Burpees Offer A Full Body Workout, Even in Small Spaces

While it sounds like a social faux pas, a burpee is not the cute little brother of a belch, but rather an amazing full-body exercise that you can do in small spaces.

The burpee became popular as a prison cell workout for just this reason.  It combines strength training using your own body weight with aerobic activity and repetition.

While the original burpee is made to be a difficult workout, there are variations to suit everyone from beginners to bodybuilders. When I taught fitness classes, I would always incorporate burpees into workouts.

How to Do a Burpee in 5 Steps

  1. Start in a standing position (make sure to engage your core muscles).
  2. Drop into a squat position with your hands touching the floor in front of you.
  3. Kick your feet back into a push-up position and lower yourself to do a push-up.
  4. Return your feet to the squat position immediately after, while pushing up with your arms (again, don’t forget to engage your core).
  5. Lastly, jump up with your hands above your head (or clap above your head).

Here’s how a burpee looks:

Burpee Variations

  • Easier versions
    • Squat thrust or no-push-up burpee: Kick back your feet, but do not perform a push-up.
    • Non-jump burpee: Omit the jump after step 3.
  • More challenging versions
    • Long-jump burpee: Jump forward, not up.
    • Tuck-jump burpee: Pull your knees (tucks) to your chest while jumping.
    • Jump-over burpee: Jump over an obstacle in each rep.
    • Box-jump burpee: Jump onto a box, rather than straight up and down.
    • One-armed burpee: Use only one arm for the whole exercise including the push-up.
    • Dumbbell burpee: Hold a pair of dumbbells while performing the exercise.
    • Pull-up burpee: Combine a pull-up with the jump or do one instead of the jump.
    • Double burpee: Do two push-ups in a row after the jump. This makes the next jump harder. Each part of the burpee can be repeated to make it even harder.
  • Other fun versions
    • Wall burpees / incline burpees / air burpees: Kick your feet up against a wall / on a table / in the air. Usually, these variants are performed without a push-up.
    • The 8-count body builder: Count out from 1 to 8 and perform the following moves (using the count will help you with your timing and speed to build stamina):
      1. Put your hands down.
      2. Kick out your feet.
      3. Start a jumping jack move by kicking both legs out to a spread-eagle position. Your hands remain planted on the ground in front of you, as before.
      4. Bring your legs back together.
      5. Begin the push-up by lowering your body to the floor.
      6. Complete the push-up by pressing back up.
      7. Bring your feet back forward to the squat position.
      8. Jump.

Before you do any burpees make sure you are warmed up properly. The burpee may become your entire workout or it may be just a part of your workout.

I have seen 100-burpee challenges where you start with one burpee on day 1 and then two burpees on day 2, all the way up to 100 burpees on the 100th day.

If that sounds like too much, make your own challenge maybe a 30-day burpee challenge, or just add five to the end of your workout.

Whatever you decide, trust me the burpee is a great addition to any workout. Mix it up a little and let me know what you think. I’ll warn you, they are not always easy, but they are definitely worth it.

Photo credit: U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. Fifth Fleet