, they’re all engaged simultaneously and directly. The exercise literally puts a demand on your entire body, all at the same time. That’s why they’re so exhausting.” And so effective.
They Burn Loads of Fat
“Because burpees engage your entire body simultaneously, you literally have to use every bit of energy you’ve got to perform them,” Stevenson explains. “That burns a lot of calories.” Even better, the effect lasts a long time after you’ve finished your workout. “It’s commonly called the ‘afterburn effect’,” Stevenson continues. “Burpees increase your respiration, which stimulates metabolism. And the larger the difference your body experiences between metabolism at rest and during exercise, the longer it needs to return to normal.” So, essentially, by pushing your limits during your workout, you’ll be burning calories long after your workout.
They’re Integral To Cardio Conditioning
“Burpees are the perfect exercise for training strength and cardio endurance at the same time,” says Stevenson. “They improve reaction time which, in turn, improves coordination. And they do it very quickly.” The secret lies in the complex system of movements, which include plyometric (jumping) and strength-based actions. “During a round of burpees, your respiration and circulation systems are working hard to compensate for the lack of oxygen to the muscles. And this will benefit you in everyday life, too, climbing stairs, running to catch a train, and so on.”
How to Do a Burpee
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides.
- Lower your body into a squat.
- Place your hands on the floor in front of your feet.
- Jump your feet back so your body is at the “up” position in a pushup.
- Perform a pushup. Then, jump your feet forwards so they’re near your hands again.
- Explode upwards, reaching your arms up and clapping as you do so.
- Land and repeat.
Done properly, this traditional version provides all the benefits — and will have even the fittest folks gasping for air. But there are some variations to try. If you feel like switching things up — or are feeling extra sadistic — here are seven ways to amplify the move.
1. Box Jump
It’s just like a regular burpee except, at the conclusion of your push-up, you pop back up to a standing position, then leap forward to a plyo box — or another item of similar stability and height. Leap back down behind you (carefully), and start again.
2. The Overbox
This variation is similar to the Box Jump burpee, except you jump over the box (or other stacked item) and continue your reps on alternating sides. Yikes!
3. The Candlestick
Start in a squatting position, and roll backward until your shoulders touch the ground, and your legs come up over your body. Then, roll forward into your pushup, recover, and complete the rep with a vertical leap.
4. The Deadman
When in the down position of your pushup during a normal burpee, extend your hands and arms so that your body is completely flat on the floor. Bring your arms back in, push up, and continue the exercise like normal.
5. The Twister
The only thing easy about this variation is the explanation. Perform a regular burpee and, at the end, jump 180 degrees so that you’re facing the opposite way. Then do another rep, alternating directions each time.
6. The Lateral Jump
Rather than jumping vertically during each rep, jump horizontally over a stationary object.
7. The One-Legger
Exactly what it sounds like – a traditional burpee performed using only one leg and then the other.
8. The Rower
After you do a push-up, from plank give a two-armed row — lifting first your left elbow to the sky and back, and then your right. Repeat.