Few other exercises can provide the full-body anaerobic overload of burpees, making them an ideal choice for conditioning work. In this article we will loom at the basic form of the burpee as well as a number of variations that can be used to modify its difficulty. I will also describe various ways it can be incorporated into conditioning routines.
The basic burpee begins from a standing position. First squat down, put the palms of your hands on the floor, and hop both feet back into a leaning rest position. Then, hop your feet back up to your hands and do a vertical jump. All of these movements together constitute one rep.
Most athletic individuals will not have trouble completing multiple burpee reps; however, there are a few ways to lower the difficulty if necessary. One method is to replace the jump at the end of the rep to a slight hop or to eliminate it altogether. This variant is sometimes referred to as a squat thrust. This is particularly helpful for relatively unfit individuals with high bodyweight. Another option is to place your hands on a raised surface (such as a weight bench) rather than on the floor. Make sure the surface is stable so that it doesn't slide in the middle of the rep. This shortened motion reduces the demands on the lower body.
Push-ups and Pull-Ups
Incorporating push-ups and pull-ups into the burpee movements will increase the workload on the upper body. Add in a push-up (or set of push-ups) after you kick your feet back into the leaning rest position. Pull-up burpees are performed standing under a pull-up bar. After you complete the burpee, jump up to the bar and complete a pull-up or set of pull-ups. Drop back to the floor and continue with the next rep. For maximal upper-body overload, perform push-ups and pull-ups during each rep.
The bodybuilder is an excellent conditioning movement performed to an 8-count cadence. Each rep consists of the following eight parts:
1) Squat down and put your hands on the floor.
2) Jump your feet back into a leaning rest.
3) Descend to the bottom of the push-up.
4) Return to the top of the push-up.
5) Jump your feet wide apart.
6) Jump your feet back together.
7) Jump your feet back up towards your hands.
8) Stand up.
Bodybuilders are useful when training groups as they keep everyone moving together. Have everyone sound off on each count to keep the intensity high.
T-stabilizations build strength and stability in the shoulders and core. After kicking your feet back into a leaning rest, rotate your body 90 degrees to one side and support yourself on one arm The other arm should be completely extended upward. Keep your abs tight so that your body remains straight and your hips don't sag towards the floor. Perform the t-stabilization movement to each side and then complete the rest of the burpee. The t-stabilization may be incorporated as a continuation of the push-up. At the top of the push-up, twist to one side, descend back into the the push-up, and repeat on he other side.
Weight vests or dumbbells can be used to dramatically increase strength and cardiovascular demands when performing burpees. Wearing a weight vest with as little as 10 additional pounds will make each set noticeably harder. This type of load distributes the weight more evenly over the body and leaves the hands free for pull-ups. Holding dumbbells during the burpee also increases full-body loading, and the dumbbells can be used to add various at the top of the movement. For example, you can finish each burpee with overhead presses, curls, snatches, or cleans.
Burpees are a great way to elevate your heart rate and keep it elevated during circuit work. They can be paired with standard lifting exercises in order to combine strength and conditioning work, as in this heavy bench press mini-circuit:
Burpees make an excellent addition to any bodyweight training program. The overall intensity of the workout can be changed just by increasing or decreasing the number of burpee reps or sets. Here is a sample bodyweight circuit using burpees:
Finally, you can create workouts based entirely on burpees. One option is to do as many repetitions as you can in a given time interval, say 3 to 5 minutes. This format works well using burpees with an added push-up and pull-up. Complete five 3-minute rounds with 60 seconds of rest between rounds for a superb full-body routine.
Or you can pick a certain number of repetitions and try to get them done in the quickest time possible. Go for high reps (75, 100, or more) on these workouts and break the burpees into as many sets as necessary. Rest as needed to get through all the reps, but leave the clock running during the breaks. Try to improve your time on each subsequent workout.
Pyramids allow you to gradually build up to a very high intensity and then taper off as the workout concludes. Start with 1 burpee, then jog to the other end of the room and do 2 burpees. Jog back down and do 3, and continue the sequence until you get to the highest set in the pyramid, say 8 to 10. Once you finish the largest set, continue and go back down the pyramid, finishing up with a single burpee. Keep track of your time and reps so that you can chart your progress.
Enjoy Your Lifting!