05 May Burpees Suck! But, They May Be The Ultimate Exercise For Humans.

There’s an exercise I have new respect for.

A seemingly simple exercise that actually provides many benefits.

The problem is many of us undervalue the exercise, shrug it off, or just flat out hate it.

I’m here to make a strong case for the burpee.

The burpee has incredible value in strength and conditioning when performed properly and when programmed correctly.

It’s one of those exercises that’s probably not truly appreciated for what it offers.

  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Movement
  • Mobility
  • Explosiveness
  • High level of conditioning
  • Mental Toughness

We should respect this exercise just like we respect other movement based exercises.

As I just finished up a grueling 5 week kettlebell conditioning program, I have a new appreciation for burpees.

And, I should say, I don’t mean just recklessly moving through the exercise and flailing around like a dead fish.

I mean moving through the exercise with grace, skill, and a sense of mastery, just like everything else I advocate here.

We should move through this exercise with great efficiency, executing proper joint biomechanics, and also apply similar mobility and stability principles we do with our kettlebell and barbell training.

Is it technical?

There are some technical aspects to it, but there’s nothing overly technical about it.

Although, we do need to have requisite mobility and stability to perform it correctly and safely.

The version I’ve been doing is the jumping burpee with a push-up (there are different variations of burpees).

Arguably, it’s one of the best conditioning exercises we have that’s available to us.

Just as a refresher, here’s how to properly perform a jumping burpee with a push up.

  1. From a standing positioning, drop into a full squat and place your hands on the ground
  2. In a quick, efficient movement, drive your feet straight back which places you in the push up position (get tight and stable in your trunk and shoulders)
  3. Perfrom a strict, stable, and proper push up
  4. Then, in another quick, but efficient movement, return to the squat position
  5. And, finally, jump up explosively to complete one rep


1-Emphasizes quality movement patterns.

As mentioned, moving through the sequence of a burpee enhances many different movements. Stand, squat, plank, push up, and a jump.  Many different movement patterns are going on with the transitions through a well executed burpee. We should own those postures, movements, and transitions.

2-Good for joint health and range of motion.

Hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows, wrists.  A dynamic, full range of motion must be present with all of these joints as we move through one rep at time.  Maintaining and improving joint range of motion is a hidden benefit of the burpee.

3-Builds muscle, burns fat.

It’s a total body exercise incorporating many different muscle groups and multiple joints.  By definition, it is a multi-joint, compound exercise that’s very effective in stimulating powerful anabolic hormones.

4-Improves cardiovascular conditioning.

Check your heart rate.  Now, do 10 burpees and re-assess.  For most of us, our heart rate and breathing will be significantly elevated with just 10 burpees.  There’s no question about the cardiovascular conditioning benefits of the burpee, maybe one of the reasons they’re dreaded so much.

5-Stimulates the central nervous system.

As already mentioned, this exercise involves full body integration.  There’s not much we’re not working here and because of this, we’re effectively stimulating our central nervous system (CNS).  We want to maximally integrate our nervous system and musculoskeletal system with our training.  Burpees allow us to do that, similar to other full body lifts and exercises.

6-Works major muscle groups.

Quads, hams, qlutes, abs, delts, pecs, arms, and a lot more.  Pretty much everything you’d want to work is trained with the burpee.

7-Requires zero equipment and can be done anywhere, anytime.

Obviously, there’s nothing we need to perform a burpee, just the space in front of us. They can be done anywhere, anytime for a complete total body training session. The only limitations to performing burpees is our current state of conditioning and our mental toughness.


Love ’em or hate ’em, they work for many reasons.

And, if you’ve honestly given them a fair shot in your training, you know they’re highly effective.

No one denies that.

So, why are they so despised?

They’re hard, brutally hard.

They leave many of us literally gasping for air and our bodies completely torched.

Where do they fit in and how many should we shoot for?

That all depends on your goals.

According to Joe DeSena, Founder of Spartan Race, we should strive for a minimum of 30 burpees a day to keep us in “reasonable” shape and keep us “fit.”

On the extreme end of the spectrum is an inmate on death row named “Big Evil” who apparently cranks out 1,000 burpees a day, according to Joe.

You read that right, one thousand burpees a day!

I can’t imagine that, but apparently it’s true.

To hear about why burpees are the “ultimate exercise for humans,” check out Joe’s Ted Talk below.

Advanced athletes should be able to complete 100 burpees in 10 minutes or less.

As a threshold in any strength program, how about 30 burpees a week minimum?

It may be a good idea for all us to include 30 burpees in one of our sessions each week for the benefits mentioned above.

No matter where we are or what we’re training for, this is definitely a reasonable approach.

How many burpees should we do?

Somewhere between 30 a day and 30 a week, depending on goals.

Remember, it’s strength and conditioning we’re after.

How much of each will depend on training goals.

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Scott Iardella, MPT, CSCS writes about training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this article, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff! Subscribe at RdellaTraining.com/join and get your FREE Report and Resource Guide.


  • Jim
    Posted at 23:03h, 05 May Reply

    Great article! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Franz
    Posted at 11:18h, 17 May Reply

    Great write up Scott!! Makes me want to add in some burpees into my training plan!! Thanks !

    • Scott
      Posted at 06:19h, 21 May Reply

      Thanks Franz!
      Hope all is well…

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