Let’s say you want to improve your cardiovascular endurance while building muscle and burning body fat. But let’s also say you have a limited amount of space, equipment and time. The solution to this conundrum is a single word: Burpee.
Hey, I didn’t say it wasn’t a silly word so let’s get the explanation out of the way right off the bat. As far as anyone knows, this venerable exercise was named for American physiologist Royal H. Burpee. In the 1930s, Burpee turned a series of exercises in a test of one’s coordination and agility.
Sure, it would’ve been totally cool if that physiologist was named Buttkicker instead of Burpee, but don’t let the name fool you. This is exercise at its most rudimentary and yet most efficient. Here’s the basic idea.
Begin in a standing position, hands at side. Drop into a squat position, with hands on the ground just outside feet. Plant hands while thrusting legs back into the “up” position of a push-up. Perform a single push-up. Thrust feet forward back into the squat position. Jump as high as possible with arms overhead.
This “full body experience,” says Michael Margulies, owner of East Side Training, carries more than a few fitness benefits. “The burpee,” explains Margulies, “develops strength and conditioning in a wide range of muscles—both upper and lower body.”
Since the burpee qualifies as a “high intensity” movement, it fits into the category of exercise that has been found to burn up to 50% more fat than your typical strength training exercises. “Most interesting,” Margulies adds, “is the lasting effect it has on the body. High intensity exercises can speed up your metabolism and keep your body in calorie-burning [mode] long after your workout.”
Perhaps best of all, the burpee is free. It requires no fancy equipment or computers or even a gym membership. If you have enough space—and guts—you can burpee your way to full-body fitness.
To get started, go slowly. Begin with, say, five sets of five reps (one rep = the full routine described above), followed by 60 seconds rest. Even better, do some abdominal crunches in-between sets to maintain an active form of recovery.
For the more fit among you, try performing your burpees beneath a pull-up bar. When you jump up to end the rep, grab hold of the bar, and do a pull-up.
Final note: The exercise advice presented above is not meant for anyone with contraindicated health problems. Please consult a medical or fitness professional.