Breaking Down the Burpee

The majority of gym goers don’t have any equipment at home. Since the pandemic shut down all gyms, body weight exercises have come to the forefront. The burpee is the king of those exercises. It involves the most muscles, raises heart rate, and requires the most range of motion to complete correctly.

Starting on the ground, snake up to your feet. Yes, snake. It’s like a crappy push up, where you allow your hips to lag behind the upper body initially and catch up quickly soon after. It is not a push up, because a push up requires a strict neutral spine. There will be several moments where the spine flexes and extends during a burpee.

Once you are snaking instead of doing a strict push ups, move on to proper foot placement. You gotta go outside the hands. Why people insist on ruining their low back by going inside the hands is beyond me. This is the single biggest cause of injury during a burpee. If the feet land in between the hands instead of outside, it’s nearly impossible to keep the heels on the ground, the low back rounds significantly and then you stand up while trying to straighten your spine. It’s all bad news and it all results from bad foot placement. When the feet land outside the hands, now the heels have a greater chance of staying in contact with the ground. This takes all the pressure off the knees and the wide stance allows you to squat deeper with a more neutral spine. Then jump and get back to the ground asap.

To get back on the ground, reverse the order from above. I’ll note here that if you have the upper body strength to catch yourself, it is preferable to jump back just before you place your hands on the ground. This saves the low back when doing many repetitions, but the eccentric force on the upper body is significant.

In the No equipment workout #3 I break down the burpee into 2 separate exercises. Hands on the ground up downs, and hands overhead sumo squat. Hands on the ground up downs involves snaking up to the feet, then return to the floor. The hands stay on the ground. The feet land wide and flat. You can transition from here to the overhead sumo squat. Keep the feet wide and flat to the floor, maybe turned out a little. With the arms locked out overhead, squat deep while pushing the knees out slightly.

Practice the 2 exercises that make up the burpee and you now have a much safer exercise that is still the king.

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