Sep 20, 2017
Full Body Activation

What do you get when you combine a deep squat, a push-up, and a squat jump? An all around workout with a funny name — the burpee. Merging each of these exercises into one, the burpee strengthens the legs, chest, back, arms, and core at the same time.

In an article for, Andy Haley, CSCS, explains that the burpee is a great way to build general strength throughout the body. Because of the combination of movements, it also increases heart rate and strengthens the cardiovascular system. Whether used for cardio or building muscle, the burpee enhances athletes’ ability to produce strength even when they are tired — a skill that is important to all athletes during the last minutes of a game. Bryce Smith, USAW, echoes this sentiment in an article for Invictus.

“No matter what your goals are, burpees can have a positive effect on your fitness not just physically but mentally,” he writes. “The constant repetition and frustration of the movement builds character and perseverance. It teaches you to keep going during even the toughest of times.”

Another benefit of burpees is the lack of needed equipment. The only requirements are an athlete and an open space. And it isn’t only beneficial to certain athletes. According to Smith, burpees can be used for training in any sport.

“I have used burpees to train basketball players simulating having to pop back to your feet after diving for a loose ball and with soccer athletes having to get up quickly after a collision or after a shot on goal,” he writes. “I have also used burpees to train volleyball athletes popping up after a dig and with baseball athletes to quickly get to their feet after fielding a grounder, and with surfers practicing a quick transition from the paddle phase to the standing phase.”

As with any exercise, it is important that your athletes know the correct movements in order to keep from injuring themselves and to reap every benefit. Here is a step-by-step description of the burpee, provided by Haley:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Squat down and place your hands on the ground positioned like you would for a push-up.
  3. Kick your feet back and assume a push-up position.
  4. Lower yourself into a push-up until your chest touches the ground.
  5. Hop your feet towards your hands.
  6. Stand up and jump up into the air, bringing your arms overhead. Land softly and repeat.

One of the most common mistakes when engaging in the burpee is letting your back sag towards the ground. According to Haley, this can happen easily when burpees are done at a fast pace and as your energy decreases. It’s important to make sure this doesn’t happen, as it can lead to back pain.

“To avoid this dangerous back arch, keep your core tight throughout the exercise,” writes Haley. “As you lower to the ground, think about tightening your abs and maintaining a flat back exactly as you would during a Plank or Push-Up. No exceptions. If you can’t maintain that engagement, stop the set — no matter what the rep count says.”

Another common mistake is landing too hard from the jump, which can add stress to the joints. To remedy this, Haley suggests bending the knees to help absorb the impact. Athletes should also try to land as quietly as possible.

“The same goes when you move down into the push-up position,” writes Haley. “Don’t just throw yourself onto the ground and land hard, stressing your wrists. Make sure to go through each of the specified steps in the exercise instructions so your shoulders and elbows don’t absorb too much impact.”

To see the burpee in action, check out this video from BuiltLean.

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