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Why are Burpees so difficult?


Burpees are a classic Freeletics exercise, but they have a fearsome reputation, and for good reason. Undoubtedly one of the most effective and challenging bodyweight exercises out there, Burpees help to build muscle, burn fat and improve cardiovascular endurance. In short, they're the ultimate all-rounder.

Which muscles do Burpees target?

Burpees train your whole body. This means that both major muscle groups and accessory muscle groups are all engaged during this exercise.

The major muscle groups trained with Burpees include the chest and upper leg muscles--these are the muscles that drive the movement of the exercise, and the ones whose strength you are directly developing.

The accessory muscle groups in this case are those in the torso, shoulders, back, and arms. While they may be major muscle groups in other exercises, in the Burpee these muscles are worked indirectly, supporting the work done by the major muscle groups. Here they function to stabilize the skeleton, help to maintain good posture, and ultimately can give you an athletic appearance by being more physically apparent after repeated exercise.

Burpees are highly effective for weight loss

Burpees don't just train your muscles, but are also a real silver bullet in the fight against excess body fat.

When you do Burpees, the body has to provide a lot of energy to the muscles, fast – and this burns a lot of calories. In high intensity exercises like Burpees, the fat-burning process lasts for a long time after training due to the afterburn effect. This means that the calories are still being burned even hours after the workout.

More than just a means to an end

Burpees don't just have aesthetic benefits. Few exercises are more suited to simultaneously train strength, endurance, reactions and coordination.

Cardiovascular and lung function also benefit. During an intense series of Burpees the musculature is in a high anaerobic range. There is almost no other exercise which pushes you to such anaerobic extremes. The respiratory and circulatory systems are working hard to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the muscles – and so they also become stronger.

Pay attention to technique

Although performing a Burpee takes only a few seconds, in order to do one correctly it is important to maintain proper form throughout the motions. Watch the video tutorial below (you can always find it in the app, too), note the position of the body as the exercise is performed, and then check yourself regularly as you try it for yourself.

Here are some questions to ask yourself that will guide your form as you’re powering through a set of Burpees:

  • Am I maintaining body tension throughout the motions?
  • Am I keeping my knees, hips, and shoulders in line during the straight jump?
  • Are my feet fully leaving the ground as I jump?
  • Are my hands touching the back of my head during the jump?

Remember, to get the most out of Burpees, as with any exercise, you should strive to do each rep with the best technique possible!

Did you know...

Burpees were developed in the 1930s by an American physician named Royal H. Burpee as a way of testing a person’s physical fitness.

The original Burpee exercise did not incorporate a pushup and a jump, but when the US military was developing their system for testing recruits’ fitness levels several years later, they modified the exercise to be more physically demanding, and the result is the classic Burpee as we know it today.

Since then, they've become an integral part of military training worldwide and an always-challenging component of workouts everywhere.