Burpees feature prominently in interval and boot camp workouts because they're tough, efficient and effective. A basic burpee -- also called a squat thrust -- involves four steps: bending into a squat and placing your hands on the floor near your feet; thrusting your feet backward into a plank position; jumping your feet forward toward your hands; and returning to a standing position. The basic exercise and its many variations offer a slew of physical benefits.
Adding burpees to your cardio workouts develops heart and lung strength. After a five-minute warmup of brisk walking or light jogging, perform one to three sets of eight to 12 burpees at moderate speed, resting for a minute between sets. Alternatively, do burpees as a timed interval, combining them with two or three other cardio moves. For example, do as many burpees as you can for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds and then do 20 seconds of high-knee runs. Rest for 10 seconds and then jump rope for 20 seconds. That's one round. Rest for a minute and repeat for a total of eight rounds.
To increase the cardio challenge of burpees, try a more demanding variation. When you shift into the plank position, add six mountain climbers -- alternating your knees and feet in a continuous running motion -- before jumping back into the squat position. Or finish every burpee rep with an explosive vertical jump, landing back in a squat to immediately begin the next rep.
Burpees work most of your body's major muscle groups. The squat motion and powerful leg thrust build the muscles of your legs, including your quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals; the plank position activates your core, including your abdominal, hip, back and shoulder muscles.
Variations of the basic exercise let you challenge other muscle groups. Adding a pushup -- or a pushup with a clap -- when you're in the plank position works your triceps, chest and the fronts of your shoulders. Adding a plank jack -- jumping the legs into a "V" position and then snapping them back into a standard plank -- works the outer hips and inner thighs. If you have access to a barbell or dumbbells, you can finish each rep with an upright row, drawing the weight or weights to your chest when you stand up from your squat. As you shift back into the squat, lower the weight or weights back to the floor.
Burpees promote flexibility and joint range of motion. Even the basic variation involves working several joints -- the hips, knees and ankles -- simultaneously. Therefore, if you perform them regularly and are careful to work through your full range of motion, burpees can be a tool to improve your overall mobility. This can make everyday activities easier, boost your athletic performance and lower your risk of sports-related injury.
Coordination and Balance
Burpees develop coordination, balance, body awareness and stability -- skills that are vital for everyday living, sports and other physical activities. To boost the balance and stability challenge of the burpee, try performing the plank position with your hands on a medicine ball instead of on the floor. Or swap the standard plank position for single-leg or single-arm plank. To work on coordination and agility, finish every rep with a star jump, tuck jump or box jump.
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