/Why are they called ‘Burpees’?

Why are they called ‘Burpees’?

By Laurie Sweig

Published June 22 2017

I don’t know anyone who likes doing Burpees. When I have clients do them (notice I didn’t say “ask clients to do them”) this question often comes up … “Why are they called Burpees?” Until now I didn’t know the answer. But now thanks to Google I do.

In 1939 a physiologist by the name of Royal H. Burpee invented the exercise intended it to be done as part of a fitness test. Apparently he was against it being done in high volumes. So much for his wishes.

I think that Burpees are an amazing exercise. The original exercise was done in four parts:

1. Squat down and put hands on the floor.

2. Jump feet back into a straight arm plank position.

3. Jump feet back to original position.

4. Return to standing.

In my opinion that is functional movement. But it has evolved over almost 80 years. The most common version adds a push-up and an explosive jump at the end. When done this way quickly and in high volumes the risk of injury increases. That is not functional at all.

My answer to this is to modify the movement so it can learned by the body at a slower pace. So if you’ve never done a Burpee try this:

1. Squat down and put hands on the floor.

2. Step one foot back and then the other into a straight arm plank position.

3. Step one foot forward and then the other into the squat position.

4. Return to standing.

Try four to six repetitions. Alternate the foot that you step back and forward with. If you find it too difficult to do this on the floor start with your hands on a chair or bench (that won’t move when you do). When you feel strong enough try the jump back and forward for some of the reps. As you become stronger the push-up and/or jump at the end can be added as well.

The Burpee is a wonderful exercise. It works so many different muscles. That makes them worth doing. Are you up for trying few?

Something to think about.

Laurie Sweig is a certified personal trainer and spinning instructor. She is one of the founders of The Point for Fitness: www.thepointforfitness.com.