Today you’ll finally learn to do a burpee perfectly in just 6 simple steps. But before you can master the exercise, let’s learn what a burpee is, where it comes from, and how it can benefit you.
Let’s get to the basics of burpees.
What Is a Burpee?
The burpee or squat thrust is a full-body exercise that combines three exercises into one:
It is a simple bodyweight exercise that can improve all aspects of your fitness. It benefits both your cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength.
The burpee is the ultimate example of functional exercise and fitness. With every rep, you’ll work your arms, chest, back, abs and legs.
The basic movement is done in 4 steps. It’s also known as a “four-count burpee”.
You begin in a standing position. From there, you move into a squat position with your hands on the ground. You then quickly drop your whole body into a pushup position, fully extending your legs.
Complete one pushup, then return to the standing position.
You repeat as many as you are prescribed to do.
History of Burpees
The burpees’ origin date back to the 1930s. It was developed by a New York-based physiologist, Royal Burpee to test one’s fitness.
The original version was actually far milder. It was only intended to be performed up to 4 times in a row.
It was even discouraged to perform burpees for numerous times. His granddaughter now takes on the legacy of the burpee and sees it as her mission to share its history and origin.
She explains, her grandfather was a huge fitness fanatic and wanted a simple way to assess one’s fitness level. And he wanted to do that in one single test.
In 1939, while Burpee was a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, he invented a 4-count movement. It was designed to be an accurate and fast way to evaluate physical fitness.
The original burpees have gone by many names before settling with Burpee. Squat thrust was one of the names that stuck along with 4-count burpee.
Because of its wide application and implication, it has also been known as a Military burpee.
If you come across any of these names, just know it’s all the same exercise we now know as “Burpee”.
Originally, the exercise took a much simpler form and was done as below:
- Step 1:
Squat down and place your hands on the floor in front of you
- Step 2:
Squat down and place your hands on the floor in front of you
- Step 3:
Jump your feet forward
- Step 4:
Return to the standing position
As a fitness test, the burpee would take 5 separate heart rate measurements before and after the exercise. They conclusively assess one’s heart blood pumping efficiency. Royal Burpee determined that the assessment would provide accurate measures of one’s fitness.
How to Do a Burpee In Six-Count
The burpees have 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.
- Bend over or squat down and place your hands on the ground in front of you, just outside of your feet.
- Jump both feet back so that you end up in a plank.
- Drop down to a push-up, until your chest nearly touches the floor.
- Push up to return to the plank again.
- Jump the feet back in toward the hands.
- 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 tests to fitness challenges 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 of 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.
- Dropdown 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 familiarize yourself with each individual move: squat, pushup, and the jump.
How to Do Squats
- Stand facing forward and keep your chest held up and out.
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. …
- Sit back and down like you’re sitting into an imaginary chair. …
- Lower down so your thighs are as parallel to the floor as possible, with your knees over your ankles.
- Keep your body tight and push through your heels to bring yourself back to the starting position.
Start with 3 sets of 10 squats and then add more reps to a total of 12 to 15 as you gain strength. It may feel unnatural at first and don’t expect to master the squat right away.
Focus on your form and then worry about adding reps. Your squatting position is key in doing burpees.
How to Do a Standard Pushup
- Begin with your chest and stomach flat on the floor. Your legs should be straight out behind you in full extension. Your palms should be at the chest level with the arms bent out at a 45-degree angle.
- Exhale as you push from your hands and heels, bringing your torso, chest, and thighs off the ground.
- Pause for a second in the plank position — keep your core engaged.
- Inhale as you slowly lower back to your starting position.
How to Do Squat Jumps
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Start by doing a regular squat, then engage your core and jump up explosively.
- When you land, lower your body back into the squat position to complete one rep. Land as quietly as possible, which requires control.
- Do two to three sets of 10 reps.
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).
How Many Burpees Should a Beginner Do?
If you are a beginner performing this multi-movement exercise, it’s not a matter of how many reps you should do. Rather, doing each move the proper way. Being able to do a pushup, squat, and squat jump correctly should be the prerequisite to moving towards doing reps.
With that said, if you are a beginner ready for a full set, aim to do 5-7 burpees.
Once, you have enough fitness level and strength, aim 10 reps per set.
But it’s really not a matter of the more, the better. Resist the urge to go overboard with it. Instead, pair this great anaerobic exercise with strength training to create a full-body routine. Together, you deeply engage multiple muscle groups including your hips, glutes, leg muscles, and even abdomen. What’s more, you get to incorporate cardio into your resistance training to maximize your fat loss and improve the capacity of your lungs.
Burpee Exercise Variations
Burpee without a pushup:
While the burpee exercise is a simple bodyweight move, having multiple movements in one can make it a very challenging exercise.
This is when people ask ‘do you do a pushup in a burpee? ‘ with such dread.
The answer is no. You don’t have to if you are not ready for it. Pushup tends to be the hardest part of this exercise, and it’s optional. Add it if you want to add strength training. Leave it out to make it more cardio-driven.
It’s harder with a pushup for sure, but as with any workouts, you need the proper fitness level to perform it correctly. So feel free to do it without when starting.
Burpee with one-leg squat:
Another modification you can make is to advance this workout and make it more challenging. It’s doing the squat with one leg. This helps you build more balance and core strength.
There you have it! You just learned how to do a burpee with proper form.
The burpee is an excellent all-in-one full-body exercise and when performed correctly and fluidly. It can be effective in burning off calories, helping you to get in shape very quickly. It’s also a great way to improve blood flow and boost energy.
Regardless of the burpee variation you go with, it’s important to learn how to the basic burpee first, before trying more challenging one.
If you are into CrossFit, you can do this workout their way shown here, CrossFit community.
Some of the burpees they do there in their workout can be intense and brutal especially for those who are just getting started with fitness. So make sure you read the section on how to do a burpee with perfect form first, to perfect each move.
If you’re looking for a burpee workout that’s geared towards beginners, take our burpee challenge, it’s perfect for a newbie.
- (1). https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/02/burpee-history_n_5248575.html
- (2) https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130104/new-york-city/real-story-behind-exercise-you-love-hate-burpee