17 November 2011 ~ Comments Off on In Search of the Best Exercise Ever: Burpees

In Search of the Best Exercise Ever: Burpees

Welcome to the first installment of a series I’m calling, “In Search of the Best Exercise Ever.” The goal of this series is to highlight the exercises people sometimes call “the perfect exercise.” These are exercises that, if you had time to do only one exercise, would give you the most bang for your buck.

Today we’ll look at an exercise that requires no equipment at all. You can do it at home, you can do it at the gym, you can do it on the beach, on a train, on a plane, in a box, with a fox…but I digress.

What’s a Burpee?

Simply put, the burpee is a squat-thrust with a push-up in the middle and a vertical leap at the end:

  1. Begin in a standing position.
  2. Squat down, put your hands on the floor and thrust your legs straight out behind you.
  3. You may recognize that you’re now in push-up position, so do a push-up.
  4. Bring your legs back in so you’re squatting again.
  5. From your squatting position, explode from your legs to leap as high as you can, and reach for the sky.
  6. Do another one.

Simple, huh?

What’s a Burpee Do For You?

The burpee is first and foremost an exhausting workout that works best in small doses. Place it at the end of a workout for a final push to burn calories.

Good for Cardio? Yes! This exercise will get your heart and lungs working big time.

Good for Fat Burning? Absolutely! In fact, do this as a Tabata (see below) and you can boost your metabolism tremendously.

Good for Strength? To a point. The push-up and explosive jump can improve the power in your chest, arms and legs. For bigger and long-term strength gains, resistance exercise is still better.

Good for Muscle Building? Not so much. If you combine this with resistance exercises it will help, but it’s far better for helping you see those muscles.

Burpees for Optimal Effect

As I suggested above, burpees work incredibly well as a Tabata exercise: do 20 seconds of burpees as fast as you can, then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat eight times. You’re done, but your fat burning will continue.

You may also be gasping for breath the first time you do it (start slow and ramp up over several days until you’re going full steam).


You can add just about every variation you can think of to a standard burpee:

  • Jump forward instead of up
  • Do one-hand push-ups (alternate hands with each rep)
  • Jump with one leg (alternate…you know)
  • Do your burpees in front of a pull-up bar and do a pull-up right after the jump (better yet,  jump to the pull-up bar).
  • Jump onto a box, then back off to the floor

If you get bored with one, try another. Make something up.


If you’re snowed in or otherwise can’t get to the gym, burpees are a pretty complete workout. Thumbs way up.

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