I’ve written about burpees before, so why another post on them?
I ask myself, why am I so drawn to them? Why do they comprise such a large portion of my training routine? Why do I wake up & do them as soon as possible, every morning? Also, what’s with the obsession with burpees globally? Why are they simultaneously so loved yet despised? Here are a few thoughts.
My Past with Burpees
I used to be a runner. I started on my treadmill as a teenager, running in my underwear because I though it was a sin to wear pants (yes, really). Then, while spending my 20th summer in Togo, I thought, “Why can’t I run every day?” So I did run every day, as much as I could, for at least 3 miles each day, for several years. But I got burnt out. I had ankle & knee injuries. I was ready for something new. So I got into “HIIT,” and by high intensity interval training, I mean doing bodyweight exercises in a circuit with minimal rest. Burpees were included. I probably became so interested in them because they were the most challenging exercise I had ever done. I determined to become better & faster at them. So I practiced. I incorporated them into my workouts. I did them alone. I kept working at them. Today, after having done them so frequently in so much volume, my body has gotten accustomed to them. I still find ways to improve in form & speed & variations, however, and they never really get easy.
My Meaning in Burpees
Perhaps they represent a challenge, a wholeness in movement, a ritual. I challenge myself to do them everyday, lately ranging from 10 to 100. They invigorate my physical self, they stimulate my mental self, & they check my emotional self. My body must fall down, get up, & jump up again. Sometimes, in periods of deep depression, they were healing. They were such a visible & physical representation of my fight to continuously get back up. Over & over & over again. There is a steadiness of movement that is healing & strengthening. So I do them, every morning, shortly after waking, just me & myself. They are a part of my ritual & daily practice.
People love to hate burpees, yet somehow they’re everywhere. If you watch videos of people doing them on social media, you’ll notice a variety in basic types.
- The basic burpee: you go down, but don’t do a pushup, & jump back up again. (Faster!)
- The Crossfit burpee: your pelvis touches the floor, arching your back, & your jump is low. Also, you jump laterally over lots of barbells. (It looks needlessly strange & painful. I’m not sure if lowering your body gives the same benefits as a pushup.)
- The clap burpee: you put your hands over your head & clap with your jump. (What joy!)
- The prisoner burpee: you put your hands behind your head while you jump. (Work your core more!)
Some trainers denounce the burpee, finding it useless & harmful.
Others use them often in their workouts as a conditioning challenge.
Proper form is paramount with burpees. Therefore, it’s better to start with stepping your legs back & forward, one leg at a time, instead of jumping them back; doing it on an elevated surface; or eliminating the pushup or ending jump. Having poor form predicates injury & promotes misalignments in the body. Keep your back straight, avoiding over or under arching your back, & distribute your body weight evenly. When you go down for the pushup/plank position, let your hands grab the floor, to lessen tension in your wrists. When you jump, try keeping your arms straight overhead. If you naturally move them forward, it might indicate a tight neck & upper back.
The Mental Battle
Burpees are hard. When executing them, try focusing on different movements in each rep: one, where my hands land & how I bend down; two, how I push my legs back & brace my core; three, how I push myself down & up; four, where my feet land when I jump them forward; five, how high I jump & where my hands go. Listen to your breathing. Feel your sweat. That’s called association.
Or try disassociation. Blast some motivating music, listen to an engrossing podcast, notice the scenery from your viewpoint. Think about some frustrations & stresses & release them with your powerful movements.
Try doing one more than you did last time. Try doing one! Try focusing on your form. Try getting lost in another world.