Ahhhh the Burpee.

Love it (unlikely) or hate it, it’s an integral part of CrossFit.

It’s such a simple movement that some people find so hard to do and so demanding.

I’ve seen thousands of burpees performed before me. Some have been ludicrously funny to watch, whilst others have been painful to view. I’ve learnt that with the burpee you should never judge a person by how they look. I’ve seen some “larger” folks do lightening fast burpees that defy the laws of physics and I’ve also witnessed some spectacular face plants and body splats onto the floor that make you grab your groin in sympathetic agony.

Typical observations over years of seeing burpees are the following:

Folks with typically poor range of motion and limited hip and ankle flexibility (distance runners) often struggle to jump up quickly from the floor at the bottom of a burpee.

Jumping onto your toes rather than onto flat feet will make you jump forward and burn your quads out far quicker.

Over eager people sometimes try and leap 10 feet into the air as if they want to imitate Michael Jordon. This only lasts for a few reps before they realise they are not R. Kelly and despite what they believe, they cannot fly.

The old flop and roll method will give you lower back ache.

Flairing your elbows out to the side at the bottom of the pushup will burn your shoulders out – it also demonstrates a poor understanding of midline stability as you internally rotate your shoulders.

For those people that face plant to the ground and stay there…please get up. Staying laid out on the floor doesn’t make it easier to come back up! That’s the same as doing a squat and staying at the bottom to have a rest.

I once saw someone do a magnificent belly flop to get down to the floor as fast as possible. This individual totally winded himself and couldn’t come back up. It was like watching a high board dive into a completely dried up swimming pool.

This sort of burpee, I’m told, isn’t any better for the ladies. We gentlemen might assume that a lady would have more cushioning with those boobs, but apparently this is not the case. I’m told it hurts to get whacked in the fun bags.

Originally the Burpee as we know it did not have a push up. I remember doing the original version in the early 80’s in middle England and they were called Squat Thrusts and they looked like this.

This was a bit confusing because there was a TV Show in the 1970’s & 1980’s called “Superstars”. It was basically an early kind of CrossFit Games. All the top athletes from every sport got together to find out who was the best over several days of tests and challenges. One of the tests was max reps of squat thrusts in a minute. However the squat thrusts in the TV show looked like this so you didn’t have to stand up each time. If you’re feeling nostalgic here is some SuperStars action:

The British version had Brian Jacks who was the best at everything, but it wasn’t as glamorous as the US version.

Burpees thankfully now have a standard in CrossFit, and it includes a full chest to the floor pushup. There is even a Wikipedia entry for burpees these days!

You can easily troll through the internet and find out about the history of the burpee and how it was developed so I won’t go into that here. I will say that I have found burpees get easier after you complete a strength based squatting and deadlifting program. Also, after you lose excess bodyfat, burpees get easier. After doing the workout “100 burpees for time” or the first workout of the 2012 CrossFit Games Open, burpees in a workout seem easier.

Ultimately this exercise involves the most range of motion you can put your body through without any equipment. It’s horrible and vile but the burpee is here to stay. Some weirdos even do these…