Burpees. You either hate ‘em or hate ‘em, right? It’s hard to come up with a bodyweight exercise more demanding than a burpee. The burpee recruits most major muscle groups in the body whilst putting serious strain on your cardio respiratory system. Consider one rep that asks for a squat, jump (or fall down), push-up, jump up, squat, and then a further jump. Who on Earth decided that this was a good idea? And now we’re going to make them even more challenging with burpee variations?
Well, the next time you’re gasping for air with your hands on your knees asking why you do this to yourself, you can curse Mr. Royal Huddleston Burpee. Yes, Mr. Burpee himself came up with the movement in 1939 in his thesis at Columbia University as a quick, simple method to apply fitness tests. In every box, though, you will come across that freak who says that they like nothing better than 100 burpees for time.
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You CAN get good at burpees. It’s no question that the best way to stop burpees hurting so darn much is to improve your cardio base through steady-state and interval aerobic training. But improving your mechanics and performing the burpee more efficiently will help save valuable gas for later in a workout. Here are a few tips to help you.
- Begin by hinging at the hip with a slight leg bend and placing your hands on the floor.
- With the weight in your upper body, push your legs back and “fall” forward. “Falling” uses less energy than lowering yourself down and will allow you to “bounce” out of the bottom position.
- Once you have “fallen,” keep a semi-rigid torso and legs, and “bounce” out of the bottom.
- Keep your hands on the floor and kick your feet on either side so that your legs are as straight as your hamstring flexibility will allow.
- Stand the rep up, opening the hips but keeping a slight bend in your torso ready for the next rep.
- Any rest should be at the top of the rep.
The burpee is one of the most versatile movements in the fitness world.
A Definitive List of Burpee Variations
1. Burpee Box Jump/Over
Get yourself in front of a plyo box or bench. Perform a standard burpee, but after standing the rep up, swing your arms forward using the momentum from your hips and jump up, landing two feet on the box. On the descent, use your downward momentum, briefly touching the ground with your feet before falling straight into your next rep.
As you tire, be conscious of your jump to avoid those dreaded shin wounds. This movement can also be completed as a jump over, where after landing on the box, you continue over and onto the other side of the box. Bonus points for a slight rotation on the box in anticipation of your next rep.
2. Burpee Over Bar
Seen often in the Open and local throwdowns alike, the burpee can be performed either lateral to a bar or facing it. After the burpee, take a low jump over the bar, keeping your feet as close to the ground as possible. Brent Fikowski suggested “falling forward using your momentum rather than jumping” to conserve energy and move efficiently. Out of the many burpee variations, this is one that usually has athletes wishing they had stayed home.
3. Burpee Pull-up
The burpee pull-up really jacks up your heart rate as you ask your body to pump blood and oxygen from one end of your body to the other quickly. After performing a standard burpee, drive your hips and jump up to a bar, taking a pull-up grip, and either strict or kip your chin over the bar.
4. Burpee Jump and Touch
Similar to the burpee pull-up, but at the top of the rep, drive your hips and swing your arms up to touch a target above you. Increase the height of the target for more difficulty.
5. Deconstructed Burpee
Want a super simple, quick workout? Perform 21-15-9 of tuck jumps (or jump to target), double foot mountain climber, and push-ups. It’s a great way to build capacity for standard burpees and is easily scalable.
6. Double Mountain Climber
Part of the deconstructed burpee — take an extended arm plank position and jump both legs up to your hands and back, keeping a tight core. How’s that for burpee variations?
7. Man Maker
A favourite of Josh Bridges, the Man Maker is the RX+++ version of a burpee. Grab a pair of appropriately weighted dumbbells, holding one in each hand at the top of the push-up position. Perform a push-up and then, one arm at a time, pull or row the dumbbell up to your chest then back down again.
After this, perform a clean thruster. That’s one rep.
8. Devil Press
Seen at the Wodapalooza online qualifier, the Devil Press is performed with two dumbbells, performing a push-up then a double dumbbell snatch straight overhead.
9. Travelling Burpee
Standard burpee, but at the top of the rep, perform a broad jump as far forward as possible, dropping straight into the next rep. Race your friends round the box.
10. Backflip/Stick Burpee
Yeah, so a backflip burpee may be a little out of reach right now, but how badass do they look?
The same could be said for the Stick Burpee, which took Instagram by storm one time.
Which one of these burpee variations will you try first? Leave it in the comments!