Burpees 101: What They Are & Why We Do ‘Em

by Fitbie
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Burpees 101: What They Are & Why We Do ‘Em

If you’ve heard of burpees before, there’s a good chance you love to hate ’em. The six-count bodyweight movement is used across the country in workouts by coaches, fitness fans, and trainers alike as an all-around conditioning exercise that gets the heart rate up. In layman’s terms, a burpee is a squat that moves into a quick plank position, then back to standing in one quick movement.

“A burpee is somewhat equal to a push up, good morning, air squat, and a vertical jump all in one,” says Reebok CrossFit Games athlete Annie Thorisdottir. If done correctly, the exercise will train the pushing muscles of the upper body, all the muscles of the lower body, and the core muscles. Not too shabby, eh?

Granted, different trainers and gyms will have different burpee expectations. Thorisdottir recently gave us the lowdown on the proper way to do this hellish exercise (hey, you were thinking it, too!) as well as her top burpee benefits.

Breaking It Down

1. Start by standing up straight. Bend over at the hips, pushing the hips back and reaching down to touch the floor with your hands while keeping your whole foot on the floor (your knees can bend, but you want to make sure you’re loading your hamstrings while you do this).

2. From there, jump back with your feet into a push-up plank position.

3. Your chest should then touch the floor. You don’t necessarily need to do a true push-up, but you can let your knees go to the floor and then roll down to your chest without compromising back position.

4. Return to plank position by pushing up with your hands (again keeping the core pretty tight).

5. Pop up using the power from your hips to bring your legs in toward your hands. Try to land on the whole foot in the same position as you passed on the way down, then stand up from there.

6. Explosively jump upward, most people add a clap or throw their hands up into the air for the final hoorah.

To practice getting the hips fired up, it’s a good to practice the burpee with your feet together and then play around with the foot position. Just keep in mind that if your feet go further out than your shoulders, it will be harder to use your hips when jumping back up.

Burpee Benefits

“There are a lot of benefits that come from doing burpees, the most obvious of which is being able to get up quickly after a fall,” jokes Thorisdotter. “It’s a movement that develops strength, endurance, explosiveness, and coordination because there’s so much going on.”

And while the Reebok athlete says that you can reap the benefits of burpees no matter your form, she also reiterated that there are no set in stone rules on how to get from standing to the floor and back up again, there are ways to make the whole process a whole lot more efficient. “The perfect burpee is one where you are able to access and use the power from your hips while keeping your body in a good strong position without ‘worming’ your way through the movement,” she says.

“By doing your burpees in a stronger position, you will not fatigue as fast and will be able to keep going therefor for much longer,” says Thorisdotter, who notes there’s also time and place to think about form. In a high rep burpee workout—think more about good form. When you’re working for speed, think less is more, move faster.

 Love them? Or hate them? Tell us what you think of burpees in the comments below!

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  • Lola

    I hate them! I feel like I am not flexible enough, because when I put my hands on the floor, there is absolutely no room for me to push my legs back. I am tall and have long legs. I think these were invented by short people to torture the tall people!

    • Christina

      Try a sumo burpee…squat wide with knees bent, then hands out in front/ hop out to plank, then back to wide squat and up.

      • Rachel

        Thanks for that suggestion!

  • db8688

    i hate them! I included them in my routine for a year and never really could see the benefit. I rarely include them any more.

  • Jenny Knight

    I love them! They get my heart rate up and work my whole body.

  • kar328

    I used to threaten my trainer’s life when he made me do these.

    • Affinitiboi

      I hate doing burpees… and my trainer would wait til the end of our workouts to do them! Especially on leg days because thats after squats, dead lifts, lunges, and good mornings! Oye ve

  • Carla Curtis

    I hate them! But I do them cause they get my heart rate up and I do feel my thighs, shoulders back and arms and abs working when i do them.

  • TANfan3599

    I have a question. I’m trying to lose weight and I’m not sure if I should try these. Can I get your opinion?

    • Carla Curtis

      why shouldn’t you try them? The best way to loose weight is to incorporate HIIT with weights such as some kettle bells or hand weights.

      • Guest

        This is me after loosing 94 lbs. in 16 / 18 months . Love my muscle definition in my arms and chest ! This is from doing burpees and HIIt and cross training and boot camps along with other things I like to do.

        • mary Kurtz

          I love doing them, i have done insanity and doing t 25 now. I lost 50 lbs.. 🙂

  • I actually like burpees. I’m weird.

    • Me, too!! Everyone thinks I’m nuts!

    • lindapilat

      U r not alone

    • monroe444

      I love burpees too.

  • MS = Mighty Strong

    I have a love hate relationship with burpees. I hate seeing them on the WOD board but when we all get going, I love them – how I feel, they are a personal challenge. I love watching my coach do burpees, I will never be able to do burpees like that. He just pops right up off the floor clapping his hands over his head. Fun to watch. In my burpee dreams!

  • Badger

    Would it not be easier, for everyone if you just had a little Vid ??

    • denver

      IKR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTH i like to see proper form!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • JSNSR

    This undoubtedly replaced the squat thrust which was almost as difficult, but five times safer for your joints.

  • Jamie Rakes

    It’s a squat thrust with a jump at the end. Not putting it down, but it’s not new or revolutionary. Junior high gym class.

    • TrowaS

      I tend to agree. Also, in basic for the Navy we did 8-count bodybuilders, which have more steps than these. Done properly I’ve always found them to be superior. In an elitist kind of way the burpee fad sort of offends me. But being so driven to fitness overall I feel it’s better doing something than nothing though, and burpees are good. I just prefer a different method.

      • Squidly

        As a fellow sailor, I agree with everything you just said. And we would put 80 guys in a small, closed room and all do 8 count body builders until the floor was so slick with sweat that everybody face-planted constantly. But that didn’t matter as much as being kicked in the face by the guy in front of you. Want to get in top shape in three months? Join the military, folks.

        • Carly

          So true! My husband was in the Navy and he was in great shape after boot camp.

      • Tim Green

        Oh look, an exercise snob. How delightful. A 1940s “fad” exercise they may be, but burpees are quite a bit “better than nothing”.
        More steps = superior. Okay, if you say so. This 8-count bodybuilder looks like a burpee with a jumping jack. Apparently the addition of the jumping jack makes the exercise less offensive.
        It seems that burpees are only for inferior individuals not “driven to fitness overall”. Go ahead and feel offended by them if you choose. I’ve seen your like in the gym, sneering at everyone who’s not doing the exact same exercise with the exact same goals as them.

        • TrowaS

          Oh look, an easily offended tool. You seem to have taken my post out of context, and for that I’m sorry. I never said I look down of people who do burpees or anything of the like. They’re pursuing fitness, and any action taken to further that goal is admirable. I get “offended” if you can even call it that, though I did, (offended ‘in a way’) by the fact that this took off like a meteor in the fitness world and is praised up and down practically wherever you look, whereas other similar methods (like the 8-count) have also been around for quite a while and yet only certain individuals even know they exist. I don’t ‘look down on’ or ‘sneer’ at anyone trying to increase their level of health and fitness, merely ponder the popularity of some of the prevalent methods. I did specifically point to the “fad” in general and even to say that “Burpees are good, I simply prefer a different method”. Either loosen up on others’ opinions or put your big boy reading glasses on. In return I’ll try to watch my wording better (no promises).

          • barney

            Did bunches of burpees in Marine Corp boot in the 80’s. I still do them.good stuff!

        • lindapilat

          Testify!

        • Trish

          Couldn’t have said it better Tim!

      • Punky

        Sorry to be so Green but what is a 8 count?

        • Matt

          8 count means you do a push-up in the middle.
          Squat, leg thrust, down, push-up, bring your legs up, stand up, jump up, land.

          • monroe444

            I’m confused – I thought a squat thrust with a pushup IS a burpee. I thought that going from plank to jumping up without a pushup is called a squat thrust, and that many people mistake the squat thrust for a burpee. So what everyone here is saying is that if you squat down and jump back into a plank, do a pushup, then jump your feet forward, then jump up, you’re doing an 8 count? If it is, then I heartily agree with TrowaS that 8 counts are superior to squat thrusts. I’ve been doing 100 or more burpees with full pushups a day for the last 80 days and the difference in my fitness is incredible. (I”m a girl, btw).

          • DCM2

            The burpee or 8 count is a great exercise and is demanding. We used it in our training for rock climbing warm ups. I have suffered a near amputation injury to one leg at knee area last year. I am motivated to go as far as possible to regain close to full function (I want to climb n run again!) so burpees/8 counts is a great one to compliment the PT I’m doing. Thanks all for posts n be successful in achieving ur desires!

          • monroe444

            If anyone on here is willing to do the 100 burpees a day challenge (whether for 100 days or whatever), and would like a motivation partner, I have been hoping to find one. I’m on day 96 but I’m going to keep going (I want to do a year but realize 100 days at a time is probably a better goal). If you think it’s too repetitive to do 100 burpees a day, you’re forgetting that there are many burpee variations that make it not so at all, and actually kind of fun:) The change in my fitness level has been dramatic. Plus I don’t think anyone would criticize someone for doing 100 pushups and 100 squats a day, so why not burpees? They’re also portable and completely free, no gym required.

      • I had to Google 8-count bodybuilders and I LOVE it. I really enjoy total body workouts so this is a great addition. Thanks for the inspiration Jamie 🙂

    • Carly

      That’s what I thought!! I thought it was re-named!! Thank you! 🙂

    • Garlic7girl

      I must be old because we did not do Burpees in Junior High gym class. We ran.

  • JofJLTNCB6

    When doing these for time, I “cheat” and fall into the down position catching myself with my hands. Also, on the up before the jump, make sure you bring your feet flat and fully under your body.

  • Kolten Frazier

    As a personal trainer I have to say I love them. However, at the moment I hate them, and the reason is I had to do 500 of them this very morning. We do a fund raiser each year for charities and for every dollar a client donates they can give any exercise to any trainer. I happened to be the trainer chosen for 500 Burpees. As much as I hate them right now I have to say they are the most well rounded exercise out there. Great cardio, muscular endurance, strength, and great plyo metric workout. 50 Burpees before bed every MWF. Do it!!

  • Megan Jade Wallace

    I always knew them as prison cell pushups from my trainer. I personally find them very difficult due to the high impact of them and the strain on the hips as I have a joint condition that makes plyometrics and high impact exercises very difficult for me, especially around the knee and hip joints! But when I was fitter I used to love them, swimming is my new fitness regime for now though until I improve muscle tone around the hips and joints!

  • Steven

    These were known as 8 count body builders in boot camp 20 years ago…

  • NewAgainPam

    love/hate relationship but I do them 🙂

  • SPJ

    This is for testing

  • UltimateTamara

    It is best said as a love/hate relationship with burpees. They are amazing after knocking them out but before and during the workout I absolutely hate whoever thought of them!

  • Soccer

    Hate them especially when you are made to do 3 sets of ten only a 30 second break.

  • Shirley

    Video please

  • Greg

    We used to do these in the Marine Corps… I think the Drill Instructors liked to watch us do them and bet who would drop first…. but then again we didn’t do sets…

  • Vanessa

    Definitely not my favourite exercise at the gym. They are exhausting!

  • Mom19001

    Omg-hate them! That being said, I have issues with my knees that do not make the jump in very smooth

  • Eric Hendricks

    Stupid burpees!

  • Vavaloo

    I agree with the benefits of the burpees but I hate them because I have a lot of disorientation associated with quick change of scenery from the up and down motion

    • Jeannie

      Gives me vertigo because of quick change of direction. Can’t do more than 2

  • Crossfit King

    I’m the best at burpees in my crossfit crew. I have the best form, the best stamina, and my names been on the wall for three months straight for most burpees. I do over 20 in a minute. Not to sound like a meat head but most of the girls at the gym love watching me do burpees. I’ve been to the cross fit games (as a spectator, competitor is on the bucket list) and honestly I do better burpees than 90% of the field.

    • You’re Annoying

      You’re a tool. No one wants to listen to you brag about yourself.

    • Who cares?

      How does that add anything to this article?

      • Dr.Whom

        How does your post add anything to this article?

    • Hypocrisysux

      yup…meat head

      • Christopher Rioux

        “Not to sound like a meat head”

        Too late. This is the workout equivalent of “I’m not racist”; it’s not going to turn out well if the next word is “but”.

  • Fitfriend

    I’m a fit woman in my 40’s that has been exercising for a little over 23 years and have been taking high intensity cardio/interval/boot camp classes for 3 years now, and I still shed a tear or two when our young and very fit instructor has us do the bad- ass burpees, an awesome exercise that I loooove to hate, but effective as hell 😉

  • J_Tech_86

    LOL I LOVE WATCHING FAT PEOPLE DO THESE! 🙂

    • sj1

      That is beyond offensive. Many overweight people are intimidated to go to the gym because they have a fear of being judged or ridiculed by others who are in better shape than they are. Way to make their fears a reality. How are these “fat people” ever going to get fit if you make them feel like losers every time they try? You’re a terrible person.

  • Mikhaela

    Omg don’t think it’s good enough for you don’t try it!!! I bet you couldn’t do 50…SMH didn’t even try it and your over it. Why don’t you try it and tell me the results you get!!!! FOOLS

  • Jarhead69

    The Marine Corps has been doing “Bends and M.F. thrusts”, as the D.I.’s called them, as far backas the 1960’s. They had us do them til we dropped. Sounds like there are many different versions of them. But, I have found that if you just “do them” (no matter the version) they’ll kick your butt. For me… even at age 66, they have given me more overall flexibility, strength, and endurance. I do them in the “4
    minute workout” format and I’m standing in a puddle of sweat when I am done. As
    everyone is saying, you sure don’t look forward to doing them, but you feel
    great afterwards for your effort. It works for me… just one man’s opinion!

  • Bruce Bieber

    The Myfitnesspal database of exercise does not have burpees or mountain climbers (it’s a love hate thing, mostly hate).
    Could you estimate and add them into the database?

  • Lasaundra Watson

    My friend Christi loves Burpees ….I’ve thought about unfriending her because of that !!

  • Marsha8657

    I would have to say if your over weight this is not easily done. So it leaves me out for another 30 lb weight loss before doing these.

  • Zoidberg

    We’ve all been doing this exercise our whole lives. The questions isn’t how to do it. The question is why do you do it?

  • happygirlphil

    Yet another load of rubbish to make an ordinary person will inadequate! How many ofucan even achieve each position, let alone wizz from one to the other, and no, I dont have a weight problem….

  • icfit

    I have herniated disks and I would like to try to do burpees but in the lower impact “mode”; can anyone let me know how to do it in a way that does not hurt lower back?

    • sarahjane

      Instead of bouncing down into the lower position (and back up again) just do a slow move. it will work different muscles so the effects on you will be different but it will still work the muscles in your legs, back, and arms so you get the benefit of exercise without the bouncing and jerking on your back that would do damage to your disks.

  • Alisin

    My only problem with the up-down motion of burpees is that it always makes me dizzy. :/ I can do them slowly, but when I try to speed up, I have to stop completely…

  • ArahnaNoir

    Do you get any benifits from this if you can’t do the “jumping” part of the move and just step out to plank? I have so much hardware in my ankle I physically can’t do any plyometric / jump movements.

  • monroe444

    If I need motivation I watch workout videos on Youtube. I started with Zuzana Light but there are many other inspirational people as well.

  • Joshua

    I love these. Why aren’t they in the myfitnesspal database?

  • Enricopallazzo

    Which burns more fat, 45 minutes of running or 5 minutes of Burpees?

  • I had never heard of burpees until a couple years ago. I saw some guy earlier said he did them in the Marine Corp in the 80s…nice! Amazing that we never had to do them for Phy Ed growing up. The first time I tried doing them, I think I only got to 15 before I felt like I was going to cough up a lung. Now a good one I try to do is 100 for time, always trying to beat my best time. Doesn’t happen much, but it’s a short, very exhausting workout. I recommend others try doing a set amount (whatever is within your limits) for time, and keep trying to beat it every now and then.

  • CT

    I love them. They are in my workouts almost every day with several variations…burpee lunges…1 legged burpees…criss cross burpees….plyo burpees and just the regular tough burpee. I love burpee pain 🙂

  • Glen

    Its a great cardio exercise. I start a stop watch and see how long its takes to do 100 then next session try to beat my time or add more burpees in that time.

  • keenqueen

    Let’s talk burpee modifications ok? You can bend over, step back into a plank, then step back forward into a forward fold and then stand with arms overhead. Depending on how heavy you are the mere act of getting yourself up and down off the floor multiple times makes for a hell of a workout! I usually can jump back into a plank but then end up having to walk forward or do a smaller hop or multiple hops to get my hips back into position to stand. #burpeesforeveryone ( I actually hate burpees but I know they are good for me so I do them any way I can)

    • Gigi

      Yes! Let’s hear it for “modifications”. I want to get fit, but at 69, I’m exhausted just reading the OP description!’

  • Jimmi James

    The secret to mastering burpees I find is in the breathing. Break it down into bits and work out when to breath in and out. Not dne them in a while but I think each rep takes two breath cycles, in and out twice. do a few slowly to get your form right and when you have got it, go for it…

  • Nick Dunlop

    My boxing coach loves burpees. Loves them.
    For a bit of extra “fun” he makes us bring our knees to our chests for the ending jump up.

    They are a fantastic exercise. Nothing else quite wears me out all over than a bunch of burpees.

  • scarlettudor

    Sounds very much like a yoga ‘salute to the sun.

  • David Humphrey

    If I recall, 50 or so years ago the military removed this exercise, then called the squat thrust, from their regime because doctors found that a key aspect of it was causing too many injuries when done repetitively for periods of a time. I used to do this exercise in school all through graduation, about the time the word went out that it is not considered safe.

  • Irina

    Burpees are sweet, sweet torture