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Can Doing Burpees Be a Total Body Workout?
Burpees are an intense body weight exercise. While few people actually enjoy doing burpees, they are an effective way to get a total body workout. They not only improve strength and cardiorespiratory endurance but can also increase your power output. To perform a burpee, begin in the squat position with your hands on the floor in front of you. Kick your feet back to pushup position. Immediately tuck your feet back up into squat position then from there, jump up as high as possible.
Burpees work nearly every muscle in your body either dynamically or statically. Regular burpee workouts will lead to increased total body strength. Your arms, shoulders, back and abdomen are used to stabilize your upper body during the first part of the exercise. The muscles of your core, hips, thighs and calves work to explosively propel your body upward during the second part of the exercise.
Endurance is thought of primarily as a component to cardio exercises such as running and cycling. However, when performed at high intensities strength exercises such as burpees, thrusters and kettle bell swings can also lead to improved cardiovascular endurance. The more muscle groups you work at one time, the higher your body's demand for oxygen. Since burpees work your entire body, you can bet that your oxygen uptake will increase dramatically during the workout leading to increased ventilation and heart rate. Over time this increase leads to a more efficient oxygen delivery system and improved endurance. To ensure you get a good cardio workout during your burpees, concentrate on doing them as fast as you can.
There are a few burpee variations that will make the exercise even more challenging and work more muscle groups. After kicking your legs back to the pushup position, perform a pushup before returning to the squat position. Adding a pushup to the burpee will add intensity while also working your chest.
Perform your burpees underneath a pullup bar to further engage the muscles of your arms and back. As you jump upward from the squat position, grab the bar and perform a pullup. The higher the bar, the more challenging the exercise.
Burpees are a convenient exercise. They don't require expensive equipment or even a gym membership. Burpees can be done anywhere including a patch of grass, your garage, basement or anywhere else large enough to accommodate your body. When you're traveling you don't have to worry about finding a hotel with a fitness room, instead you can do a burpees workout in the privacy of your own room.
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Third Edition; National Strength and Conditioning Association
- CrossFit: How Do I Burpee?
- ExRx.net: Burpee (Advanced)
- Wood KM, Olive B, LaValle K, Thompson H, Greer K, Astorino TA. Dissimilar Physiological and Perceptual Responses Between Sprint Interval Training and High-Intensity Interval Training. J Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(1):244-250. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001042
- Heydari M, Freund J, Boutcher SH. The effect of high-intensity intermittent exercise on body composition of overweight young males. J Obes. 2012;2012:480467. doi:10.1155/2012/480467
- Milanović, Z., Sporiš, G. & Weston, M. Effectiveness of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIT) and Continuous Endurance Training for VO2max Improvements: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials. Sports Med 45, 1469–1481 (2015).
Jen Weir writes for several websites, specializing in the health and fitness field. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Montana State University, is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist and maintains a personal trainer certification from the American College of Sports Medicine.