What’s Your Goat? Burpees.

Love ’em or hate ’em, burpees are an ever present part of our fitness routines. Love ’em? What am I talking about? Everybody hates burpees. I don’t know one person who would volunteer to do burpees without there being a gun pointed to their head. If the famous saying went, “Give me burpees or give me death”, I am certain we would all think death to be the better option.

For the blissfully uninformed, I am sorry to introduce you to the burpee, but it is an excellent exercise to know despite all the weeping and gnashing of teeth. A burpee is the following series of movements that constitutes one rep: 1.) start in a standing position; 2.) drop into a squat position with your hands on the ground; 3.) kick your feet back; 4.) lower your chest to the ground; 5) jump your feet back into the squat position; and 6.) jump up, fully extended with hands touching over head.

That sounds awful, right? It is. But, burpees are an amazing exercise that offer a ton of benefit in your training. They are great for strength as they work your chest, arms, front deltoids, thighs, hamstrings, and abs all in one exercise. They help burn fat due to the high intensity. And burpees also help develop your conditioning and endurance. Plus, you can do them anywhere, even though some people might question your sanity.

Burpees are a killer in any workout and thus one of the ultimate “goats”. So how do we get better at burpees and lessen the  pain? Well there are a lot of excellent resources out there and I’ve rounded up the best of the bunch.

The first often quoted is from the 12 Minute Athlete, who gives these 7 tips:

  1. Keep your core tight to reduce the stress on your spinal column and prevent lower back pain
  2. Relax on the way down
  3. Don’t do a full push-up
  4. Land on your heels rather than the balls of your feet
  5. Always try and get at least an inch or two of air at the top of your burpee
  6. Don’t forget to breathe
  7. Add a clap at the end to keep yourself engaged

Offering a bit of a deeper dive is the Physio Detective who provides these 5 tips:

  1. Practice nice, perfect form so that you “develop the strength and endurance you need to keep as efficient as possible for as long as possible”
  2. Develop time-efficient strategies to match your fitness level.
  3. Work on your transitions and technique – “cut down the amount of time you spend in any one position during the rep, you will improve your burpees/min rate”
  4. Break your sets up into manageable parts
  5. Increase the intensity

Both provide a lot to think about and try out at home. I highly recommend you click on the links to read the full explanation of each tip and trick. Then, for extra credit, watch these great video links to further help with your burpees:

For myself, I have been trying to focus on two things. First, I am forcing myself as best as possible after my chest hits the ground to always jump my legs back up rather than doing an “ugly burpee” and stepping up one leg at a time, no matter how tired I am. Perfect form every time will benefit in the long-run even it if slows me down or is the harder push. And second, I try to land with my feet closer together so when I go to jump and clap over head my body is more upright so that I can be fully extended at the top. If my feet are wide, it is more of a slog to stand up and jump.

No matter how much you hate ’em, keep at ’em. Sometimes the best medicine is the hardest pillow to swallow.

What’s your best tip for getting better at burpees? Share it in the comments section below.

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