The iconic television series, Sex and the City, defined the term frenemy very simply: an enemy disguising themselves as your trustworthy friend. I imagine that’s sort of how most people feel about burpees. Are they really as good for conditioning as your trainer is telling you? Or are they just there to make you feel bad and inadequate because you aren’t doing them correctly? Let’s take a look at the birth of burpees, how to execute them properly and what we gain in the long run by having them as a part of our workout of the day.
Burpees are named after their inventor: Royal H. Burpee, a New York City physiologist who created them to evaluate fitness quicker and more accurately. His version was a lot less intense than the version we do today for training. I think the HuffPost Healthy Living describes the current version perfectly:
“Though movement standards vary from gym to gym and trainer to trainer, the burpee most of us know and love (to hate) is most commonly performed like this:
• Bend over or squat down and place both hands on the floor in front of you, just outside of your feet.
• Jump both feet back into plank position.
• Drop to a pushup — your chest should touch the floor.
• Push or snake up to return to plank position.
• Jump feet back in toward hands.
• Explosively jump up into the air, reaching arms straight overhead.
The fact that the burpee is used as a punishment — as in Spartan Races, which require participants to do 30 in a row if they fail to take on an obstacle, or at CrossFit gyms that assess a penalty for arriving late to class — tells you pretty much everything you need to know about this killer movement as we now know it. Three separate jumps and a pushup (or some variation of it): It puts the hurt on you, and it does it good and fast.” (Enemy, enemy, enemy.)
The friend portion of the burpee just might crush the enemy. A burpee is a full body, high intensity (you are literally working all your muscles to execute them) exercise which in turn burns countless calories. You also don’t need any fitness equipment to do them so they can be added to any workout, wherever you may be. This makes burpees one of the top exercises for conditioning and strength training. (Friend, friend, friend.)
In short, the burpee is undoubtedly the classic frenemy at almost every training center across the country. Even though the good seems to outweigh the bad in the long run, I’m still keeping my eye on them!