How to do a burpee? This isn't the usual question. The usual question is: How many burpees do I have to do? Burpees are the global currency of the Spartan world. The provoke equal parts love and fear. Love because of what they can do for you. Fear because of what they do to you.
But burpees, a popular full-body movement often included in high-intensity interval training, are a fairly simple exercise—involving popular movements including the squat, push-up, and jump. “Burpees are a great conditioning exercise working all the major muscle groups of your body—arms, chest, core, legs, and glutes—as well as greatly improving your cardiovascular strength and endurance,” says Ben Wegman, certified personal trainer and Chief Curriculum Officer at Fhitting Room in New York City.
Yep, burpees can make you better at other strength work, says Carl Paoli, former elite gymnast and author of Free+Style: Maximize Sport and Life Performance with Four Basic Movements. “The burpee is a great way to practice pushing mechanics (push-ups), hip power through flexion and extension (as seen in sit-ups or leg lifts), and squatting/jumping landing mechanics," he explains. "All of these movements, if understood at the most basic levels, are transferable to movements like walking, running, jumping, landing, throwing, and catching.”
How to Do a Burpee
To nail the ideal burpee form, start by squatting down and placing your hands on the floor in front of you. They should be just outside your feet. Then, jump both feet back so you’re in a high plank. Drop down to the ground so your chest touches the floor, then return back to high plank. Jump your feet back toward your hands, and finish things off by jumping up into the air, reaching your arms overhead (clapping is optional).
How to Max Out Those Burpee Benefits
With so many different phases to the movement, things can get a little sloppy even if you know, in theory, how to do a burpee. Here, Wedman and Paoli share their best tips for doing them right.
1. Maintain an engaged core
Core strength is insanely important for optimal burpee form. “When you jump your feet out and in, you want to make sure to continuously brace your core to protect your lower back,” says Wegman. “Pain often comes from losing core engagement, therefore causing you to worm in and out of your burpee, also known as body rolling up and down.”
2. Think about your backside
In the upward phase of the burpee, it’s really important to keep both your legs and core in mind. “When you push off the ground, allow your body to naturally arch while engaging your glutes,” suggests Paoli. By doing this, you’ll keep your lower back in a safe position.
3. Keep an upright chest.
Just like when you’re performing heavy Olympic lifts, like a squat or a snatch, it’s important to maintain an upright chest position any time your feet have full contact with the ground in your burpee. “Lift your chest up proud,” Paoli says. “By doing this, you’ll be able to gain essential momentum that can carry you into your jump.”
4. Do a full jump at the top.
Simply standing up at the top phase of your burpee is not completely executing the exercise. Make sure to jump once you’re back up on your feet—we’ll leave the whole clap-or-not-to-clap thing up to you.
5. End where you started.
The last thing you want to do is start the burpee at point A and end it at point Z. If you’re far off your starting mark at that top jump, your form is likely all over the place—and you’re doing extra work. “You want to jump and try to land in the same place and with the same stance as you took off,” Paoli says.