Burpees for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know
Despite their apparent simplicity, burpees are without a doubt one of the most challenging exercises to perform. When done correctly, they require a high level of energy output and offer the individual a whole host full body benefits. This is why fitness instructors and people who want short, sharp workouts love (and hate) to include them in their classes and training routines.
PERFORMING THE PERFECT BURPEE
Like any type of exercise, it’s important to do burpees safely and with correct technique. Mindlessly throwing yourself to the floor is a recipe for injury, especially on hard surfaces. Getting back on your feet from a bad position can put your back and knees at risk too. Even jumping and landing from a single star jump can be a risk if you’re fatigued and can’t land properly.
The Burpee can be broken down into three main movements. Mastering these movements is crucial for beginners in order to execute the exercise safely.
1. THE SPRAWL
The first movement is the Sprawl, which can be broken down into two parts. First, you must drop quickly, with control, into a modified squat. In a normal squat, you’d keep your bum back, heels down and torso as upright as possible. In this modified squat, you want to stay up on your toes, lift your heels up and lean forwards slightly.
As you approach the bottom of the squat, lean forwards on the balls of your feat, place your arms in front roughly shoulder width apart and keep leaning until your hands hit the floor. Make sure you keep a slight bend in your arms to help absorb the shock.
Once you have a stable base, thrust jump your feet back as far as possible while landing on your toes. You should now look like your at the top of a press up. Now simply drop yourself, with control, until your chest touches the floor.
2. THE POP UP
The second movement is the Pop Up, which is almost the exact reverse of the Sprawl. However, during the ‘push-up’ stage, you don’t need to extend your arms fully – you just need enough room to thrust your knees forward, tucking them towards your chest. Once your knees are tucked, push off with your hands to get yourself back onto your toes and ready to jump-up.
3. THE JUMP
When you’re full of energy, it’s possible to go straight from a crouching position and explode upwards into a jump. The Jump itself is ‘classically’ performed as a variation of the star jump, where you jump straight up, fully ‘stretched’ with both arms above your head.
However when fatigued, it can be very challenging to go from crouching straight to jumping. Having a ‘break’ when standing before the Jump is not only advisable but will probably be essential at some point.
Remember to land on the balls of your feet, with a slight bend in your knee to absorb the landing shock. This may seem like a obvious piece of advice but when tired this is where most people are likely to injure themselves.
Congratulations – you’ve just done a burpee!
Now simply transition to your next burpee in as fluid a movement as possible. Just remember to focus on performing each movement with proper form. As you get more experienced, stronger and fitter, the combination of these movements becomes much more fluid. Once you can perform a ‘fluid’ burpee then you can consider increasing the speed and number of reps you perform.
BURPEE PROGRESSION FOR BEGINNERS
If you’re a beginner and have never done a burpee before, there are several exercises you can do to build your technique, raise your fitness levels and help you progress to burpees that little bit easier.
The free squat is the perfect exercise to help you develop the action of moving in and out of the sprawl position. This can then progress to jump squats. In addition to the movement, these squats will also help your overall fitness.
Squat thrusts and mountain climbers are next on the list. These exercises are a great way to develop your thruster movement at the bottom of the sprawl, the pop up after the sprawl and are an excellent way of getting used to supporting your own weight using only your arms.
The most difficult part of the burpee for many people, especially when tired, is the start of the pop-up, which is dependent on you being able to press up from the floor to give your legs room to thrust into your chest. So it should come as no surprise – having the strength to perform a press-up would be a big advantage here.
If you struggle with press-ups, then you can use a modified version. The simplest modified press-up is when you keep your knees on the floor instead of being up on your toes. Keeping your knees on the floor can also be used in the pop-up phase of the full burpee. Then when your arms are straight you can raise off your knees onto your toes and bring your knees into your chest.
Once you’ve become efficient at each of these exercises and have a base level of fitness (being able to perform 20+ repetitions of each) you can then begin to string these exercises together.
Start by performing the bodyweight squat properly, then place your hands on the floor and perform a squat thrust. Then, to work the pop-up phase, you could combine a press-up with a squat thrust. Eventually, combining these separate exercises to perform a burpee.