UPDATED February 1, 2022
If you have one go-to workout, there’s a chance some of your muscles are feeling neglected by your routine. For example, if you’re a big fan of treadmill workouts, certain muscles are kept busy as you walk or run, while others spend the time putting their feet up. To get all or some of those unused muscles back on the job, you’ll want a full-body workout and that’s where the burpee comes in.
Burpees are a full-body calisthenic workout all on their own. According to research from Alagappa University conducted on a group of men in college, exercise including burpees improved muscular endurance, flexibility, and balance; meaning they’re good for you in more ways than one (1).
Here’s what you need to know about burpees: the why, the how, and even the “what if I don’t want to.”
Benefits Of The Burpee
According to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, moderate to vigorous physical activity may improve your health throughout your life, which means the earlier you make peace with the infamous burpee exercise, the better (2).
Even if burpees aren’t your favorite workout, they’re an effective way to use your body weight to your advantage. For example, according to one study, a 125-pound person may be able to burn eight calories by doing 20 burpees, while a 185-pound person may be able to burn 12 calories (3). That’s why burpees are considered a bodyweight exercise—and why you don’t need any special equipment to perform them.
To help try and determine your own calorie burn, you can try using this calorie burn calculator by nutritional expert Ted Kallmyer (4). Using the calculator is quick and easy: Just input your fitness information and search for “calisthenics” to help gauge the potential calorie-burn of your burpee workout. Keep in mind that potential-calorie burn depends on a number of factors, including having a game plan, eating healthily, working out consistently, having proper form, staying hydrated, sex, basal metabolism, ambient temperature and height.
Another benefit of this bodyweight exercise is its potential efficiency. Although most exercise routines, including the burpee, generally require time and consistency to build long-term health benefits, one study from the Research Center in Sports Sciences, Health Sciences and Human Development found that a single 50-minute session of step aerobics and bodyweight exercises significantly reduced blood pressure (5).
The takeaway? It may be time to befriend and try out the burpee.
Burpee And HIIT Workouts
If you’re reluctant to start performing burpees, you may need a fun way to motivate yourself—which is why it might be time to try a HIIT workout routine. HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, gives you the chance to switch between various strength- and fitness-building exercises at varying intensity so you don’t get bored.
To create your own HIIT bodyweight routine, choose four or five exercises to perform for one minute each, then do three to four sets. Here’s an example of a HIIT routine that includes burpees:
- High knees
- Bicycle crunches
- Jumping jacks
- Mountain climbers
Once you’re comfortable with HIIT and burpees, take your workout to Iceland with iFIT® trainer and HIIT enthusiast, Hannah Eden. You’ll get great exercise and a great adventure all at the same time.
If you’re already a HIIT or burpee pro, try this iFIT workout that combines the best of both worlds. By the end of this routine, you’ll have finished 31 burpees—not to mention 31 jumping jacks, 30 push-ups, 31 sit-ups, and more.
How To Perform A Burpee
Now that you know what burpees can do for you and how to work them into your exercise routine, let’s take a look at how to do one.
So before you jump into your new routine, make sure every burpee you do looks like this:
- Stand with your feet positioned hip-width apart, with your hands and arms by your sides.
- Squat down and push back with your hips.
- Rock forward on your toes and put the palms of your hands on the floor, keeping your arms in line with your shoulder width.
- Once your hands are in position, shift your weight so that you can jump your feet back and take a plank position.
- Do one push-up, then jump your feet back up toward your hands.
- After your feet are in position, use the momentum to push off the ground in an explosive jump. Be sure to reach toward the ceiling with your arms.
As you’re performing burpees, remember the “rule of thumb” for breathing during exercise: Inhale through your nose right before the portion of your exercise where you lengthen your muscle, then exhale through your mouth during the muscle-shortening section or contraction (7). Proper breathing has many benefits, including better circulation, improved heart health, and provides more of an effective workout overall (8).
Worried about getting those burpees just right? With iFIT, your trainer will guide you through each HIIT workout so you conceivably never have to second-guess your form. That way, every HIIT workout you do with iFIT is a learning experience, and every burpee may be a success.
Let’s say you’ve read all the benefits and learned everything there is to know about using proper form and technique, but you still don’t want to do even one burpee.
Whether that’s because you’re new to bodyweight exercises or you just know burpees are the bane of your existence, there’s good news: Burpee variation alternatives allow you to modify different parts of the overall motion to create an easier workout experience.
There are three things you can skip to make burpees easier (9):
- Push-Up: Not a fan of push-ups? You aren’t alone. Let your knees rest on the ground while you’re in a push-up position and lower your boy to the ground. This allows you to do an alternative push-up without as much difficulty. Or try skipping the push-up altogether and hold a plank for a few seconds.
- Jump: Skipping the jumping portion of a burpee is easy. Just return to a squat position after performing your push-up.
- Push-Up And Jump: To make the burpee as easy as possible, cut out the second half of the exercise entirely. Just squat, jump into a plank position, and then return to your starting stance.
Once you’ve built up your strength and are ready to turn modified burpees into high-intensity muscle-blasters, give these recommendations a try:
- Perform A Dumbbell Burpee.
Dumbbells give you a chance to really put those muscles to work during a burpee. Just hold one in each hand while performing a standard burpee. Remember to take precautions and don’t perform any move that you’re not comfortable with.
The NordicTrack Vault: Complete comes with dumbbells and access to personal trainers who will help you with trying to perform the perfect weighted burpee. It’s also a great tool for watching your form as you exercise.
- Use a box.
Find something solid enough to hold your weight, like a box. Place it in front of you and begin the first few steps of your burpee. Instead of doing a regular push-up, place your hands on the box, and push off of it instead. Then, in place of your jump, hop onto the box and down again. Remember to land with bent knees.
As you continue to build your strength and physical fitness, NordicTrack and iFIT will be right there with you. New HIIT workouts are typically added every month, so you’ll always have new routines to try, exciting destinations to explore, and fresh ways to push yourself.
Are burpees good for you? Only if you actually do and commit to them!
Although there are numerous health benefits associated with bodyweight exercise like burpees, it’s important to work these exercises into a routine you’ll actually enjoy. HIIT gives you the opportunity to switch up your activity, and iFIT makes it easy, fun, and even educational.
So grab your favorite workout playlist, keep a bottle of water handy, and get to work. It’s time to befriend the burpee—once and for all.
DISCLAIMER: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. NordicTrack assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article. Always follow the safety precautions included in the owner’s manual of your fitness equipment. Shipping times are dependent on in-stock inventory and delivery timeframes may vary. Make sure to check the website for any specific delays in delivery and shipping.
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Reddy, N. V. N & Rani, K. U. (2020). Effect of yogasanas and burpee exercises on selected fitness parameters of college men students. Journal of Xi’an University of Architecture & Technology, 12(4), 1517-1524. https://www.xajzkjdx.cn/gallery/138-april2020.pdf
Gebel K., Ding D., Chey T., Stamatakis E., Brown W. J., & Bauman A. E. (2015, June). Effect of moderate to vigorous physical activity on all-cause mortality in middle-aged and older Australians. JAMA Intern Med., 175(6), 970-977. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25844882/
Lockett, E. (2021, January 29). How many calories do burpees burn? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/how-many-calories-do-burpees-burn#calories-burned
Kallmyer, T. (n.d.) Calories burned and activity calculator. Healthy Eater. https://healthyeater.com/calories-burned
Mendes, R., Sousa, N., Garrido, N., Cavaco, B., Quaresma, L., & Reis, V. M. (2014). Can a single session of a community-based group exercise program combining step aerobics and bodyweight resistance exercise acutely reduce blood pressure? Journal of human kinetics, 43, 49–56. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4332184/
(2020, June 8). The importance of proper technique and form to your workout. A Healthier Michigan. https://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/2020/06/08/the-importance-of-proper-technique-and-form-to-your-workout/
Davis, N. (2020, May 29). If you aren’t breathing like this, you’re sabotaging your workout. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/when-to-inhale-and-exhale-during-exercise