There’s a reason people have a love-hate relationship with burpees. They’re killer.
It’s an incredibly powerful, full-body move (when done correctly). And when combined with other challenging moves, burpee variations can take your fitness to the next level, blasting calories and strengthening multiple muscle groups and energy systems at once.
To get the most out of each rep, you should first master the basic burpee.
How to Perform a Perfect Burpee
Stand with feet at shoulder-width. Keep your back straight as you squat down and place your hands on the floor. Brace your weight and jump back into a pushup position. Keep your core tight as you hold the pushup, drop your belly to the floor, or perform an actual pushup, then jump your feet to your hands and stand back up. Immediately jump up as high as you can with your hands overhead and hips extended.
From there, it’s time to step up your game and try some of the most grueling, but effective burpee variations. Brace yourself. Use this rep, rest, set scheme:
Beginners: 3×10 reps with 1 minute rest between sets
Advanced : 5×20 reps with 30 second rest between sets
1. Burpee Box Jump Over
After doing a standard burpee on the ground, jump on a box, so both feet are planted on top. Step down off the other side.
“This additional height added to the jump slows the cycle time down on the burpee a bit, which changes the stimulus slightly,” explains Todd Nief, C.S.C.S., owner of South Loop Strength & Conditioning in Chicago.
While you can’t do reps quite as fast, this makes the burpee much more of a “grind” to get through, and it’ll really power your muscles.
“Move fast on these and you’ll be rolling on the ground after your workout,” he says.
2. Burpee Pullup
Underneath a pullup bar, do a burpee then, you guessed it, jump up and do a pullup.
“While the burpee mostly works the upper body’s pushing muscles, adding a pullup at the end also hits the upper body’s pulling musculature,” Nief says.
This way you’re working both aspects within one single burpee variation for a more effective, extensive workout. And while you can’t cycle through them very quickly (or for too many reps), they can result in quite a bit of metabolic fatigue.
3. Burpee Muscleup
Do a burpee, then jump up and do a muscleup, where you transition from a pullup to a dip.
Not familiar with muscleups? Hang from a pullup bar with a false grip so your thumbs are on top of the bar (not around). Pull your chin to the bar, then ‘roll’ your chest over the bar to transition from a pullup to a dip. Press your hands down and drive your body up to perform the dip.
“This changes the dynamic of doing muscleups quite a bit,”Nief says. “The metabolic fatigue from the burpees as well as the wear and tear on your shoulders makes getting through the muscleups quite challenging.”
4. Kettlebell Upright Row Burpee
Kettlebells can torch calories and build strength, so integrating them into a burpee will really fire up your muscles.
“Stand with the kettlebell in front of you,” says Chris DiVecchio, NASM certified personal trainer and author of The 5×2 Method. “Drop down into the pushup phase of the burpee, then pop up so the kettlebell’s between your legs. Grab the handle with both hands and perform an upright row.”
This exercise works your entire upper body, particularly the front deltoids and upper traps, and will help strengthen your upper postural alignment.
5. Ball Slam Burpee
A slam ball is the best way to get out any pent up aggression at the gym. Stand tall with the slam ball in both hands. Rise up on your toes and bring the ball overhead, then slam it into the ground as you drop into a burpee. As you pop back up, pick up the ball, lift it overhead, and repeat the movement.
“This works your upper body, particularly your front and lateral deltoids, along with your transverse abdominals, which is your main core stabilizer muscles,” says DiVecchio.
6. Bosu Burpee
Stand up, holding the bosu overhead. Place the bosu on the ground, bubble side facing down, then jump back with both feet into a plank position. Do a pushup with the bosu, jump back up with both feet at the same time, and repeat.
“This works your chest, shoulders and triceps, but focuses more on the deep stabilizers within those larger muscle groups,” says DiVecchio.
In general, it’s important to target multiple muscle fibers during complex exercises, like these burpee variations to help diversify your training, he explains.
7. Tuck Jump Burpee
A tuck jump is a full-body plyometric move usually used in HIIT training, as it provides a burst of cardio and works the lower half of the body. And when added onto a burpee, it can quickly get you to the point of exhaustion, explains Rebecca Gahan, P.T., owner and founder of Kick@55 Fitness in Chicago.
Do a burpee, then go straight into a tuck jump—jumping high and bringing your knees as close to your chest as possible before softly landing on both feet. Repeat this exercise for a few rounds or try an AMRAP to see how many rounds you can get in within a given period of time. For higher intensity, jump repeatedly without pausing between reps.
8. Burpee Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers keep your heart rate up and are a full-body, compound move, meaning they work several muscle groups at once, particularly the legs and glutes.
They’re super easy to tack on to a burpee. When you’re in the bottom position of the burpee, come up to plank position and knock out a couple of mountain climbers before jumping back into a standing position, says Gahan. For a greater challenge, try cross mountain climbers, where you draw your knee to the opposite elbow.
9. Box Jump Burpee
Slightly different than the box jump over, the box jump burpee also focuses on cardio and lower body strength. You’re simply adding a box jump onto the burpee for each set.
Stand facing the box. Drop down into a burpee, then as you pop up stay in a low squat position. Explode up onto the box, then step back down and repeat.
“This is a great exercise for the legs and glutes that incorporates the strength portion of the burpee with a power move like the box jump,” says DiVecchio. Strengthening the posterior chain (glutes/hamstrings) is crucial for postural alignment and symmetry, he explains.
10. Kettlebell Deadlift Burpee
The kettlebell deadlift works your lower body and gives that extra push. Stand in between two kettlebells. As you drop down into a burpee, use the handles of the kettlebells almost as parallel bars, gripping them as you jump your feet back. Keep a tight grip on the kettlebells as you brace your core and deadlift the kettlebells in front of your body.
“This hybrid move focuses mostly on the hamstrings, glutes, and back,” says DiVecchio. It’s also a great testosterone-booster, he says. “With the legs being the largest muscle group in the body, it creates the greatest hormone boost when trained,” he explains. “Thus, your entire body can capitalize on that testosterone increase,” he adds.
11. Burpee Jack
From a standing position, squat down, placing your hands on the ground, then jump your feet back into a plank position. Jump (jack) your legs out, then return to plank position. Repeat this four times, then jump your feet back toward your hands. Jump explosively into the air as high as possible with your arms overhead.
“Jumping your legs back and forth laterally increases the load on your core, challenging you to remain stable during the jumping and landing,” says Keith Stafford, P.T., owner of Fit Body Boot Camp. .
12. Burpee Leap Frog
“This variation changes the angle of the jump, activates the calf muscles more, and gets the shoulders and chest more involved as you push your hands down and back into the leap frog,” says Stafford. From a standing position, squat down, placing your hands on the ground, then jump your feet back into the plank position. Jump your feet to your hands, then leap frog as far forward as possible.
13. Burpee Star Jump
Here’s your time to show off those superhuman powers.
“This movement activates more of the inner legs and the lateral portion of the glutes in addition to parts of the upper arm, shoulder, and back,” says Stafford.
From a standing position, squat down, place your hands on the ground, and jump your feet back into the plank position. Jump your feet in toward your hands, then, from this squatted position, explosively jump as high as you can, spreading your arms and legs apart to look like an “X.”
“Be mindful to have your legs back to shoulder width apart before landing back on the ground,” he says.
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