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The Burpee - One exercise to rule them all (Part 1)
If you were to never have access to a gym or gym equipment ever again, how would you stay in shape?
No, let me take it even further, if you were told that you could only do one exercise for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The deadlift, the squat, the dip, the chin? Nope, I’d choose the burpee.
The burpee is probably the single most effective and complete, whole-body conditioning exercise there is. No other movement on the planet will work as many muscle groups, whilst at the same time massively improving your endurance, stamina and cardiovascular conditioning.
The burpee has been a staple for fighters, cross-fitters and soldiers for years. Your average gym-goer may have heard of them, but he has likely never done them, or if he has, he probably hasn’t done them in the way they were intended, and has never reaped their full benefits..
So how do I benefit from the burpee?
There are 2 steps to benefitting fully from this exercise. The first step is getting the technique correct.
The basic burpee is executed as follows (See pictures):
From this position, extend your feet back in one quick motion to finish in the start of the push-up position.
Then return to the squat position
Return to the upright standing position.
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And there you have it,
that’s the movement for the most basic form of the burpee. Once you have that
mastered, there are many other variations you can add to make it a lot
For example, you could do the Push-up burpee, where instead of just returning to the squat position from the start of the push-up position, you proceed to do a push-up and then return to the squat position and up to the standing position. Also, you can add a jump at the end, where instead of just returning to the standing position, you jump upwards (see pictures).
To make them even more challenging, do your push-up burpees under a pull-up bar, and at the top of the squat, jump up, grasp the bar and proceed to do a pull-up, that entire movement would equal 1 rep.
There are many other ways to make them even more challenging, so make sure to check out part 2!
So, once you have the technique down, its then a case of selecting the correct burpee workout for your level and your aims.
If you’re just starting out, then a good starting point is 5 sets of 10 burpees, with 1 minute of rest between sets. You could add this to your existing workouts, or even incorporate it into your interval training. Depending on your fitness level, you could do either the basic burpee or one of the more advanced variations.
Another slightly more difficult burpee workout would be to do burpees using the Tabata format:
Here you do as many burpees as you can for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat for 8 rounds. It doesn’t sound like much, it takes only 4 minutes, but trust me, it will be a hellish 4 minutes, and you’ll be sucking in more air than a jet-engine at the end.
The last workout I’ll make mention of, is the prison burpee workout, as it’s definitely something to aspire to. It’s possibly one of the most devastating workouts I’ve ever come across. It's well known amongst inmates around the world and the ability to complete it is considered the mark of a man.
The aim is to start with a set of 20 burpees (preferably with a push-up), then a set of 19 burpees, then a set of 18, 17, 16, 15….all the way down to 1. This works out to 210 burpees.
The idea is to rest as little as necessary between sets and to get through it as quickly as possible. If you are able to complete all this in under 20 minutes, then you are most certainly not a guy to be messed with!
That’s it for now, start incorporating some burpee routines into your current workouts and work on doing more burpees in less time every week, it’s the only way to improve your conditioning and shed the fat.
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Article by: Bryan Hamann.
Bryan is a personal trainer, certified bootcamp instructor, Ironman Triathlete and author of THE PRISON WORKOUT.
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