Burpees, burpees… SO many people dread them. But there are also a few “weird” people who love them… It's a love-hate relationship for sure!
Burpees are part of so many bootcamp, crossfit and other high intensity workouts. And for a good reason–they're a perfect combination on strength and cardio work, they get your heart beating quickly in no time while burning your muscles like not too many other bodyweight exercises.
Burpees are also great calorie burners, which is why they're the go-to exercise for those who want to burn a lot of energy in a short amount of time. Of course, it's not possible to tell exactly how many calories burpees burn, because it's all relative, depending on your bodyweight and size and on haw hard you do your burpees. But in general, because of their high intensity, by doing them you'll burn a lot of energy.
Why You May Need to Modify Burpees
I'm pretty sure you've seen and probably also done full burpees. To do a full burpee, your chest has to touch the ground and you finish the exercise with a jump. Here's what it looks like:
However, there are cases where you may need to modify your burpees and do a little easier version of them. There may be a few different reasons:
If a person is overweight, it may be very hard for him or her to do full burpees. It may not only be difficult, but also dangerous, because burpees put a lot of stress on the joints. Even just walking around with too much weight than is optimal for the body is stressful for the joints, let alone jumping on them!
If you're having weight issues, start with one of the modifications below.
If you're having knee or ankle issues, you don't necessarily want to, and possibly even shouldn't, do exercises that are taxing on your joints. While burpees can help to strengthen the joints and tissues in perfectly healthy people, people with achy ankles and knees may need to skip the jumping part of the exercise.
Being Simply… Out of Shape
It's important to go hard and test your limits every so often at your workouts, but still, be realistic. If you haven't worked out in a while, or if you were sick for weeks, doing tens of full burpees in a row may not be the smartest thing to do right now.
You can start with one of the modifications and work up to the full version as you get stronger or if you've been sick, wait until you're fully recovered.
Doing Them Wrong
Quality is always more important than quantity. But when you're doing HIT workouts, you need to move as fast as possible. However, if you're doing burpees wrong, for example, bending your low back way too much, and repeat this wrong way of moving as fast as you possibly can for multiple minutes and reps, you can really hurt your lower back.
If you're not ready for full burpees, you may want to use one of the modifications first and also strengthen your core so that you're able to keep it strong throughout the movement, instead of dropping your hips on the floor and as a result, bending your low back too much.
Three Ways to Make Your Burpees a Bit Easier
So, what do you do if your workout requires you to do tens of burpees in a row? If you carry a bit too much of extra weight, want to avoid putting stress on your knees and ankles, have been sick or haven't worked out for a while, or your form is simply not good enough to allow you to do, there are some modifications.
Also, if you're taking a group fitness class, don't feel the pressure of doing the hardest version of burpees (or any other exercise). Do what feels best for you in that situation.
Here are the three burpee modifications you could try:
Just like the name says, walking burpees are performed by walking, so there's no jumping involved at all.
Who should do them: If you have joint issues and you don't want to put too much stress on them, or you're carrying extra bodyweight and simply don't have the strength and endurance to do the jumping part for now, try this version.
How to do them: Put your hands down on the floor or ground in front of you. Step back one leg at the time, first right, then left. You're now in plank position. Step the legs back under your chest in the same order, first right and then left. Stand up (skip the jump) and extend your arms overhead.
Incline burpees make the push up part of the exercise slightly easier, because the higher the surface, the easier your push ups are.
Who should do them: This is a great variation if you're working on your upper body strength and proper push up technique. When your hands are elevated, maintaining proper plank position becomes easier and you're less likely to arch your lower back.
How to do them: Find a bench, chair or a box. Put your hands on it, jump the legs back, do a push up (keep the core strong!), jump the legs close to the bench, and finally jump up in the air.
In this version you'll be skipping the push up part.
Who should do them: This version is great for those who tend to bend their low back too much when doing full burpees. You should still keep working on keeping the low back strong and not bent, but until then, half burpees are the way to go if you want to do many burpees as quickly as possible.
You can also do half burpees on days when your upper body is extremely tired from another workout 🙂
How to do them: Put your hands down on the floor in front of you. Jump both legs back, them immediately jump back to your starting position. Finally, jump up.
Don't skip your burpees! Even if they're intimidating at first, you don't have to do the full version of them. Try out any of the modifications and then work your way up to full burpees.
Thoughts? Let me know!