Workout of the Day

Burpees

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Imagine walking into the gym to find “Burpees - 4 sets of 4” written up on the board for the first portion of the workout. A few thoughts might run through your head. “A typo?” “Easiest conditioning ever!” “We must have to do them really fast and with no rest…”

We think of burpees as a conditioning movement, largely because that’s what they’re utilized for most of the time, and with good reason. The burpee works well for conditioning. But it’s more than just a movement to be done in high reps to make you sweaty and tired.

The burpee can also be used to train and test:
> power
> strength
> speed
> athleticism
> functional movement patterns

Let’s break it down. The burpee, on the most fundamental level, involves going from standing to prone and then back to standing. It combines an upper body push, hip extension, hip flexion, and a jump, and can be executed with great speed or with a slow tempo and a focus on control and strength in each position. The burpee is an opportunity to move through an extensive range of motion in the knees, hips, ankles, shoulders, and elbows.

As a whole, it is functional on numerous levels.
It is practical: a movement seen both in life and in sport. The 80-year-old man playing with Legos on the floor with his grandson will perform some variation of the burpee to move from prone to standing, and the soccer athlete recovering from a fall will perform a variation of a burpee to quickly move from prone to the start of a sprint in pursuit of the ball. The speed and application of the movements may be worlds apart, but they are both fundamentally the same. The burpee is also functional insofar as it provides an opportunity to train functional adaptations safely and effectively. It can be utilized to train conditioning, strength, power, and speed.

Set a clock for 55 seconds and perform a burpee with a 5 second tempo for each portion of the movement and a 5 second pause in each position: 5 seconds from standing to a low squat, pause 5 seconds, 5 seconds from a low squat to a plank, pause 5 seconds, 5 seconds descending from plank to prone, pause 5 seconds, etc. One burpee, almost a minute of time under tension. Our simple, familiar conditioning exercise has now been transformed into an exercise that trains and demands strength and massive amounts of control.

On the flip side, perform the burpee with an effort to make the transition from each position as quick and powerful as possible. Finish the burpee with a max height jump. Spice things up by performing a broad jump or lateral jump instead of a high jump. Perform a dynamic push-up and transition as quickly and seamlessly as possible from the prone position to the bottom of the squat. Transition from prone to a maximal effort sprint. Our basic conditioning movement has now turned into a hugely effective tool to develop speed, power, and all-around athleticism through multiple positions and ranges of motion.

Add weights, an apparatus such as parallettes or rings, or combine the burpee with another movement, and the possibilities expand even further.

This concept applies to more than just burpees. Our movements are just that: movements. And while many of them have adaptations which they are “better” suited to train, our application and execution can expand the possible outcomes immensely. Will you see burpees for the strength portion of a workout soon? Maybe, or maybe not. But next time you’re slogging through your 40th burpee of the workout, take a moment to reflect: am I just flopping about and sweating, or am I moving with purpose?

- PS


6/5/17

  • Seated vertical jump - 5x3 (EMOM)

  • Plyo push-ups - 5x3 (EMOM)

  • 12 min AMRAP

    • 8 unbroken burpee box jump overs

    • 8 unbroken push-ups

    • 8 unbroken toes to bar