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The Burpee
By Blair Morrison   View more articles by this author
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September 14

It’s an exercise universally hated by athletes and clients; universally adored by coaches and trainers.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, the burpee consists of a squat thrust, a pushup, and a vertical jump.  When done in succession, it rapidly accelerates the heart rate, taps the chest, shoulders and core, and burns out the quad and gluteal muscles.  It may be the most complete bodyweight exercise out there.   If you don’t believe me, do 3 sets of 10 with 60 seconds rest, the way you might a standard round of bench press.  Once you catch your breath, the burpee and I will accept your endorsement.  (To enhance this circuit, add a set of 5 pullups and 20 situps after each set of burpees, then take the 60 second rest period)

The simple reason for its cardiovascular effectiveness is the number of muscles it targets.  The more muscles that are working, the more blood your heart is required to pump, the more blood your lungs are required to oxygenate, the more air you’re desperately trying to suck into your body.  Now, if this were the only benefit, it would be a worthwhile exercise.  The fact that it combines pushups and squats, perhaps the purest and most effective upper and lower body strength exercises, respectively, makes it outstanding.  And finally, the vertical jump at the end of the movement adds a plyometric element to the exercise, developing explosive, reactionary muscle fibers—the framework for kinetic balance and agility.

When taken in sum, burpees provide the best all around, low maintenance workout I know of.  You don’t need a gym.  You don’t need equipment.  All you really need is a little bit of space, a towel for the sweat, and maybe a trash can.  Fair is fair: they’re called burpees for a reason.  Enjoy.

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