Burpees. Call me crazy, but I love ’em. Not only do they elicit physiological responses similar to that of all-out cycling sprints (but in a shorter period of time), they’re also kinda fun to do.
That is, if you like feeling like your lungs are about to explode and your limbs are going to give out.
There’s no doubt about it — burpees are hard. They engage every muscle in your body while requiring a steep increase in cardiovascular output and oxygen intake. In other words, they’ll make your body burn. It can be tough to want to induce this kind of response from yourself, but if you’re a busy, always-on-the-go, can’t-sit-down-to-eat type of woman (and who isn’t these days?), then the reward is worth the challenge:
Time and perceived effort.
Believe it or not, a 2014 study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that high intensity interval training using burpees was perceived to feel easier than high intensity interval training on a stationary bike, but still provided the same health benefits. So go ahead and take the “easy” route with your interval training routine and try performing 30 to 60 seconds of each of the following burpee variations, allowing yourself to catch your breath between sets. You’ll complete a full workout in less than 30 minutes, while only doing four to eight actual minutes of work.
The basic burpee
Before getting crazy, make sure you master the basic burpee:
1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Crouch down and place your hand on the ground directly beneath your shoulders.
2. Hop or step your legs back so your body is fully extended in a high plank or push-up position.
3. (Optional) Perform a push-up and return to plank position.
4. From plank, hop or step your legs back to their starting position.
5. Come to a standing position — or, if you’d like to make the exercise more difficult, jump up into the air from the crouched position, landing with your knees slightly bent to absorb the jump’s impact.
Adding burpee variations
Burpee variations all originate from the basic burpee, but they add movements or challenges to the bottom of the exercise (the plank position), or the top of the exercise (the standing/jumping position). Each of these variations can be added to the basic plank, as directed.
1. Bear crawl burpees
Start your burpee as usual, but once you’re in the high plank position, “crawl” forward four steps by walking your hands and feet forward while keeping your knees off the ground, then crawl backward four steps to the original plank position by reversing the movement. Once you’re back in the original plank position, continue the standard burpee.
Add the bear crawl to every burpee to further challenge your quads, core and shoulders.
2. Star jump burpees
Perform the basic burpee as usual, but when you jump up to standing, instead of performing a basic jump from the crouched position, swing your arms and legs out laterally from your body into a wide star, or jumping jack position, bringing them back to center by the time you land. Be sure to land on the balls of your feet with your knees slightly bent to help absorb impact.
Add the star jump to every burpee to make the move more cardiovascularly challenging.
3. Plank jack burpees
After starting the basic burpee as usual, once you’re in the high plank position, hop both legs out laterally from your body to a wide jumping jack-like position. Hop them back to center and repeat two more times before continuing the basic burpee sequence (hopping your feet to their starting position and standing or jumping up to a standing position).
Add this plank jack to every burpee to further challenge your core.
4. Mountain climber burpees
Start the basic burpee as usual, but once you’re in the high plank position, draw one knee in toward your chest, placing the ball of that foot on the ground. Immediately hop both feet into the air, switching their position mid-hop, so the opposite knee is drawn into your chest. Repeat three times per leg, then continue your basic burpee as usual.
Add this mountain climber to every burpee to target your chest, shoulders and core while making the exercise more cardiovascularly challenging.
5. Rolling burpees
This is my personal all-time favorite — probably because it’s weird and involves rolling (who doesn’t like rolling?). It’s also the biggest oddball in the bunch, so pay attention!
After crouching down from the original standing position, roll backward onto your back, allowing your legs to roll over your head. Using momentum, roll forward, planting your feet wide to come into a low squat. (This can be tricky and takes some practice, so stick with it!). From this position, plant your hands on the ground and hop your feet back into a high plank before continuing the basic burpee sequence.
Add the backward roll every time you crouch down from a standing position. This movement will challenge balance, flexibility, coordination and lower body strength.
6. 180-degree burpees
Perform the basic burpee as usual, but instead of simply coming to a stand at the end of the burpee, or jumping into the air and landing in the original position, explode up into the air and twist your body mid-jump so you land facing the opposite direction. Perform your next burpee from this angle before jumping 180-degrees again to your original position.
Add the 180-degree burpee to work on lower body strength and power.
7. Side plank burpees
Start the basic burpee as usual. Once you’re in the high plank position, shift your weight onto the heel of your left palm, lifting your right palm off the ground and rotating your body upward so your right hand is pointing toward the sky in a side plank position. Hold for a count, then rotate back to the high plank position and continue your basic burpee. On the next repetition, perform the side plank on the opposite side.
Add the side plank burpee to enhance core strength.
8. Three-point burpees
Start the basic burpee as usual. Once you’re in the high plank position, hop both feet forward and laterally to the outside of your right hand. Hop back to high plank and repeat on the opposite side. Once you return to the high plank position again, continue the basic burpee.
Add the three-point burpee to enhance core strength and give yourself a cardiovascular challenge.