If you could pick just one exercise to do for a year -- beyond lifting your kids and in out of their strollers and lugging groceries from the car to the house -- you'd be wise to pick the burpee. This exercise might not have the trendy name recognition of Pilates or jogging, but those who know it don't take it lightly. A set of burpees provides a total body workout that few other exercises can match.
To perform a burpee, begin in a squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart, your heels slightly off the ground and your palms placed on the ground in front of your feet. Kick your feet behind you so that your body is in a pushup position, and then immediately jump back to the squat position. Complete the burpee by jumping vertically and stretching as high as you can with both hands, and then descend into the squat position and start over.
Total Body Workout
A burpee works your entire body because it's an explosive exercise that requires the cooperation of your limbs and core. A set of burpees burns fat and builds muscle in your calves, thighs, glutes, abs, chest, arms, shoulders and back. An added benefit to performing a set of burpees is that you know they're working; within a few reps, you'll start to feel a burn throughout your entire body. Although the number of calories you burn in any given activity depends on several factors, the website NutriStrategy reports that a 130 pound person can burn nearly 500 calories in an hour of vigorous calisthenics.
Burpees are ideal for busy people because they don't require equipment, a gym membership or even much space. Before you can find your car keys and gym membership card, you can perform a set of 10 or 15 burpees and feel the benefits immediately. They're not exactly conducive to trying in your cubicle at work, but they're perfect for your basement, backyard or even your kitchen as you wait for the coffee to percolate.
It will take a long time before a basic set of burpee reps feels dull to you, but if you want to add a challenge, it's easy to make this exercise just as tough as the first time you tried it. Place a barbell on the floor in front of you and after you jump back to the squat position, stand up and lift the barbell up to waist level, set it back down and then perform your leap. As a boost for your core, perform a set of pushups when you're in the pushup position or hold a plank pose for 30 seconds.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.