Burpees: what are they for, muscles involved and execution of the exercise

Burpees: what are they for, muscles involved and execution of the exercise

How to do these exercises with enormous benefits, which muscles tone up, the mistakes to avoid and how many to burn calories

Correct execution of burpees

When you see them doing they are a little reminiscent of the training of the Marines in American films. Not surprisingly, given that burpees have this strange name in homage to Royal H. Burpee, an American physiologist who invented it in 1940 to evaluate a person's physical fitness. At that time, during the Second World War, it was in fact adopted by the US military to test the level of fitness of the recruits.


  • How they are performed
  • Beware of mistakes
  • Rediscovered by crossfit

How they are performed

Burpees are one of the most popular bodyweight exercises in gyms, because they allow you to train many muscle groups and do important cardio work at the same time. In reality it is a mini sequence of exercises that we are going to explain now. The start is standing with legs apart slightly more than the hips. From here, you have to crouch in a low squat, which allows you to go and place your hands on the ground in front of your feet. Once the hands are placed, the feet are brought back with a jump, ready for a push-up on the arms, in the position also called plank, or legs stretched and aligned with the torso, only the hands and toes resting on the ground. The push-up is then performed, returns to the plank and with a jump returns to the low squat position. The center of gravity is shifted a little back towards the buttocks and, by making a jump, you arrive in the upright starting position.

Beware of mistakes

Let's say immediately that burpees are suitable for those who are in good physical shape and are not absolute beginners. The reason is simple: being a complex and multi-joint exercise, which involves the whole body and the joints of the wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles, you must first master the individual exercises of which it is composed. Otherwise the risk of inflammation in one of these joints, or even worse, of injury, is high.

Before venturing into burpees, make sure you know how to do at least 20 pushups on the arms, involving the muscles of the abdomen, as well as those of the arms and shoulders. Otherwise, when you jump back and forth in the burpees you can injure your lower back.

Same goes for squats: you must first know how to do them correctly, with a straight back, using the muscles of the legs and buttocks, go down to be able to place your hands on the ground without jumping on your wrists, which otherwise risk. In the ascent movement from the squat to the last jump to get back on your feet, however, you have to carry the weight, and therefore your knees, well back, because if you jump into a position with your knees too far forward, these joints will encounter problems.

What are burpees for

Even just watching them do it by someone else, one senses that the effort is considerable. But it is only when you really try to make one that you understand how many things we are training at the same time while performing burpees. And how many benefits can we derive from it. This is why they have become so famous, in all their variations, even in functional training.

Burpees certainly work on the strength of many muscle groups, but they are also an exercise that requires agility and coordination. Since the movements are in chained succession, they are also an important cardiovascular exercise, which increases heart and respiratory rate, endurance, and are therefore also useful for weight loss.

Also used in athletic training for other sports, they require repetition to create a muscular but also cerebral conditioning. The former will then be performed slowly and in a low number of repetitions, and then increase execution speed and repetitions once the body gets used to this kind of movement.

Rediscovered by crossfit

Burpees are a high intensity exercise which, in its many variations, is suitable for many types of training. It is above all thanks to crossfit, in the 2000s, that burpees have been dusted off, even if partially revisited, since in the crossfit variant you go to rest your chest and stomach on the ground in the push-up and do not perform a squat as low as in the classic burpee.

Burpees: the muscles involved

Almost all the muscles are involved in the execution of burpees, which use the weight of the body to create an overload which is responsible for the extreme effectiveness of this sequence. Specifically, here are the muscles that are going to tone up:

  • Arms: Front delts, triceps and biceps.
  • Legs: thighs (quadriceps and hamstring), buttocks, but also calves.
  • Trunk: pectorals, core (abdominal and paravertebral).

How many calories do burpees burn and how many do you need to do?

So burpees make you lose weight? The question is legitimate and the answer is always "it depends". From what? From the difference between how many calories we take in through food and how many we consume through movement.

Burpees are certainly an excellent tool, as they consume a large number of calories. But how many? Also this question is always answered with a depends: on the athlete's sex, age, weight and heart rate during execution. Therefore, the better you become, the less you consume, so you need to do more to consume more. Or choose more intense variations of burpees. To give a rough idea, a recent study estimated that a 70 kg person can consume 12.5 calories for every 20 burpees. Indicatively, one can therefore calculate one calorie / one calorie and a half per burpee. This also gives an indication of how many to do to get a good calorie consumption.

To burn fat, long series can be favored: 5 series of 10 repetitions with a recovery of 30 seconds to 1 minute between one series and the next, three times a week. Or integrate the burpees into a hiit or Tabata workout, characterized instead by short but intense sets. In all cases, since it is an exercise not for amateurs, it is always necessary to rely on a movement professional to calibrate together the type of training that best suits your health.

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