Burpees are the dumbest exercise of all time. They are just ASKING for an injury to happen. You should NEVER do a burpee!
I bought the kool aid for a while. I saw the trend and saw a few of the coaches whom I really respect come out ripping the burpee down and never picking it back up. (See what I did there? lol).
They were people I trusted and the points the made seemed logical, I had enough going on, so I jump on board. Took burpees out of the repertoire and removed it from all of my programming.
But recently, I got to thinking, what is it about the burpee that is so physically risky?
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I started to think deeper when two things hit me:
Like, really, what is a burpee?
We jump up in the air. Ok, squat jump. Good.
Then we drop down and put our hands on the ground. Ok. Level change, vestibular training, this is awesome for balance. Good.
We jump the legs back into a plank/pushup position. Everyone thinks planks and pushups are great exercises so here we go right into them. Good.
Then we jump the legs back to the hands and quickly stand up into another jump. Coordination, explosive movement, level change, multi-planar. Good.
There is an element of strength involved. Good.
Do a bunch and you will feel how hard the cardio system has to work. So we are training our heart and lungs. Good.
THEN we are getting cardiovascular training COMBINED with strength work, power work, stability work, vestibular system training, and coordination work. Good. Good. Good. And good.
It can be done anywhere, by anyone, with no equipment, cost, or space requirements. Good.
It can be made simple for beginners or crazy advanced for people who have trained for a long time. Good.
So, like, wait.
What is really so bad with it?
The only argument I ever really see is that it is dangerous and people will mess up their backs. This is assumed to be most likely during the ‘kick back’ part of the movement. The fear is that a person kicks their legs back and lets their hips drop really low, bending the back, backwards (lumbar extension for you nerdy nerds out there) and that this will damage the spine. As a person gets fatigued this argument is this ‘poor form’ will be exacerbated leading to higher risk of injury.
Other than that the only issue I have seen presented is that it isn’t a strength exercise, it isn’t a cardio exercise, it isn’t a mobility exercise…it is a nothing exercise that focuses on nothing. Hmm. We will come back to this.
In 20 years of coaching, literally THOUSANDS of people, I have never seen anyone hurt themselves doing a burpee. Not once.
I have seen people get hurt doing back squats, bench presses, machines, spinning, yoga, shoulder presses, jump rope, v-sits, and pretty much everything else. But burpees? Not so far.
It is pretty much a self limiting exercise. You get too tired to keep going before you can really hurt yourself.
What about those hips dropping down? Why is that so bad? This is a ‘thing’ the fitness industry holds on a pedestal of belief. Belief. The truth is that your back is actually supposed to be able to extend (bend backwards). There is nothing inherently wrong with that, in fact, NOT having that mobility is probably pretty bad for us. Most people agree that learning the upward facing dog in yoga is a good goal to aspire to. Because we need to learn to bend that way.
Look, haters, I am NOT advocating people start dropping down 50 times into this position as fast as they can with no training experience. That’s just stupid. What I AM saying, is that once we are physically moving properly, there is nothing inherently wrong with this position, in fact it is one I think we all need to reclaim.
Everyone who really hates on the burpee turn around and do all sorts of ‘high risk’ activities. Like I listed above.
The truth is that ALL human movement carries risk. Walking to your car or picking up your purse can cause injury. Going on a hike, doing yoga, swimming at the beach, everything. We don’t omit all of this stuff, LIFE, because of this.
What about the idea that the burpee is a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ type exercise? As in it doesn’t do anything specific enough to make it useful.
Another of my fav exercises gets a lot of hate for this same reason: the Turkish Getup.
But, hey, lean in for a minute, listen closely….most people should NEVER do anything SPECIFIC.
Cardio days. Strength days. Power training.
Unless you are an elite athlete training for a specific purpose you are wasting your time with this segmented training. Like, literally, wasting time. To have a well rounded program all segmented out would make training a full time job! Or at least a part time gig to hustle some extra cash.
Life is general. One moment you’re picking up your kid, the next you are carrying them the last half of the hike. Strength. Cardio. Endurance. All of it.
So the best thing MOST people could do is train with exercises and movements that:
Is it more likely in your life you are going to put something heavy on your back and raise and lower it 12 times or that you’re going to have to jump up off the ground quickly and sprint off to grab your kid before he falls off the steps for the 15th time?
To conclude then: burpees actually seem to me to be a great exercise.
Using your body for training is as old as, well, training. Calisthenics is using your body to build strength and power (have you seen olympic gymnsasts? I would say it’s pretty effective). I think this should be the FOUNDATION of all of our fitness programs.
For MOST people that is all you EVER have to do.
A great basic calisthenics program get in long walk every day or two. RIght there. A fitness program that will keep you healthy and mobile for the rest of your life.
Simple. Accessible. Modifiable. Doable.
The burpee is something to be incorporated for health not blacklisted for earning a bigger audience online.
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