The humble burpee, it’s origins steeped in a fitness test designed by the brilliantly named Royal H. Burpee, is both brutal and yet somehow comforting.
Like a kindly schoolmaster whispering words of encouragement as he wields the birch to give you the damn good scragging that you no doubt deserved (for wagging off class or smoking a doobie behind the bike sheds), you can sense that the burpee wants you to grow in character & fortitude as he pummels you, challenging your legs, your lungs and your very soul.
But that could just be a rose-tinted and skewed view. It could be that Mr Burpee is just a down-right sadistic son-of-a-bitch who couldn’t decide which part of your mind, body or soul he wanted to crush or in which order, so he decided to go for all three at the same time.
On the plus-side, you can do them anywhere: hotel room, garden, nursery, gym (although how often do you see people doing burpees in a gym and not as part of a class? More or less never).
This makes them great, not only for time-poor Dads who want a hectic bang-for-your-buck workout, but also anybody whose schedule or lifestyle makes it hard to get any other forms of exercise in.
If you only did one exercise for the rest of your ‘moving’ life and it was the burpee, I reckon you’d stay healthy and strong for years. But, of course, I could be wrong.
The burpees we tend to do now bear little resemblance to the original Royal H. Burpee version (below):
We tend to throw them in as a balls-to-the-wall finisher that empties and then destroys your gas tank. Often a burpee will bring in a push-up and a CrossFit burpee simply involves throwing yourself on the floor and getting back up as quickly as possible. Here’s a slowed down version of the CrossFit style.
Regardless of how you perform your burpees, they key point is to simply get moving and starting building up the reps. As long as you’re doing them safely, of course.
Here are some sample workouts to get you started.
1. Death By Burpee
Using a timer, do one burpee in the first minute. And then…nothing. Rest for the remainder of the minute.
When minute 2 rolls around, do 2 burpees. And rest the remainder of the minute.
Keep repeating this until you either: a) reach 20 minutes or b) can’t hit your number in the allotted minute.
Then rest for the next minute. And go back down by 1 each minute for the remaining time.
An easy trap for young players is to use the “rest” periods at the beginning to do other exercises, like sit-ups, as I saw a bootcamp recruit do recently.
Do not fall into this trap. It will bite you on the ass later on, I guarantee it.
Aim to get to minute 10 and you’ll have done 55 burpees.
Gold standard is up to 15 and elite will be 17/18.
2. 50 Burpees For Time
A great benchmark workout and one I used a lot in days gone by to measure my progress once I started doing a few of these and getting into Crossfit.
Starting out I was coming in at around 5 minutes and change for my 50, but I soon got this down to just under 3 minutes using military burpees (as opposed to the Crossfit version). Anything close to 2 minutes is elite.
3. 7 Minutes Of Burpees
Sometimes used as a Crossfit Open workout, this is gnarly because of the time involved and, well, because it’s burpees. There’s no science to it. Just do burpees. Around 100 of ’em is a very solid start if you’re already well trained.
4. Death By Burpee #2
If Death By Burpee is too slow for you in the early stages, then try this variant.
Start with 6 burpees in minute 1. Increase by 1 at a time for 10 minutes. As before, if you hit your wall, rest for 1 minute and then resume but counting down by 1 each time.
5. Partner Burpee Ladder
This is where bromances are born. One partner works while one rests. So I do a single, then you do the same. I then do 2, you copy me. I hit 3, you do likewise.
And so on until you get to 10. And then you count back down the ladder.
6. Burpee EMOM
Pick a number, say 10. Set a timer for 5 or 10 or 15 or even 20 minutes.
And then do your 10 burpees every minute, on the minute, resting during the intervening periods.
Equipment- Assisted Burpee Workouts
7. Burpee Ski-Erg Inverse Ladder
It requires a ski-erg machine that are becoming increasingly common in commercial gyms.
It goes a little something like this:
50 calories on the ski-erg / 10 burpees
40 calories on the ski-erg / 20 burpees
30 calories on the ski-erg / 30 burpees
20 calories on the ski-erg / 40 burpees
10 calories on the ski-erg / 50 burpees
This will make or break you. It’s not for beginners or the faint of heart.
8. Burpee Over Rower
This one follows the following format:
500m row / 25 burpees-over-rower
400m row / 20 burpees-over-rower
300m row / 15 burpees-over-rower
200m row / 10 burpees-over-rower
100m row / 5 burpees-over-rower
Group Burpee Exercises
9. Race To 25. And Back.
In a group of any number, race up to 25 burpees. Whoever gets there first calls out and everybody stops where they are.
After 1 minute rest, everybody burpees their way back down from their number down to 0.
The idea is that everyone finishes at roughly the same time. Great for catering to a range of fitness levels while still bringing in some competition to keep it edgy.
10. Circle Of Burpees
Forming a circle, everybody holds the top of a push-up position. One by one each person in the circle does 10 burpees while everyone else holds their position.
Keep going round the circle until everyone has done 50 burpees.
Everybody hates burpees. Yet, if you embrace, rather than avoid them, you’ll be rewarded with an engine you can rely on.
Start slowly if you need to; a few per day is fine for beginners. But stay consistent and ramp it up and you’ll quickly be rewarded.