Like pretty much everyone else on the planet, I hate burpees. I audibly groan when my workout app or trainer of choice tells me to do them, and despite them being a staple of my workout routine for years, they’ve never gotten any easier. With that in mind, I decided to set myself the goal of doing 15 a day for a week to kickstart my January fitness plan. I know, as if January isn’t hard enough, right?
Despite being torturous, burpees are a full-body exercise that targets the shoulders, abdominals, back, and lower body, specifically your quads and calves. The aim of the exercise is to get from a vertical to a horizontal position, usually moving as quickly as possible. The explosive movement is a high-intensity move that torches calories and works on your cardiovascular fitness. There are also other benefits to practicing burpees, including improved power, muscle endurance, and coordination.
Looking for workout inspiration this January? I’ve found the best ab workouts that can be done from just about anywhere here, a dumbbell workout with 1.3 million views that’s perfect for beginners, and the exercise that is better than squats at toning your glutes. And if you're still not a fan of burpees, we've found a different full-body exercise you can try out.
How to do a burpee
Let’s start with the obvious — how to do a burpee with the correct form.
To do a burpee, start standing up, with your legs shoulder-width apart. Lower your hands down to the floor, and jump your feet back, so you are in a high plank position. Then lower your chest to the floor for a full, bodyweight press up. As you raise out of the press-up, jump your feet back forward so they are behind your hands, and explode up back to standing, raising your arms above your head, and jumping your feet up off the floor. That’s one rep.
I did burpees every day for a week — here’s what I learned
1. Burpees can easily be modified
Day one, I got to 10 burpees before realizing the next week would be hell if I didn’t slow down, and take some time to look at my form. I enlisted the help of Studio SWEAT onDemand founder (opens in new tab) Cat Kom, who explained burpees can be made easier by slowing the move down.
A beginner’s burpee removes some of the intensity, allowing you to focus on the form. "Begin by stepping back (as opposed to jumping), forego the pushup, don’t do the jump at the top," Cat said. "This might seem a little too easy, but try it, I guarantee it’s still pretty tough.”
Cat was right: without jumping I was able to get through all 15 reps, which were definitely still hard, but slowing down made me think about the movement more, rather than rushing through the reps to get them over and done with.
2. Burpees can be done from anywhere
No gym? No problem. With the Omicron variant widespread, I’m currently avoiding my local gym but was able to complete this challenge from the comfort of my spare bedroom without any issue (aside from annoying my partner downstairs, but he’ll get over it). I would recommend using a good exercise mat to soften the impact on your joints and catch your sweat (nice). In the market for a new exercise mat? We’ve found the best yoga mats, which double as exercise mats for home workouts.
3. Burpees definitely get your heart rate up
If you’re looking for a simple, full-body exercise to fire up your muscles and get your heart pumping, I’ve found it. My workout goal isn’t to burn calories, it’s to get stronger, stay healthy, and look after my mental health, but if you are looking to lose weight, burpees are a good exercise to try.
This high-intensity exercise targets most of the major muscle groups in the body, and moving through the repetitions is a form of cardio. Most days, I added the burpees to the end of my Pilates workouts, but on other days, I’d just fit the burpees in on my lunch break. “If you don’t have time to get in a full workout, a quick burpee routine is a perfect substitute,” says Cat.
Even by day seven, I wasn’t finding the burpees too easy, but for those looking for more of a challenge, Cat suggested these modifications to up the intensity:
The Jack Burpee: “Throwing a jumping jack at the top of the movement will really boost your heart rate.”
The Mountain Climber Burpee: “You guessed it — when you’re in your plank position, throw a couple of Mountain Climbers in there, to really fire up your core.”
The Big Kahuna Burpee (apologies in advance): “This is a Burpee with the works: adding two side kick-throughs when you’re in your plank, an extra push-up, two reverse jumping lunges on your way up, and then a knees-up high jump to close it out. If you’re feeling burpee-boastful, this will bring you down to Earth.”
4. Burpees work…
As a runner, I often spend a lot of time working on my core and lower body strength but often neglect working on my upper body. Seven days of burpees, and I definitely felt a lot stronger — I still found I needed to drop my knees to the floor for the final few press-ups, but my arms felt stronger and a little more defined in a short amount of time. I also found my upper body didn’t ache anywhere near as much as it did on day one.
5. …but I’ll probably still dread them
This wasn’t a challenge I want to do again in a hurry, and I’m pretty sure next time I see burpees on my workout plan, I’ll still groan. That said, if you want to test your fitness, boost your heart rate, and generally just feel a little stronger, why not try doing 15 burpees a day for a week — I dare you.