If you're working out at a gym and hear the members of a fitness class suddenly groan and begin complaining in unison, it's possible that their teacher just announced it was time to start performing burpees. This challenging, full-body exercise is a perfect way to tone muscles throughout your body, but it's no walk in the park. If burpees are a little too tough for you to master, include some substitutes in your fitness regimen.
To properly execute a burpee, stand straight and then bend forward, placing your hands on the floor in front of your feet. Keeping your legs planted, kick your feet back until you're in a pushup position, and then quickly jump back to the crouched position. Repeat this exercise for three sets of 10 reps. Common variations include performing one or more pushups when you're in the pushup position and jumping vertically after you've kicked your feet forward to the crouched position. As with any exercise, consult a doctor before attempting it.
After you've done a number of burpees, one of the challenges is performing the pushup, given that your arms and body are already fatigued. As a result, a set of pushups makes an ideal substitute for a set of burpees; pushups are challenging on their own, but given that you're not jumping into the pushup position nor leaping vertically, you're able to just concentrate on the pushups themselves. Begin with three sets of 10 reps, and increase your reps as the exercise gets easier.
After you've performed even just a few burpees, you'll find that your vertical jumps are quickly losing their height. An effective way to work on the muscle groups that help you jump, including those in your legs, hips and core, is through a few sets of box jumps. Stand in front of a heavy-duty box, such as one made of wood or metal and, with your feet together, jump from the floor to the top of the box, and then back down. Jump up and down as quickly as possible for three sets of 10 reps.
Mountain climbers are another challenging exercise that you can use as a substitute to burpees. This particular exercise mimics the part of a burpee in which you kick your legs to and from the pushup position. Bend down and place your palms flat on the floor, wider than the width of your shoulders, straighten one leg and bend the other under you, as though you're in a pre-sprint stance. Keep your hands planted and switch the position of your feet by kicking the forward one back and the back one forward. A kick with each foot equals one rep; try three sets of 20 reps.
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.