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May 07, 2021 9 min read

Burpees are a staple in the gym for good reason.  They’re one of the biggest calorie-torching full-body exercises you can add to your workout routine. 

Regardless of your current fitness level, burpees are essential to make the most out of your cardio days.  Level up your cardio exercise routine, burn more calories and add some resistance with burpees.

Benefits of Doing Burpees

Burpees uniquely challenge your full body.  They also demand both cardiovascular and muscular power.  Not only that, doing burpees requires no equipment so you can do them when you can’t get to the gym but still need to get a good workout in. 

They’re an excellent exercise to integrate into your cardio day routine.  If running or biking just isn’t doing it for you, opt for burpees. Most importantly, burpees lead to results and can help you reach all of your fitness goals.

male and female perfect abs low fat athletic body

1. Torch Body Fat

Burpees are one of the most effective cardio exercises when it comes to burning calories.  Thus, they help you burn a lot of body fat. The benefits of having a healthy level of body fat beyond aesthetic reasons include:

  • Reduced risk of developing cancer
  • Getting better sleep at night
  • Improved mental health condition
  • Less of a chance of getting diabetes
  • Reduced risk of having a heart attack or stroke

Moreover, you can prevent countless life-threatening health conditions if you maintain a healthy level of body fat. It’s estimated that you burn at least 10 calories for every 20 burpees that you perform.  That’s extremely doable even for most beginners to do in under a minute.

For example, if you did 20 burpees per minute for just 20 minutes, you’d burn at least 200 calories.  That’s almost the equivalent of eating a small french fry from McDonald’s. Compared to other cardio exercises like jogging or riding the stationary bike, burpees far outburn them.

In one study, people burned more calories doing burpees than they did doing other common exercises. The study measured the participant’s oxygen consumption during the exercises as a way of measuring the number of calories burned. The more oxygen consumed, the more calories burned.  The results showed an average of:

  • 22.9 ml of oxygen required for each kg of body weight for burpees
  • 19.6 ml of oxygen required for each kg of body weight for squats
  • 18.9 ml of oxygen required for each kg of body weight for deadlifts
  • 17.9 ml of oxygen required for each kg of body weight for lunges

The only exercise in the experiment that burned more calories was the battle ropes. Moreover, if your focus is on fat loss and weight loss, then you can’t go wrong with burpees to get your heart rate up and burn fat.

2. Burpees Are Both a Great Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise

Burpees themselves are a great aerobic exercise meaning that they’re really going to challenge your cardiovascular and muscular endurance.  The more endurance you have, the longer you’ll be able to keep up with high-intensity workouts.  Benefits of having this kind of endurance lead to:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower bad cholesterol
  • Increased insulin sensitivity

Also, burpees are easily integrable into anaerobic workouts such as HIIT.  HIIT is also known as high-intensity interval training. HIIT and anaerobic exercises in general are one of the best ways to help your body burn more calories. 

Anaerobic exercises, unlike aerobics, work to increase your resting metabolism.  When your resting metabolism is high, you burn more calories even when you’re not working out.

Doing burpees alone is going to challenge your cardio and muscular endurance in a different way than more traditional exercises like running would.  And, doing burpees during anaerobic exercises is going to help your body burn more calories while at rest.

3. Build Lean Muscle Through Resistance and Strength Training

Unlike other cardio exercises which simply emphasize burning calories, burpees also challenge your muscular strength. Burpees are a tried and true resistance exercise. They involve pushing, pulling, and hinging to challenge muscles from your shoulders to your legs. Just some of the muscles that burpees challenge include:

  • Abs
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings

Burpees can hit all of these muscle groups because they are a total body movement. Unlike other exercises that target a single muscle group at a time, burpees activate all of them.  Everything in your body is working when you’re burpees.

In addition to building strong muscle and all the benefits that come from having muscle, other benefits of doing regular resistance training include:

  • Increasing bone mineral density
  • Preventing early physical and mental signs of aging
  • Reduces risk of injury

No, you’re not going to build as much muscle as you would from lifting.  But, of all the cardio exercises, burpees challenge your muscles more than almost any other.

4. You Don’t Need Any Special Equipment to do Burpees

Exercises that help you achieve similar results to burpees such as kettlebells or box jumps require equipment.  However, you need zero equipment to get a great workout with burpees. Therefore, burpees are perfect for times when:

  • You’re traveling
  • The gym is closed or too far
  • You’re too busy to go to the gym
  • You want to workout outside

Overall, burpees make your workout life much simpler. 

5. Burpees Are Easy on Your Body

Burpees are a bodyweight exercise, meaning that you use your own bodyweight to build body strength.  This is particularly beneficial for people who have trouble lifting dumbbells for strength due to joint pain or other body aches.

Also, as long as you maintain the right form when doing burpees, they’re pretty simple to do without the help of a personal trainer.  Unlike other strength training where you may need the help of a professional, even beginners can do burpees without much of an injury worry.

crossfit Athlete doing burpees

How to Do Burpees: Basic Beginner Burpees

If you’re new to burpees, then check out this basic version of the exercise. You’ll burn approximately 10 calories for every minute of the exercise and you’ll work your core as well as the upper and lower body.

Focus on Your Form

Burpees include multiple different steps which makes it an easy exercise to lose your form on. Therefore, your first goal should be to maintain proper form throughout the entire exercise to avoid injuries. The key to good form is to keep your core engaged throughout the exercise.

With your abs engaged, you’ll be less likely to hunch or arch your back. Also, make sure that your squat is in check by pushing your glutes backward as you drop down. As your glutes drop, your knees should remain pointed forward rather than curve inward.

Once you’ve covered what good form is, then you’re ready to start the exercise.  Follow these steps to complete one full burpee.

Step 1: Start With a Jump Squat

Get into your starting position with both of your feet flat on the floor.  Have your feet shoulder-width or slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Drop into a low squat and then jump so your feet come off the floor.

As you’re doing the squat, raise your arms up above your head. This makes the burpee more challenging and helps you jump a little higher. Land the jump as softly as you can with your feet back in their original position.

Step 2: Get Into a Plank Position

Once you’ve landed the jump, drop back down into another low squat position. Bring your arms in between your legs with your hands flat on the ground. Make sure that your back is nice and straight and not hunched over in this position.

Once your hands are planted firmly on the floor, jump your feet back into a plank position with your shoulders right above your hands.

Step 3: Do a Push-up on Your Toes

Remain in your plank position and perform one push-up on your toes. Ensure that you’re performing your push-up properly so you're properly working the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Check out our guide to the proper push-up form here.

Step 4: Jump Back to Your Feet & Repeat

After the push-up, you should be back in a plank position. From the plank, jump your feet forward so your feet are outside of your arms. This is the position you are in at step 2 before jumping your feet back into the plank. Again, make sure that your back is straight and not hunched over.

Stand up straight and, from there, go right into the next burpee with another jump squat. You shouldn’t stand back up, pause, and then jump. The whole point of the exercise is to continuously move through each of the steps without hesitation.

Level Up Your Burpees With These Burpee Variations

If you’re looking to make burpees more challenging, then try doing them with one of these upgrades.

Harder Variation 1: Add a Tuck Jump

Adding a tuck jump to your burpee will really challenge your cardio endurance. Instead of just doing a regular jump with your hands above your head in between the squat positions, do a tuck jump. Do a tuck jump by simply tucking your knees up to your core as you jump. Keep your core tight and don’t hunch your back as you pull your knees up.

Harder Variation 2: Single Leg Burpees

This moderation will really challenge your balance as well as your core and legs. Rather than using both feet to squat, jump, push-up, and plank, go through the whole exercise on just one foot.  Try doing 10 burpees on your left leg and then switch to 10 on the right leg. 

Harder Variation 3: Add Oblique Knee Tucks to Your Push-ups

For this moderation, add an oblique knee tuck to your push-ups in order to work your side abs.To do an oblique knee tuck, get into your plank position with both feet on the floor.  Then, as you’re lowering your body for the push-up, lift your right leg and pull your knee towards your right shoulder. 

Then, as you’re pushing your body back up, send your right leg back into the original plank position.  This should feel like a crunch for your side abs. On your next burpee, do the left knee and then continue to alternate right and left knees for each consecutive burpee.

Level Down Your Burpees With These Variations

If a regular burpee is too challenging or you want to focus more on either cardio or resistance, you can try one of these variations of the exercise.

Easier Variation 1: Remove the Push-Up

Rather than performing a push-up from your plank, hold your plank position for 3 seconds before jumping back to your feet. This version is for you if your focus is more on cardio and core rather than upper body.

Easier Variation 2: Step Back Burpees

From your squat at the beginning of step 2, rather than jumping your feet back into a plank position, step one foot back at a time. Try this version if you want to scale back on cardio but keep the resistance element of the burpee.

Easier Variation 3: Bench Burpees

Using a bench to help decrease the intensity of burpees is probably the most effective way to make them easier.  This moderation will mostly decrease the intensity of the cardio aspect of the workout.

Rather than dropping all the way down to the floor into the plank position after your squat jump, drop into the starting push-up position with your hands on the bench.

Try This Burpee Challenge HIIT Workout for Beginners

Need a new un-boring cardio workout to try?  If so, then give this 20-minute HIIT-style burpee workout a try.  If you want to turn it into a longer complete cardio workout, you can repeat it two to three times. It’s designed to be a full-body workout that gets your heart rate up thanks to the cardio while activating all of your major muscle groups. 

It’s perfect for beginners or for those who want a bodyweight workout. You will do 5 different intervals in this workout.  Each interval has different exercises and lasts for a total of 4 minutes each.

During a single interval, you do 8 sets.  A single set looks like this:

  • Exercise 1 for 20 seconds
  • 10-second rest
  • Exercise 2 for 20 seconds
  • 10-second rest

So, you’ll repeat this set 8 times which is equal to 1 interval.

 group of people doing burpees in gym

Burpee Exercise Workout For Beginners

Warm-up: Before getting started, make sure that you do a short warmup that warms up your muscles.  And, don’t forget to take a pre-workout such as the Charged AF

This pre-workout is designed to improve both aerobic and anaerobic performance as well as increase alertness, strength, and stamina.  For more on Charged AF, scroll down to hear Tony talk more about it and how it’s going to give you a better workout.

1. Interval 1:

  • Exercise 1: Step back burpees
  • Exercise 2: Jump squats

2. Interval 2:

  • Exercise 1: Burpees
  • Exercise 2: Mountain climbers

3. Interval 3

  • Exercise 1: Burpees
  • Exercise 2: Jumping lunges

4. Interval 4

  • Exercise 1: Burpees with oblique knee tucks
  • Exercise 2: Plank ski hops

5. Interval 5

  • Exercise 1: Burpees with a tuck jump
  • Exercise 2: Box jumps

Cool-down: Finish up with another dynamic stretch to prevent injury.

If you’re not ready to cool down, you can continue on with your cardio by repeating the workout two to three more times or just doing more burpees by themselves for another 20 to 30 minutes. 

Level Up Your Cardio Day With Burpees

Bottom line: Burpees are going to give you a better cardio day than most other cardio exercises will.  Whether you’re a beginner or more advanced, they’re great for everyone and easy to level up or down depending on where you’re at.

For a more effective and more interesting cardio day, opt for a workout that revolves around burpees.

Bonus tip: Looking for another workout that you can do at home like burpees?  Check out our guide to doing CrossFit from home!