Burpees suck. They're the one thing we all love to hate. It’s true. We do them because we have to, not because we want to. When given a choice, most people would choose any other cardio movement than burpees, simply because, they feel like barfees.
Ever wonder why burpees are so hard? The simple answer is because burpees engage the entire body throughout the movement, demanding the most energy and cardiovascular capacity, out of all the power movements.
Unfortunately, burpees are probably the most important bodyweight movements any CrossFitter does, in both training and competition. The bad news? Burpees aren’t going anywhere any time soon. The good news? There are ways you can get more efficient at them, to make the suck, suck less. Instead of running and hiding the next time coach yells out a burpee EMOM, here are 6 steps to progress through burpees for beginners.
Burpees For Beginners Step 1: Stop Holding Your Breath
Yeah, you! While breathing might not seem like the first thing that comes to mind when you’re flopping on the ground and managing to get yourself back into a squat, only to spring into a jump from the ground, that’s okay, you’re not alone. Believe it or not, proper breathing throughout the entire movement can not only help you ‘keep your cool’, but it can also help you generate more power while keeping your sanity at bay.
There are five major points throughout a burpee when your muscles are working and demanding oxygen from your lungs: the descend, the plank, the jump to a squat, and the ascent. The best breathing pattern for burpees to help you to become more fluid throughout your movement is to breathe throughout the entire movement.
Burpees For Beginners Step 2: Keep Your Core Tight
Ever feel like a fish flopping around, slapping itself against the floor over and over when you do your burpees? It’s normal, we are trainers and coaches see it all the time. So what’s the fix here? A tight core.
Stabilizing your core with that big breath in on your descent sets you up for success in the plank position before you fully reach the floor. As your feet kick back, maintain that tightness within the core of your body, and push off the ground with your toes solid on the floor just as you would in a regular push up. Your efficiency of movement will increase and suddenly, just from activating your core muscles, you’ll feel a whole new burst of strength as you move through your burpee.
Burpees For Beginners Step 3: Toes Forward, Knees Out
Chances are when you’re laying on the ground, you don’t take the time to look back at your foot placement. Where are your feet? Yeah, yeah, we know they’re behind you, but more importantly, we should ask, what direction are your toes pointing? If your toes are pointing forward, allowing yourself to let them naturally turn outward, generating torque. When your toes are forward, your knees will face outward instead of buckling inward, creating a powerful force fueling the remainder of the movement back to the squat and beyond.
Burpees For Beginners Step 4: Hip Drive, Not Knee Drive
From the floor and as you begin your jump to a squat, it’s important to think about someone pulling your hips up from the floor, so you can avoid putting all the pressure into your feet. What? I know, bear with me. You have to use the force from the hip drive, like a hollow rock, to bring your feet upward and along for the ride. It’s not the jump from the feet that generate the most power, it's in the hip drive that brings you to a solid foot placement up by your hands. So thrust your hips and trust that you’ve got some big booty muscles in there that will power your trajectory back to your feet.
Burpees For Beginners Step 5: Pace Yourself, and Your Breathing
We talk about pacing and the importance of pacing in our rowing technique article, too, but it’s equally as important with burpees. While you don’t have a monitor in your face telling you're your pace, when done correctly, burpees can be a fast movement, as well as a movement that burns you out fast, if you don’t pace correctly. You won’t be planking and keeping a tight core on the way down, you won’t be using your toes to generate force, and you’ll be in so much pain and seeing black faster than you can take a breath. Welcome to burpee hell.
So, how do you pace burpees? Give yourself a daily task. Yep, we just suggested burpees every day. But before you roll your eyes again, think about it. If you give yourself a task of doing, let’s say 25 or 30 burpees for time every day while using the techniques in this article, you’ll start to notice that your natural torque, force, and fluidity will increase. Pair it with some Citrulline Malate and Beta-Alanine to delay fatigue and increase oxygen flow and you’ve got yourself a match made in endurance heaven.
Burpees For Beginners Step 6: Don’t Avoid Burpees
How can you get better at something if you don’t do it? Simply said, if you make a point to get better at burpees, most likely, you will.
All in all, burpees suck. We all know it and this isn’t some article that tried it’s best to give you 6 reasons to think otherwise. With some movements, you just have to embrace the suck, and love to hate them. Barfees, I mean, burpees, are one of them. In time though with these technique improvements, you won’t feel like you’re going through complete hell and gasping for air like a flopping fish on a dock.
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