Things you never want to do, but are always thankful for afterward: Going to the dentist, networking with your mom’s best friend’s cousin (awks!), churning out 30 seconds of burpees.
We get it—burpees suck in the moment. But you should definitely power through them: “Burpees are a total-body exercise and a cardio-strength move—they predominantly give you a cardio challenge, while also building strength and mobility,” says Brandon Mentore, ACE-certified trainer and strength and conditioning coach in Philadelphia.
In other words: They hurt—but they’ll work your body.
How To Do A Burpee
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by your side. Drop your body down into a low squat position, with your hands touching the ground. Then kick your feet back, landing in the pushup position. Now, repeat the motion backward: Jump your feet forward to the outside of your hands so you’re in a low squat position, then stand back up. That’s one rep. (Optional: Complete a pushup in the middle, or try one of these other burpee variations.)
“Burpees are considered a cardio-strength move.”
Make it more challenging: For an extra cardio boost, instead of standing from the low squat position, jump straight up, landing with soft knees as you seamlessly move down into the next burpee.
Make it easier: To lighten your load a little (whether you’re new to conditioning or exhausted halfway through your set), skip the jump in and out of the pushup position and instead step your feet back from and into the low squat.
Form tips: Regardless of variation, Mentore says to watch your form in the pushup position—don’t let your hips sink down.
Reps/sets for best results: Aim for three to four sets of 10 to 15 reps.
Benefits Of A Burpee
“Burpees are considered a cardio-strength move,” meaning they increase your heart rate but also build muscle—“and are on par with similar exercises like mountain climbers and jumping jacks,” says Mentore. They work your entire body, especially your arms and shoulders.
Make Burpees Part Of Your Workout
“It’s a very versatile exercise,” Mentore says, noting that burpees are best used in a warmup and as active recovery.
It makes for a great warmup because it engages a lot of muscle groups, plus “gets the core body temperature up and the muscles ready for continued work,” says Mentore.
For active recovery, pair burpees with an accessory arm exercise like biceps curls. “Biceps curls have a high fatigue rate and performing burpees in between sets minimizes the downtime for recovery and maximizes your work efficiency,” says Mentore.
When you do burpees, stick to 10 and 15 reps. If you’re just doing one set, feel free to push past this number. But if you’re doing more than one set, you’ll get more out of each round if you stick to this rep range, rest for 30 seconds to a minute, and then hit it again, says Mentore. (Three to four sets is a good goal.)
You can do burpees several times a week, as long as you have strong and healthy shoulders. Because you focus so much bodyweight into this area when you drop down, it’s easy to overdo it if your shoulder strength isn’t where it needs to be, Mentore says. But otherwise, don’t be afraid to make this workout move a regular part of your fitness routine.
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