The Burpee: Why You Should be Doing More of Them

Posted On Aug 25, 2015 By Spencer Mahoney aka "Spartan Spencer"

The Burpee: Why You Should be Doing More of Them

Chances are if you’ve ever run a Spartan Race, you’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the burpee pretty well. Spartan Race didn’t create the movement (many people might answer “hell” as to where burpees came from), but regardless of where they came from, they are here to stay.

For those of you who don’t know what a burpee is, it can be explained in a few easy steps:

  1. Start in a standing position,
  2. Get down to a push-up position and do a push-up,
  3. Get back to your feet, squat up so that you’re standing again, and
  4. Jump.

Also, here is a video explaining how to do a burpee, with a workout included:

Now that you know for sure what a burpee is, let’s find out why I am talking about them.

Spartan Race adopted the burpee (well, 30 of them) as their penalty for failing an obstacle, but why the burpee? Well for one, they suck. No one wants to do burpees, and 30 burpees is a legitimate reason to try to complete the obstacle. Secondly, there is no way to “cheat” while doing a burpee to make it not suck. Chest to ground, jump at the top. Simple as that. Thirdly, no matter what fitness level you are at, and no matter how many burpees you have done in your lifetime, they still suck. But with that being said, this is a movement that no matter how athletic (or non-athletic) you are, and no matter how tired you are, you are still able to do. Granted, they may not be fast, and yes, the elite racers will probably be able to bust out 30 in the middle of a race faster than some people can do 20 at the gym on a Sunday, but everyone can complete them regardless.

Think about it. Essentially the burpee is just getting down to the ground, and then getting back up again with a little jump at the top because of how excited you are to be doing burpees. This is an extremely functional movement, as everyone needs to be capable of getting down onto the ground, getting themselves back up, and jumping in everyday life.

Could the penalty be 30 push-ups? No. Push-ups aren’t an all-body movement, and some people aren’t capable of doing 30 push-ups straight, especially in the middle of a race.

Could the penalty be squats? No. Squats aren’t an all-body movement.

Could the penalty be jumping jacks? No. Jumping jacks may be an all-body movement, but jumping jacks don’t suck.

So far, I haven’t exactly made you want to jump up and start hammering out a set, but the truth is, nothing good ever came easy. And I have to say, burpees are about as good as they come.

Burpees are truly an all-body movement. They can strengthen your arms during the push-up, and your legs during the squat. Have you ever tried to do burpees for five minutes straight? You will be more out of breath than if you tried running for five minutes (unless of course you were going for a five minute mile). No need to get dressed up when it’s snowing for a run around town, or hop in the car to hit the treadmill at the gym. You can crush a cardio workout from the “comfort” of your living room.

When should you be doing burpees? All the time. I warm up with them before every workout. Basketball players practice free throws. Spartans practice burpees. It’s not that a set of 30 burpees will ever be easy, but just like anything else, you will see progress. From three minutes, to two minutes and even below that. Your muscles will perform the movement easier, and you will mentally be ready if you happen to fail the spear throw in the middle of a race.

How should you be implementing burpees into your training? I would definitely start your workout with 10-30 burpees as a part of your warm up. Burpees are great in the middle of a Crossfit-style workout (Example: 20 minutes of: 20 sit-ups, 20 burpees, 20 box jumps, repeat). They are also a great way to intensify your morning run (Example: 3 mile run, every half mile do 15 burpees). It is important to get used to doing burpees when you are already out of breath, tired, etc., because that is how you will be when you are required to do them in the middle of a race. You want to be as prepared as possible, and simulating race conditions as best you can is the best way to do this.

I think it is safe to say that Spartans and burpees have a love/hate relationship. We hate that we love them, and we love that we hate them. Commit to doing 30 burpees today, your future-self will thank you.

How do you feel about burpees? Let us know in the comments below.