The burpee is a core and cardio workout that can be done almost anywhere – it requires no special equipment. Burpee workouts are intense and may be intimidating at first, but once you master the technique, you will soon realize its fitness benefits. It can be used in CrossFit as a warm-up and incorporated into the workout of the day, or WOD.
The Classic Burpee
The classic burpee consists of a combination of CrossFit functional movements: squat, pushup and vertical jump. Start by squatting down, placing your hands on the ground in front of you. Jump your feet back to plank position. Lower in your pushup and touch your chest to the ground. Make sure your chest touches the ground – this is an important CrossFit standard. Press back up to plank position, and then shoot your feet back to a squat. Last, jump up to standing while clapping your hands behind your head. Full extension of the hips here is another key CrossFit standard. You will reap the burpee’s full benefits if the movement is executed adhering to all standards.
Olympic lifts are an integral part of CrossFit training. You can combine both lifts and burpees in a workout while using the barbell to vary the lateral jump. After executing the lift of your choice -- power cleans, for example -- place the bar with weight plates on the ground. For lateral bar burpees, perform the burpee parallel to the bar. Complete your vertical jump over the bar sideways to the other side, where you will start your next burpee. You can also try bar-facing burpees, which are self-explanatory -- face the bar while performing the burpee. Turn 180 degrees mid-air during the jump over, facing the bar on the other side. Varying your vertical jump in barbell burpees will work different muscle groups.
Medicine Ball Burpees
The medicine ball can be used for many intense CrossFit movements. To incorporate it into a burpee workout, place it on the ground in front of you. When you squat, grasp both sides of the ball with your hands. Jump your feet back, touching your chest to the medicine ball. Complete the movement as described above. This movement requires more balance and core stability, effectively toning the abdominal muscles.
Incorporating burpees into your WOD will make it tough, but the results are well worth it. According to a 2012 CrossFit Journal article, the skills learned while mastering a burpee can transfer to other CrossFit movements. For example, snapping your feet back to your hands is a shift seen in the kipping pullup, a muscle up, and during a rope climb. Keeping your core tight during the burpee will help you flow better, and this will translate to other CrossFit gymnastic movements as well. Try doing seven minutes of burpees for your next CrossFit WOD to practice those translational skills.
Stephanie Soscia holds a Ph.D. in anatomy and neurobiology from the Boston University School of Medicine. She has studied the molecular mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade, publishing her work in several peer-reviewed journals. Soscia is also a Yoga Alliance-certified yoga teacher and CrossFit level 1 trainer.