The burpee is one of the most popular bodyweight exercises in the world.
Athletes, Crossfitters, and military personnel, they all embrace burpees and do them regularly in their workouts.
The exercise is simple but intense that very few people can do more than 5 correctly.
But if you can learn to master and include it in your exercise regimen, it can help you get into shape very quickly.
This is mainly the reason why burpees have been called the closest thing to a perfect exercise.
The move is very, very effective.
This simple bodyweight exercises can improve all aspects of your fitness, including your cardiovascular fitness, strength endurance, and lean body mass.
But, what is a burpee?
What is a burpee?
The burpee was originally designed in the 1930's by a New York based physiologist named Royal. H. Burpee. He invented the move as a sort of fitness test and included it in his thesis for doctorate in applied physiology from Columbia University.
It was a slightly milder version of the grueling exercise we know today and was intended to only be performed 4 times in a row.
In fact, burpee was known to discourage anyone from performing numerous times. Because only 2 copies of Burpee’s original thesis remain, his granddaughter (Sheryl Burpee Dluginski) has made it her mission to explain the actual history behind this tormenting exercise.
Dluginski explains her grandfather was a huge fitness fanatic.
He wanted to devise a simple way to assess the various fitness levels of everyday individuals utilizing one single test.
In 1939, when Burpee was a PhD candidate at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University, he invented a 4-count movement as an accurate and fast way to evaluate an individual’s level of fitness.
Dluginski further points out that this 4-count movement was known by many names before it was widely known as just "a burpee". It began as a squat thrust, then a "4-count burpee".
Later on, it was called a "front leaning rest", and then a Military burpee.
Originally, the move was quite simple and was as follows:
- Squat down and place both hands on the floor in front of you.
- Jump back into a plank position.
- Jump your feet forward.
- Return back to the standing position.
To begin the fitness test, Burpee would record five separate heart rate measurements before and after performing four burpees, and then devised an equation that would accurately assess the heart’s blood pumping efficiency.
He determined that this was an accurate measure of overall fitness.
The burpee has evolved over the last 70 + years. The burpee that is performed today is a little different than the original, in that it contains six movements instead of four.
It is performed as quickly as possible and requires the individual to move through the positions quickly and fluidly.
The burpee today is performed like this:
Step 1. Bend over or squat down and place your hands on the floor in front of you, just outside of your feet.
Step 2. Jump both feet back so that you end up in a plank position.
Step 3. Drop down to a push-up, until your chest nearly touches the floor.
Step 4. Push up to return back to the plank position.
Step 5. Jump the feet back in toward the hands.
Step 6. In one motion, explosively jump into the air, reaching your arms straight overhead.
As you can see, the burpee of today has evolved and is much more difficult to perform than the original four-count fitness test.
From fitness test to fitness challenge or some will argue punishment.
The burpee exercise has also grown in varieties over the years. There are different movement standards varying from-gym-to-gym and trainer-to-trainer.
Though, the burpee most us know and love/hate to do is the most commonly performed one as we described above.
Here’s a recap on how to perform burpees:
- Bend at the knee and place both hands on the floor in front of you.
- Pushing off of your hands, jump your feet back until you are in a plank position.
- Drop down into a pushup position until your chest touches the floor.
- Push yourself back up into a plank position.
- Jump your feet forward, toward your hands.
- Jump into the air using an explosive motion, with your arms extended straight overhead.
But before you drop down to give me burpees, you want to make sure you familiar yourself with each individual move: squat, pushup, and the jump.
And once you mastered the move, perhaps you can take the military burpee challenge. In 1946, the military required soldiers to perform burpees for one full minute —performing 41 reps in that time was considered excellent, while fewer than 27 was considered poor (1, 2).
There you have it!
How to do the perfect burpee.
In short, burpee is an excellent bodyweight exercise and when performed correctly and fluidly, it can be effective in burning off calories and helping you to get in shape very quickly.
There are various burpee workouts you can do online, and some are from the CrossFit community. They can be intense and brutal especially for those who are just getting started with fitness.
If you’re looking for a burpee workout that’s geared towards beginners, take our burpee challenge, it's perfect for newbie.