Not all burpees are created equal. For example, the Spartan burpee is all about efficiency because, during a race, burpees are the penalty for failing to complete an obstacle. (The failed-obstacle penalty during a Sprint, Super, Beast, or Ultra is 30 burpees, while the penalty for failed obstacles during a Stadion stands at 15.) And when racing as an Elite, time penalties are even added to a racer’s finish time depending on how many burpees they skipped or incorrectly completed per obstacle.
While there are plenty of ways to incorrectly perform a burpee, there's only one "right" way (meaning, you won't receive a time penalty or a "no rep" in a competitive heat) to do it in a Spartan race. Here’s how a Spartan burpee is officially described:
- Begin in an upright position, defined as “a balanced, upright standing position that any person could maintain over an extended period of time without falling over, forward or backward. A competitor’s hips and knees should be extended, not bent.”
- Keeping the hips high, reach down and place your hands on the ground in front of you.
- As efficiently as possible, kick your legs out straight behind you as you lower the torso to the floor. The chest must touch the floor.
- Quickly press the floor away as you jump both feet between the hands, keeping the hips high.
- Jump straight into the air, reaching full hip extension, while simultaneously ensuring your hands reach over your ears or higher.
These instructions may seem simple, but they can also be surprisingly simple to perform incorrectly if errors are consistently made during training. These errors are often related to overexerting during each rep, resulting in a lower number of overall burpees completed. When done correctly — and to Spartan standards — your burpee count per training session will skyrocket. (Plus, breezing through burpees with the most efficient form and timing will make even the unfortunate event of a missed obstacle on the course seem less daunting.)
Here are the most common Spartan burpee errors, along with how to ensure you overcome them on race day in the event that you do fail an obstacle.
5 Common Spartan Burpee Exercise Errors (and How to Fix Them)
1. Jumping Too High
As long as your toes and heels lift off of the floor, your burpee passes the “jump” criteria. You don’t need to jump as high as you can. There are no bonus points for inches jumped per burpee. Spartan burpees aren’t about building explosive power every rep — they’re designed for anaerobic endurance. Therefore, you should be thinking about the next rep as soon as your feet come off of the floor.
2. Keeping Your Hips Too High
Although “Keep your hips high,” is a common burpee tip, the more practical, accurate explanation is closer to, “Keep your hips above your knees.”
You don’t want your hips to be so high that you’re just performing forward flexion of the spine without any knee bend. Bend your knees, do a squat, and place your hands in front of your toes while making an effort not to slouch. Depending on your fitness level and the number of burpees you’ve completed already (this is where months of obstacle training will come in handy), your form may start to break down and it may become more difficult to bend your knees adequately. Try to reserve this fatigue-driven error for the end of the race, if possible.
3. Performing Burpees Only in Isolation
Burpees alone are a great way to increase VO2 max, upper-body and leg strength, and hip mobility. However, it’s best to simulate an actual Spartan race by performing burpees as part of a workout. Here are some simple and effective ways to do that:
- Perform 10 Burpees every 10 minutes of a 30- to 60-minute run.
- Perform 20 burpees before and 20 burpees after your strength training routine.
- Perform 10-20 burpees as one exercise within a full-body circuit.
- Start your workout with 30 burpees.
4. Jumping Before the Squat
One of the most frequently-spotted Spartan burpee exercise errors is starting with a jump off of the ground with the arms extended into the air, which would be a waste of energy if performed during a race.
During a Spartan race, you might do 10 burpees, take a break, then do another 10 burpees, take a second break and complete the last 10. If you were taught improperly, then you might jump before the first rep, rest, then jump before the next 10, rest again, and jump before the next 10. That’s three extra jumps per obstacle failed, and while that might not seem like a massive deal, you'll want to conserve all of the energy you can for future obstacles, miles, and elevation gain.
5. Having Your Entire Body Touch the Floor
A Spartan may earn a "no rep" burpee if their chest is not fully touching the ground at the bottom of a rep. There are multiple reasons why this error may occur, including a lack of upper-body strength. If it's one of your first races and this happens to be an issue for you, remember that — according to the official Spartan burpee guidelines — only your chest is required to fully touch the ground. (If, while training, you can come up with a way that you can efficiently “swipe” or “scoop” the ground with your chest, you’ll be able to transition to the next rep faster.) Your stomach and knees don’t have to be on the floor at all to get credit.
The ideal race burpee would be fresh, non-fatigued, and performed perfectly with a full push-up. But as the Spartan race goes on, your mileage goes up, and your energy begins to diminish — especially when hit with 30 burpee reps — your best bet is to hit a burpee groove where your form changes from perfect to perfectly efficient. If you train to avoid these five crucial errors, you'll be primed to crush every Spartan burpee.