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Before getting into how to do the burpees exercise, the benefits, and its variations, let’s get into the history of this exercise. The exercise that everyone loves to hate was “invented” by Royal H. Burpee (yes, his real name), who earned a Ph.D. in applied physiology from Columbia University in 1940 and created this exercise as part of his thesis.

Yes, you have this guy to thank for the burpees exercise—83 years and counting. 

There might not be a more polarizing exercise than the burpee. This certified personal trainer’s opinion falls somewhere in the middle for those who think it is the best thing since sliced bread and those who tear it apart on social media. Here we’ll dive into all things burpee for you to get the most out of this full-body exercise. 

RELATED: Bodyweight Workouts

How to Do a Burpee 

  1. Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and your hands by your sides.
  2. Bend forward and place your hands on the floor. 
  3. Step or hop your feet back until you’re in the front plank position, and squeeze your glutes and core to get your back straight.
  4. Bend your elbows to drop down, touching your chest and thighs to the floor. Exhale and push your body up.
  5. Hop your feet forward to your hands, lift your arms off the floor, and explode up in a jump, extending your arms overhead.
  6. Return to the starting position, reset, and repeat for desired repetitions.
Woman doing burpees

Benefits of Burpees 

Getting up and down from the ground is one of the hardest things humans do, and it’s the main reason why the burpees exercise is brutally effective. Here are five critical benefits of the burpees exercise. 

Burns Calories

The burpee trains the upper and lower body in one fluid motion, which will have you sucking in air and burning many calories. You burn five calories for every liter of oxygen you breathe in before and after you do the burpee. Increasing your oxygen demand will increase your fat-burning capacity.

Full-Body Workout 

Because you squat down, put your hands on the ground, and get in and out of the front plank position, the burpee is a full-body workout involving both upper and lower body muscle groups.

Improves Aerobic Fitness

Burpees are a combination of strength and cardio. Strength because you’re using your entire body to get up and down from the ground, cardio because getting up and down from the ground will increase your heart rate, increasing your demand for O2. 

RELATED: The Fat-Burning Heart Rate Zone

Two people demonstrating synchronized partner burpees over barbell

No Equipment Needed

It’s true; to do a burpee, all you need is you…and maybe a little space, clothes, cross-training shoes, and a willingness to get a sweat on.  

Versatile

Due to the burpee being a bodyweight strength training exercise, you can add other bodyweight exercises or implements to it to make it more challenging, such as adding a pull-up at the top of the jump or holding dumbbells while you perform the burpee.  

How to Make it Easier 

If you’re a beginner and feel unsure about how to do a burpee with proper form, there are two things you can do to make the standard burpee easier. One is to reduce the range of motion by putting your hands on an elevated surface like a flat bench. Two is to slow the movement down to help you get better coordinated in doing it.  

How to Make it More Challenging 

Burpees are already pretty challenging, and if you’re looking to step it up a notch, there are a few ways to increase the intensity. 

  • Do more reps
  • Increase the rep speed
  • Do it for more time
  • Try one of the variations below
  • Reduce the stability 
  • Incorporate other bodyweight exercises like a tuck jump 

Burpee Variations 

When you are ready to add intensity to your burpee or are looking for variety, you will be pleased with the variations below. 

Burpee Box Jump 

Why Do It: The burpee box jump is an excellent variation to increase your power and explosiveness for lifting or a sport. But be aware. This is a high-intensity exercise where you will fatigue quickly. Keep the quality high.

How To Do It: 

Note: If you have never performed box jumps, master them first. 

  1. As explained above, perform the standard burpee through step four. 
  2. Then, when rising from your burpee and at the bottom of your squat position, jump onto a plyometric box and stick the landing.
  3. Step down from the box and reset and repeat.
Burpee Box Jumps

Burpee with Bosu Ball

Why Do It: The burpee with bosu ball will add instability to the front plank position to increase core stability, and lifting it overhead adds more of an upper body aspect. 

How To Do It:

  1. Place a bosu ball flat-side up in front of your feet. 
  2. Bend down, keeping your chest up, and place your hands on either side of the bosu ball.
  3. Jump both feet back until you’re in the front plank position. Perform a push-up with your hands on the bosu ball.
  4. Hop your feet forward to your hands, lift your arms off the floor while holding the Bosu ball, and explode up in a jump with it overhead.
Burpee With Bosu Ball

Burpees with Dumbbells 

Why Do It: The dumbbells add intensity to the lower body, as you need your hamstrings and quads to control them on the way down and add extra intensity on the way up. 

RELATED: Best Dumbbells

How To Do It:

  1. Hold a pair of hex dumbbells shoulder-width apart in a neutral grip at arm’s length in front of you. 
  2. Get your feet shoulder-width apart with both feet pointed forward. 
  3. Bend down, keeping your chest up, and place the dumbbells on the ground.
  4. Jump both feet back until you’re in the front plank position. Perform a push-up with your hands on the dumbbells.
  5. Hop your feet forward to your hands, lifting the dumbbells back to the starting position. 
  6. Reset and repeat for desired reps.
Burpees With Dumbbells

Burpees with Jumping Jacks

Why Do It: Here, when standing back up at the end of your burpee, you’ll perform a good old-fashioned jumping jack. Why? Because you are a sucker for punishment. 

RELATED: Cardio Exercises at Home

How To Do It:

  1. Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and your hands by your side.
  2. Squat down, keeping your chest up, and place your hands on the ground.
  3. Kick both feet back until you’re at the top of the push-up position and lower into a push-up.
  4. Push up until your elbows are extended, hop your feet forward to your hands, and stand back up to the starting position. 
  5. Perform a jumping jack. That is 1 rep.
Woman doing jumping jacks

Burpees Exercise: Final Thoughts 

Burpees are an exercise many people love to hate, but you cannot deny their effectiveness when appropriately performed. This exercise has been around for 83 years and is done regularly worldwide because it works. Incorporating burpees into your HIIT workout (or any workout for that matter) will:

  • Burn fat and calories
  • Improve your cardiovascular endurance
  • Give you a full-body workout without the need for equipment

Have you done your burpees today?  

Burpees Exercise: Q&A

What will a 30 burpee workout a day do?

Performing 30 burpees a day will help improve your cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance due to getting up and down from the ground. And it depends on how many days you do it; once will only burn calories, but your endurance will skyrocket when performed daily for a week or two.

Do burpees burn belly fat?

Burpees will help you burn fat because they are a full-body exercise that will have you sucking in the air. For every liter of O2 you will breathe, you burn five calories. But will it burn belly fat? The body can’t pick and choose where it burns fat from, but if you are burning calories from cardio exercise, some of that will likely come from belly fat.

How many burpees a day is good?

How many burpees you should do a day depends of your fitness level. If you have never done one, one is good. For more advanced exercises, for those looking to improve their endurance and fat-loss potential, approximately 20 to 50 burpees a day will help.

How many burpees should a beginner do?

Beginners to the burpee should focus on quality and not quantity because you don’t want to teach your body bad form. But once a beginner has the burpee form down, anywhere from 15-30 daily broken up into sets of 5-10 reps works well.

Further reading

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