I’m that person who lets out an audible and rather dramatic groan before doing a set of burpees.
In fact, I can confidently say the burpee is my least favourite exercise move of all time — frankly, because burpees are incredibly hard. No matter if I’m the strongest I’ve ever been or back from an extended break from working out, I struggle.
Curious as to what makes a burpee so challenging, I reached out to Rachel Straub, MS, CSCS, co-author of Weight Training Without Injury.
Essentially, you’re combining three already difficult exercises into one demanding move.
“Burpees are so hard because they target your entire body — upper, lower, and core — in a single exercise, with speed,” Straub says.
“Squats, push-ups, and jumping can be difficult when done separately, so it’s not a surprise that when you try and combine these movements all in one you will be challenged. Plus, you have the cardio aspect.”
Straub suggests mastering the separate components of a burpee before attempting the exercise.
“You should think planks, squats, push-ups, and jumping,” she says.
“For example, if your low back arches during a plank — a sign of poor core stability — just think what is happening to your low back if you attempt a burpee.”
Therefore, you might consider perfecting your plank form. When it comes to the squat element, you should concentrate on perfecting your deep squat form.
If a push-up is particularly challenging, Straub says you can skip it, or simply focus on improving your push-ups first.
Another suggestion is to simply begin slowly, as to not compromise on form and lower the intensity. You can also drop the jumping element of the burpee and stand up instead. Modifications are your best friend.
Remember, it’s a challenging move, so take it one step at a time to prevent injury.
Next time my virtual instructor gives me the command to burpee, you’ll probably find me holding steady in my plank position instead.
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