Burpees are often a movement that elicits grunts and moans during workouts – and there’s a reason people dread them. The exercise combines a series of training movements, including the squat, plank, and push-ups, into one full body exercise.
As a personal trainer, even I dread doing this exercise and many of my clients do too. However, they’re great for building strength, burning calories, and improving cardio endurance.
The good news is that if you commit to working on the go, it will become easier. Until then, they can be easily changed so that you can build up the strength and stamina to perform them properly.
What do burpees do for the body?
Burpees are often used in high intensity interval training routines. They work as a full body workout, targeting the hamstrings, quads, calves, pecs, triceps, and abdominals as well as other muscles in the upper body. Instead of just performing a single bodyweight strength exercise, you perform three back-to-back in a quick motion, adding a jump in between that elevates the heart rate.
Because burpees improve cardio form, they help improve blood circulation and also lower blood pressure, both of which lead to longer, healthier lives. Plus, burpees don’t require any exercise equipment, making them the perfect movement to turn to when working out in the comfort of your own home.
Because of all of these benefits, you may start to notice weight loss or improved muscle tone after consistently incorporating burpees into your workout routine.
Common mistakes people make while doing burpees
Burpees are complex moves, which means there are a lot of opportunities for error, so rushing through them isn’t the way to go. I’ve seen many clients try to perform as many burpees as possible as quickly as possible, losing their shape as they go.
Due to the rush, many people arch their backs and loosen their core during the push-up part of the routine. This eliminates the abdominal challenge of movement, instead placing the stress on the back. Jumps, when done too quickly, can also cause problems. If you’re not careful to land with your knees slightly bent, you risk knee joint pain and injury. Finally, even though the burpees are high intensity, they shouldn’t make your joints worse. Many people aggressively return to a push-up position, which makes the movement heavy-impact and somewhat painful. To correct these common mistakes, keep these tips in mind:
- Go slowly. Make sure you can feel the different muscle groups working as you move through the burpee phases.
- Squeeze your heart and keep your back straight in pump position. Make sure your heart is continuously engaged throughout.
- Land lightly or try to step back during the high impact part of the move. If the landing is painful, modify by stepping back the feet one by one.
How to do a modified burpee
There are many ways to divide the burpee into steps and make the movement easier. Since the movement includes several exercises, it is easy to eliminate one or two of the steps to make the movement more accessible.
I recommend skipping the jump and doing just one plank, removing the push-ups from the exercise. All movements and steps remain the same, but instead of jumping after the plank, you step forward to return to the squat. In the push-up position, simply hold a plank and engage your core for a few seconds before moving forward into the squat.
How to perform the burpee correctly
Burpees require a lot of attention to detail when it comes to training. If you think you are ready to undertake the complete move, follow these five steps.
- Begin in a squatting position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Place both hands on the floor in front of you, shifting your weight to your hands. Kick behind you to be in a plank position.
- Perform a push-up making sure your back is straight and your core engaged.
- Jump your feet forward to be back in a squatting position and stand up.
- Jump skyward by reaching your arms above your head. Land gently with your knees bent and immediately fall into a squatting position. Repeat.
4 exercises that will help you perform the burpee better
If you’re not quite comfortable performing a burpee, here are some exercises to practice before starting the movement.
Mastering the jump squat is especially important when it comes to performing the burpee correctly. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and sit in a squatting position. Instead of getting up, push your heels and then your toes to jump directly with your arms above your head, land lightly, then immediately drop back down into a squat position. Repeat 10 times.
Working on your core and upper body strength before performing the burpee can make the movement much easier. In a plank position, with your hands under your shoulders and your legs straight behind you, bend your elbows bringing your face and chest down to the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times. If you can’t perform a full push-up, kneel down for a modified version.
With your hands on the mat directly under your shoulders, step your legs back so that you are balanced on your hands and toes. Pull your belly button towards your spine as you hold the plank position for 30 seconds, increasing the time as you become more comfortable. Make sure you keep your heart engaged.
Place a chair in front of you. With your arms straight, place your hands on the seat of the chair and hop your legs back into a modified plank. At this point, you can decide whether or not you want to perform a modified push-up or stay in a plank position for a few seconds. After that, return to the starting position and raise your hands above your head. Repeat 10 times.