Burpees: The Bodyweight Kings
At Life Fitness, we love how bodyweight exercises hit multiple muscle regions, work both strength and cardio, and incinerate calories. And while there are many candidates for “best bodyweight exercise,” only one of them has royal blood: the burpee.
Invented in the 30s by Royal H. Burpee as part of a doctoral thesis at Columbia University, the burpee was created to test fitness levels with a standard four-count movement, and was not intended as traditional exercise.
Its pugilistic big brother, however, is an exercise with attitude: an indefinitely repeated six-count movement that includes squats, push-ups, explosive jumps and zero rest. Not only do exercisers hit upper and lower body regions with remarkable intensity, but also the up-and-down movements are a boost to the heart rate that’s far better than stationary or forward-backward movements.
Know this: burpees will leave you feeling pleasantly accomplished at the end, but getting there is a trip through a deranged fitness gauntlet that causes many to turn away in exhaustion and fear. Think you’re up to the task?
Here’s how to do the six-count burpee:
- Squat down and place your hands on the floor, just outside your feet.
- Quickly shoot your legs back, putting yourself in the plank position.
- Drop to a push-up with your chest touching the floor.
- Push upward to return to the plank position
- Shoot your feet back up and under you.
- Jump explosively into the air.
And repeat. Sound simple enough? That’s just a single repetition. The true challenge comes in doing larger sets based on either a high rep count or an extended time block. Just remember that whether it’s two minutes of burpees or a thirty-burpee challenge, there should be no rest between repetitions. The crux of the exercise is its cyclical, systematic nature – to break it up for a breather defeats its purpose.
If you accept the challenge, you’ll have our commendation, our congratulations and yes, our heartfelt commiseration as well. But well-done burpees will give you one of the best workouts you can find, and produce the fitness results you’re looking for. The way we figure – if something created during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency can still manage to be trendy and tough in 2014, it’s probably doing something right.