Pushups Vs. Burpees


One of the advantages of body-weight exercises like pushups and burpees is they require no equipment and very little space. In addition, both exercises can be modified to work different muscle groups. Pushups are more focused on building upper-body strength, while burpees work many different muscle groups and provide an aerobic workout as well.

Pushup Directions

  • Pushups start in the "plank" position. The hands should be underneath the shoulders, fingers pointed forward and the legs fully extended behind the body. The head should be aligned with the spine, and the abdominal muscles and core should be engaged to support the torso. For the "downward" phase, keep the torso rigid and slowly bend the elbows. Once the chest or chin touches the floor, press upward and extend the elbows to raise the torso back into the air. Throughout the entire exercise, keep the torso rigid and do not allow the lower back to sag.

Burpee Directions

  • Burpees begin with the body standing straight. Next, lower down into a squat position with the hands in front, touching the floor. Next, kick the feet back into the pushup or plank position and then move the feet back into the squat position as quickly as possible. Next, quickly jump into the air and then land back in a standing position. Some trainers will recommend clapping the hands at the top of the jump, though this does not have any intrinsic effect on the exercise.

Muscles Exercised

  • Pushups build strength and endurance in the pectoral muscles, anterior deltoids and the triceps. They also exercise the abdominal and lower-back muscles, as these muscles must be contracted isometrically to stabilize the torso. Because burpees involve more motion, they work more muscles in the body. These include the pectoral and deltoid muscles, as well as the glutes, hamstrings and abs. Burpees are also a high-intensity exercise, which means they help burn calories more quickly compared than pushups.


  • If the standard pushup is too difficult, the exercise can be made easier by allowing the knees to touch the floor, rather than starting in a full plank position. The difficulty can be increased by wearing a weighted backpack or by starting with the feet braced on a chair or table. Burpees can also be modified. One of the most common modifications is to add a pushup during the plank portion of the exercise. The difficulty can also be increased by using only one leg while in the plank position. Another modification is to twist the body while kicking the legs back to go to a "side plank" position.


  • Although pushups and burpees involve similar positions and movements, they are often used for different purposes. Performing pushups is an intermediate-intensity exercise and are generally used to build strength in the upper arms, though they also can help build strength in the core. Burpees, on the other hand, work the upper body, lower body and core. They are also a higher-intensity exercise and more effective for burning calories. However, because of the intensity of the exercise, it may be harder to build pure upper-body strength with burpees than pushups.

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