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The Burpee: The One Exercise to Rule Them All

Posted By Brett & Kate McKay On January 27, 2010 @ 12:08 am In Blog | 98 Comments

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When I played football in high school, my offensive line coach had an exercise he liked to use on us for punishment. When we were caught screwing around or didn’t respond with “sir” or didn’t hustle in-between plays, Coach Chamlee had to say just four words to elicit an audible groan from the offensive line: “Get your feet moving.”

Those four words marked the beginning of one minute of pure hell. It was burpee time.

The Benefits of Burpees

The burpee is the ultimate full body exercise. There’s a reason why football teams, CrossFit practitioners, and elite military forces use the burpee in their workouts. Just one simple movement tests both your strength and aerobic capacities. Below we go into a few more details on the benefits of the burpee:

Strength. The burpee is a full body, strength training exercise. With each repetition, you’ll work your chest, arms, front deltoids, thighs, hamstrings, and abs. Trust me. Your legs will feel like they’re pumping battery acid after you complete a set of burpees.

Fat burning. Because you’re using your full body when doing burpees and because they’re such an intense workout, the burpee is one of the best exercises to burn fat. Studies have shown that high intensity exercises, like burpees, burn up to 50% more fat than conventional strength training exercises. They’ve also been shown to speed up your metabolism which helps you burn more calories throughout the day. If you’re looking to get rid of that spare tire, step off the elliptical machine and start doing burpees.

Conditioning. Many men today spend hours a week in the gym sculpting washboard abs and bowling ball biceps. While those muscles look nice, they don’t do much for you when you have to split a giant pile of wood [2]or even save your own life [3]. Burpees are an effective exercise for developing the conditioning and endurance, the manly vim and vigor to tackle any challenge. They’re also a great exercise to include in football conditioning drills [4].

Free. There are no fancy gizmos, classes or gym memberships required to perform a burpee. All you need is your body, a floor, and an iron will.

Portable. You can do this exercise anywhere. On the road? Bust some out in the hotel room. Don’t have a gym membership? Get your burpee on at the park. In prison? Do them in your cell.

Burpees are how Mike Rowe keeps in shape to work his dirty jobs:

How to Perform a Burpee


The burpee is a ridiculously simple, full body exercise that will leave you gassed after doing only a few.

To perform a basic burpee, just follow these instructions:

  • Begin in a squat position with hands on the floor in front of you.
  • Kick your feet back to a pushup position.
  • Immediately return your feet to the squat position.
  • Leap up as high as possible from the squat position.

When performing burpees, the key is to perform them in quick succession in order to get the conditioning benefits this exercise is famous for.

Some of you might be thinking, “Hey, this is a squat thrust.” While the squat thrust and burpee are indeed similar, the crucial difference between the two is the leap at the end. That leap is what separates the men from the boys.

Besides the basic burpee, you also have your choice of a few burpee variations that will not only kill your body, but also your soul.

Burpee with push-up. Perform the burpee normally, but after you kick out your feet to a push-up position, go ahead and do a full push-up [5].

Burpee with divebomber push-up. Instead of just doing a full push-up, make it a dive bomber push-up.

Burpee+Pull-up. Stand underneath a pull-up bar or tree branch that is high enough that you have to leap to reach it. Perform a burpee normally, but when you leap up grab the bar and perform a pull-up [6]. Repeat. Did you hear that? That was the sound of your soul dying.

The Coach Chamlee Burpee. I hated these. As mentioned above, my offensive line coach would use the specter of burpee punishment as motivation to keep us from slacking off. When Coach Chamlee said to get our feet moving, we had to “chop” our feet in place as fast as we could.  When he said “hit,” we’d hit the ground and perform a burpee. Between each rep, we continued rapidly chopping our feet. I’m tired just thinking about it.

Burpee Workouts

Because they’re such an intense exercise, you can make a quick and effective workout using just burpees. Below are a few suggested burpee workouts that will whip your flabby butt into shape.

Descending Burpee Ladder. Start with a set of 10 burpees. Rest one minutes. Then do a set of 9. Rest one minute. Continue lowering your reps by one on each set until you reach just one rep.

100 Burpee Challenge. Pretty simple. Just do one set of 100 burpees as fast as you can. I can usually do the first 20 in a minute or so. After that I hit a wall, and it takes me about 15 minutes to finish the rest as I lay on the ground to rest between reps. Take as long as you need until you hit the 100 burpee mark.

2 Minute Drill. Set your stop watch and crank out as many burpees as you can in two minutes.

Burpee Ladder with Sprints. So you’ve been doing burpees for a bit and feel like you’re in good shape. Try this little ditty to take your burpetitude to the next level. Perform the burpee ladder as described above, except instead of resting a minute between sets, perform a 50 yard sprint. I tried this a few months ago thinking I was in good shape only to barf after the second set. You know a workout is good when it’s barf good.


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URL to article: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2010/01/27/the-burpee-the-one-exercise-to-rule-them-all/

URLs in this post:

[1] Share: http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php

[2] split a giant pile of wood : http://www.artofmanliness.com/2009/11/24/how-to-split-firewood/

[3] save your own life: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2009/09/15/every-man-should-be-able-to-save-his-own-life-5-fitness-benchmarks-a-man-must-master/

[4] football conditioning drills: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2009/02/10/5-conditioning-drills/

[5] push-up: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2009/07/21/push-ups-exercises/

[6] pull-up: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2008/07/08/pull-ups-fitness-routine/

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