Doing a burpee outside

The Secret To Getting In Shape Anywhere: The Burpee

By | October 11, 2017 | fitness

Maybe you don’t live near or gym or you perhaps your wallet doesn’t like the cost of membership. And as the gloomy winter drags on into the spring, motivation starts to drag too. Whatever the reason (or excuse) it doesn’t feel good to fall out of shape. So no more excuses. Here’s the one simple exercise you need to you can get in the best shape of your life. All you need is a space no bigger than a small bedroom. You don’t even have to leave the house (perfect for when it is too cold to go for a run).

It’s the exercise that everyone loves to hate — the burpee — you may remember it referred to as the squat thrust back in gym class.

What is a burpee?

The basic burpee is an exercise that consists of four consecutive movements (also known as the “four-count burpee”). From a standing position, you drop into a squat position (count 1), kick feet back into a plank position(count 2), back to a squat (count 3), and then back into a standing position (count 4). All in a quick succession and rapidly repeated.

If you don’t know exactly what movements make up a burpee, or how to do one properly, the CrossFit people have put together an excellent demonstration video:

Why burpees are so effective

It’s a perfect union of an aerobic workout and strength training. It’s a simple metabolism boosting equation. Burpees work your entire body so you burn more calories in less time. Activating many muscle groups at once will give you a nice caloric after burn and ramp up your body’s ability to use fat as fuel. With sufficient intensity, that calorie burning effect will last all day long. On top of the aerobic burn, your muscles are getting resistance training which helps with overall conditioning. 

RELATED: A Quick Guide to Your Metabolism

Burpees are the speed workout you can squeeze in

Burpee sets are usually measured in 5 or 7-minute intervals. You can challenge yourself to increase the number of burpees you do in a set over time.

Aside from the simplicity, what I really love about burpees is how quickly they can turn your metabolism into a calorie-torching furnace. A five-minute set works out the entire body, quickly elevates your heart rate (good for cardio), and ultimately pushes you into a metabolic frenzy. Because this “heart rate spike” effect can be achieved so quickly, I like to spread my burpee sets throughout the day. I believe that two five-minute burpee sessions a day are really all you need to be in the best shape of your life. That’s just 10 minutes a day. 

Burpees can be torture, but the results are worth it

You are going to sweat. You are going to feel squashed. Burpees are only effective if you give 100% effort. That means use a timer, keep count, and be consistent. You don’t idly to burpees—your goal should be to do as many as you can in each set. You need to work hard enough that your body starts incinerating fat for fuel and get your entire system worked up to the point that it lasts for hours. The upshot is that, if you are willing to put in the effort in, you can take comfort in the fact that you can achieve your goals in just 10 minutes a day (provided that you are eating clean).

Why else are burpees awesome?

I love burpees for the burn, but also because it fits with my utilitarian and practical lifestyle. Here’s some more reason to learn to love the burpee:

  • You can do them absolutely anywhere (no expensive membership required).
  • There is no equipment necessary. Just an open area (and a mat for hard surfaces).
  • It’s a single exercise that builds both functional strength and fitness.
  • Seemingly limitless ways you can challenge yourself by increasing speed, time, or by mixing it up with another exercise (see variations below).

In fact, burpees are one of the best exercises ever to boost your conditioning and endurance for sports and other activities. Bonus: if you are the type who can really push through your red zone and continue to hold yourself accountable to giving 100% effort, they will make you mentally stronger, too. The simple act of giving all you’ve got on a daily basis, as my dad would say, “builds character” and is something to feel good about.

Fun with Burpee Variations

As they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. And there’s more than one way to do a burpee. If you are looking to mix up your routine or add a new challenge beyond increasing count, here are some fun plays on the basic four-count burpee:

  • Box-jump burpee. Although this traditionally requires a box, if you are outdoors you can substitute a flat-top rock or park bench to keep with the Spartan aesthetic of the traditional burpee. As you rise up from the push-up, jump on to a box or block with both feet and stand tall at the top. Increasing the height of the “box” increases the challenge.
  • Jump up! burpee. Imagine that you are a rocket preparing to launch. At the end of the four-count burpee, jump straight up as high as possible before beginning the next burpee.
  • One-armed burpee. For those that really like to feel the burn, use only one arm for the whole exercise including the pushup. Alternate arms for a full workout.
  • Dumbbell burpee. Simply add in a set of dumbbells while performing the exercise. Increase the difficulty by increasing the weight of the dumbbell (within your own comfort zone, be careful not to overdo it!).

Any other variations that you love? How many burpees can you do?


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