Burpees are a brutal workout staple—but are you sure you’re even doing the exercise correctly?
For this basic gym necessity, you shouldn’t settle for anything other than perfect form. Let Men’s Health Fitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., guide you through the exercise’s subtleties, saving you from the bad habits that are keeping you from unlocking your fitness potential.
Just remember to make sure you have enough room to jump around and get sweaty—you don’t want to slip up and hit the deck too hard.
Eb says: When you’re doing burpees, think of getting off the ground as “efficiently” as possible. Note that I didn’t say “quickly.” If you focus only on quickness, but you’re not hitting efficient positions, you’re going to leak and waste energy. By default, you won’t get up as quickly as you want to. And if you’re wasting a ton of energy on each rep, it’ll slow you down and fatigue you faster as you pile up reps and work time.
Hit the Ground Strong
Eb says: Never be a jellyfish on the ground when doing burpees. Remember that that straight-body position, which you hit once when you put your hands and feet on the ground and then again when you lower your chest to the ground from there, is meant to be a plank. That means your abs are fired up and your glutes are contracted. You’ll be much faster through both phases if you keep your core fired up, and you’ll be protecting your spine and staving off any lower back injuries, too.
Keep a Wide Base
Eb says: Always think “feet wide” when doing burpees—as in, at least shoulder-width apart at all times. Essentially, you want your feet constantly at a width from which you can jump. So when you lower your torso to the ground, and you’re in that plank, they’re wide. When you leap your feet back towards your hands, they’re wide, too. Do this, and when it’s time to jump, you won’t have to waste any time getting into optimal position to jump — because you’re already there.
Own Your Jump
Eb says: Own the jump on the burpee. That doesn’t necessarily mean jumping sky-high, but it does mean really jumping (as opposed to the bunny hops I see too many people doing. Explode from your ankles, knees, and hips on every jump. A burpee is a valuable opportunity to train triple extension (the same thing that athletes train, and the same thing you train when you’re doing a power clean), so don’t waste that in the quest to do zounds of reps faster than everyone else.
Once you master the basic form, try these variations:
- Tuck Jump Burpee
- Hand Release Burpee
- Burpee to Jump Lunge
- Single-Leg Burpee
- Burpee Switch
- Lateral Jump Burpee
By Brett Williams