Sprawls are the burpee alternative we all need. If you're bored with burpees, why not add this popular and explosive exercise to your next workout? In the meantime, I wanted to know what would happen to my body if I did 80 sprawls every day for a week.
Burpees are a fierce full-body exercise that can form any part of a strength and conditioning workout, cardio circuit, finisher, or anywhere between. But I prefer to hit the floor using sprawls instead — here’s why.
If you’re unfamiliar with the sprawl, it’s a bodyweight burpee variation that’s kinder on your lower back and doesn’t require lowering your chest to the floor (bonus). Instead, you jump your feet outside of your hands. The move uses explosive power and speed to drive up reps and works multiple muscle groups, including your shoulders, chest, core, and leg muscles.
Sprawls also increase your heart rate and allow you to build up an explosive rhythm which helps develop muscle, strength, and power. I put it to the test and hit my mat using one of the best yoga mats for home workouts. Here’s what happened to my body.
How to do a sprawl
Sprawls are also known as gorilla burpees due to the stance you adopt as you jump forwards. The move features in calisthenics workouts or other types of gym classes, and if you want to forget burpees — these two alternatives build full-body strength and power (one of which is the sprawl). They primarily work your core, hips, and leg muscles, but as you jump back into a plank position, the same muscles will activate, including your shoulders, chest, and lower back. Without the chest-to-floor motion, the move closely resembles your lower body during a burpee.
- Start in a push-up position and brace your core, shoulders stacked over your wrists
- With explosive power, jump both feet to land outside of our hands with heels planted down
- Lower your bum and lift your chest, then lift both hands in front of you
- Place both hands back down on the floor, then jump both feet back into a push-up position.
Avoid rounding through your spine or hyperextending your lower back. If you suffer from tight hip flexors, try to avoid landing on the balls of your feet, practice stepping first, and stand taller if needed. I also recommend these mobility exercises for hip flexor pain to relieve tension. The move should feel fast and powerful, resembling a rocking motion.
I did 80 sprawls every day for a week — here’s what happened to my body
Sprawls target your entire body, as I found out from doing them every day.
1. My heart rate soared
Sprawls are fast and explosive, meaning there’s little time to rest, and your heart rate jumps up quickly. Although I’m used to hitting maybe 10 or 20 as part of a workout routine, I don’t think I’ve ever tackled 80 before (unless I mentally blocked that out).
With some exercises, it’s better to rip off the Band-Aid and get them over with, so I chose to hit all my reps in one go each time. I tried to keep reps consistent and not go too fast too early, avoiding burn out halfway through. It worked, but I was a shaky, sweaty mess and collapsed in a heap afterward. It’s hardly surprising, as sprawls derive from mixed martial arts, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling, as a defensive move often used in grappling.
Beginners could opt for a step rather than a jump to practice the movement before progressing. You could also add a block (we love this $10 accessory) or elevated surface to place your hands on, making it more accessible for high reps.
2. I could feel my core working hard
I enjoy exercises that work the core muscles hard in ways people don’t expect. For example, your core is crucial for supporting and driving exercises like the deadlift, although it’s not considered an out-and-out “core” exercise like a sit-up.
I focused on squeezing my stomach muscles, especially during the jump back. Without bracing your core, you’re more likely to drop your hips during this phase which can cause overextension in your lumbar spine and injure your lower back. To keep good form, contract as many muscles as possible, including your chest, glutes, and quads, to keep the body tight as you jump.
It wasn’t just my core that I felt the next day. My hip flexors, shoulders, and legs were all sore from undergoing 80 reps every day without warning. I’d rather that than 80 burpees, though.
3. I decided to mix it up
It’s no surprise that this exercise started to get boring around days three or four. Although I found my rhythm had improved and I was semi-able to switch off, I decided to add extra moves on the remaining days.
I started with small moves like lifting my arms above my head in an overhead squat to test my shoulder mobility and engage my upper body and lower back for stability. Then, I graduated into frog leaps (jumping explosively forward from the low squat position) to test the power in my core and lower body. By the end of day seven, I was traveling around my apartment and adding a few reps here and there of frog squats — this is when you send your bum up and back from a low squat position to work your quads in a see-saw motion (see below).
Sadistic? Maybe, but it made it more enjoyable and the reps more bearable.
4. I got faster
Of course, my reps got slower as I fatigued, but overall, my time to completion improved. I hadn’t set any expectations for finishing within a certain amount of time, but I was timing the exercise out of interest. I didn’t think one week of sprawls would do much, but after the seven days were over, I felt like my entire body had worked hard, and I felt more powerful and faster with my reps.
I don’t think I’ll do this again, but I reckon I could take on a few people to a sprawl race at CrossFit.