What is the origin of burpees?
Invented in the 1930s by an American physiologist named Royal H. Burpee, who used it for fitness testing1, it later spread to the U.S. Armed Forces, also as a test to assess fitness, agility, coordination, strength and endurance.
41 burpees in 1 minute reflecting excellent fitness, 27 burpees in 1 minute reflecting poor fitness.
Today, this exercise is familiar to Spartan Races enthusiasts, who require participants to perform 30 burpees in a row if they fail to clear an obstacle. There are also some CrossFit boxes that use this kind of penalty for late front riders! Of course, this exercise is also done voluntarily for many reasons that we will see.
How to make burpees?
It is important to understand that this exercise is not as simple as it looks, and that it is not recommended for beginners who can easily get injured with a bad execution of the movements.
The burpee, also called squat thrust, is divided into four steps. This full-body exercise begins in the standing position. From there :
Bend your legs (squat) and put your hands on the floor.
While keeping your arms straight, throw your feet back to place your body in the board position.
Return to the position described in point 1 by throwing your feet forward.
Perform a jump with your feet together.
It is easy to make this exercise more complete/difficult by adding a pump once you are in the board position and doing an explosive jump as high as possible in point 4, etc. (we will see the many variations at the end of this article).
The burpee requires a lot of energy, and therefore allows you to work out in a minimum of time. This is one of the reasons why we find this exercise in HIIT training formats, in CrossFit WODs, or in 100 burpee challenges or the famous 30-days challenge.
5 reasons to make burpees
They work almost every muscle
As I noted above, if you asked me to choose a single body weight exercise, I would choose the burpee. Most exercises work one or a few specific muscle groups. The burpee requires a very large number of them and each time you repeat the exercise you will be working on them:
It increases the strength
Burpees are difficult to perform and are part of the challenge exercises (100 burpees challenge, 30 days burpees). We all like to challenge ourselves, but this exercise is so quickly difficult that doing 30 in a row is a challenge in itself for most practitioners.
What you have to keep in mind is that like many things, training is the key to progress and improvement. At the beginning, 10 reps may be your limit, but with regular practice you can do more because you will have gained strength. In a few weeks, the 10 reps will be just part of your warm-up and you’ll be able to line up dozens of reps with no problem!
They don’t require any equipment
The good thing about burpees is that you can do them almost anywhere! It’s a great exercise to keep in shape while traveling or in any other situation where you don’t have access to a gym. No more excuses for not training and keeping in shape: burpees don’t require any equipment, just your body weight.
A U.S. Army study published in May 2015 in the journal Military Medicine2 studied the effects of burpee HIIT training on fitness levels. 26 students in their 20s completed 3 60-minute sessions over 4 weeks. Their training consisted of 4 to 7 series of 30-second burpees, spaced 4 minutes apart for active recovery. After analysis of different parameters, the conclusion of the study is that this type of training is suitable for maintaining the physical fitness of armed forces that do not have access to their equipment.
Excellent for muscle definition
Burpees work the arms, pectorals, buttocks, legs and many deep muscles. By using all these muscle groups, the caloric expenditure is very important and this makes it a very effective way to get a toned and drawn physique.
To increase the caloric expenditure, you can increase the number of repetitions, but also the speed of execution. Be careful, you will have to be very careful to do the exercise well to avoid the risk of injury. Don’t forget the joint warm-ups!