When you need a do-anywhere full-body move that jacks up your heart rate after just a few reps, look no further than the burpee. “The burpee is one of the most challenging and effective total-body exercises you can do,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Openfit’s director of fitness and nutrition content.
This challenging exercise is a mainstay in HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts for a reason: it packs a triple-benefit punch in one fluid sequence, helping you build strength, endurance, and power. And all you need to do it is your own bodyweight and a little floor space.
Here, we show you how to execute this move to perfection to score maximum benefits.
How to Do the Burpee With Proper Form
Program: TOUGH MUDDER T-MINUS 30
Workout: Burpee Challenge
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
- Bend your knees, hinge at your hips, and squat down, placing both palms on the floor.
- Jump your feet back to a push-up position (hands and balls of your feet on the floor and your body straight from head to heels).
- Do a push-up: Lower your torso until your chest is a few inches from the floor, and then quickly push back up.
- Jump your feet back to your hands, and then explode upward, jumping into the air.
- Land softly and immediately begin your next rep.
How to Modify the Burpee
If you need to make burpees easier, try placing your hands on a step or low box instead of the floor, Thieme says. Or, eliminate the push-up and/or jump.
If the classic burpee is too easy, try keeping one leg raised throughout the movement (a.k.a. a single-leg burpee), performing a dead-stop pushup at the bottom of the move (lowering your body all of the way to the floor and briefly lifting your hands), or doing a tuck jump at the top of it (lifting both knees toward your chest while in mid-air). Read on for even more ways to progress this total-body fat burner.
Spice up the classic burpee with one or more of these next-level variations.
Stand beneath a pull-up bar, and each time you jump up, grab the bar and perform a pull-up before lowering yourself to a dead hang and dropping to the floor to begin your next rep.
Perform a lateral jump instead of a vertical one, jumping back and forth from rep to rep.
Benefits of Burpees
Here are just a handful of the benefits you can reap by making burpees part of your exercise repertoire.
1. Improved cardiovascular fitness
Because the burpee engages multiple major and minor muscle groups from head-to-toe, it makes a great cardio exercise.
In fact, burpees may be comparable to sprint intervals in their cardiovascular effects. A 2014 study in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research pitted the aerobic demand of burpees against sprint intervals on a stationary bike. Researchers determined that the burpee provides similar “physiological adaptations and performance improvements” with a significantly lower time commitment.
And unlike sprint intervals, burpees have the added benefit of building upper-body strength, power, and endurance, Thieme says.
Burpees make it easy to work up a total body sweat, whether you’re watching TV at home or navigating a busy gym. And as you’ve already seen, the fitness benefits of the burpee are comparable to those you’d get from working out on a cardio machine or pounding the pavement outside, so you can be sure you’re not shortchanging your results.
3. They build strength and power
The burpee incorporates classic strength and power moves like the squat, plank, push-up, and vertical jump. That means you’ll reap the benefits of all of these moves by including the burpee in your training plan.
Can You Lose Weight Doing Burpees?
Challenging exercise of any kind can help you lose weight by creating a caloric deficit, but the more muscles an exercise engages and the less you pause between reps, the more calories you’ll burn. That’s what makes the burpee so effective at torching fat — it’s a total-body exercise with continuous movement.
Though it’s tricky to say exactly how many calories you’ll burn by doing burpees (it depends on factors like muscle mass, age, height, and gender), one study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that the classic bodyweight exercise elicits an even greater energy expenditure (measured in calories burned) than traditional weightlifting moves such as the squat and deadlift.