A burpee in the CrossFit world is simply getting down to the ground so that your chest and thighs touch the floor and then get up and jump and clap your hands above your head…
UPDATE (March 6, 2018) – That standard changed recently with CrossFit Open 18.0 and requires athletes to sprawl (or kick legs back on way down rather than walk feet back) and jump feet to hands at same time (rather than walk them up). Let’s assume that it won’t change again for a while.
Here are 5 ways you can improve your burpees
1. Do burpees…but do them well.
This is especially for those who struggle to do more than 100reps in 7mins (so everyone can improve on the burpee. lol) …
We know this sounds stupidly simple but watching people do burpees, especially if you list “lifting heavy stuff” as your preferred movements, the form tends to break down pretty soon. The follow things are what I see (and what I do) when you get tired doing burpees…
- The “Belly Flop” – This is where you bend over and either step one leg out at a time and collapse or make an effort to jump out and then collapse to the floor
- The “Snake Up – This is where you leave your hips on the floor and look like you are doing an “Up-Dog” in a Yoga class…
- The “Get-to-your-feet-anyway-you-can” – This is where once you have snaked up, you go to your knees and then gradually get to your feet. That sounds quite dramatic but it happens.
If you practice nice, perfect form for as long as you can, you will develop the strength and muscle endurance you need to keep as efficient as possible for as long as possible.
If you can only get 10 done perfectly, then it sounds like 5×10 perfect burpees are a good prescription for you…remember that only perfect reps count. Get a partner to judge you – 1 warning per set – if you can’t maintain perfect reps, then the set is over and you have your 30-90secs break before doing them again. Once you can do 5 sets of 10 perfectly, start to increase the speed and reps per set.
2. Develop time-efficient strategies to match your fitness level.
For those of you who envy our cardio bunny friends who seem to burpee with ease, sometimes a little modification can help keep you in touch… for example…
The efficient burpee – this is hard to break down into steps because the really good athletes can burpee with only 2 or 3 steps… here is an example
- Bend over, placing your hands down while kicking feet out and landing on the floor with everything ready to spring up
- Jumping up from the floor into a 1/2 squat and springing into the jump – sometimes this is 2 different steps
- The really efficient burpee athletes will barely land and will transition into step 1 as they are coming down from the jump
The inefficient burpee
- Bend over
- One leg out
- The other leg out
- Get to the floor
- Snake back up
- One leg in
- Other leg in
- Stand up
Sometimes we end up like this but we are training rather than testing. Train with beautiful perfect reps.
3. Work on your transitions and technique
We have noticed that the difference between the top level athletes comes down to transitioning from one position to the next. If you can cut down the amount of time you spend in any one position during the rep, you will improve your burpees/min rate.
If you are like most people and jump in with a wide stance, then gradually work on bringing the stance in.
Practice landing and going straight down into the next rep. if you waste 1sec per rep, over 90reps, there are 90 secs you could save!
4. Break your sets up into manageable parts
Some people believe you should go out as hard as you can and don’t look back or stop. That strategy really doesn’t work for anyone other than Batman. We think a more thoughtful game plan that is based around my known capabilities works better.
Aim for a target number and plan your rests. If the WOD is a chipper and there are 40 burpees, we would expect to be done somewhere between 3 and 5 mins with sets of no less than 3-6 “chunks” of reps. There is no point burning through 40reps but have to take 20-30secs before you can grab a barbell to do snatches.
The idea of breaking up your burpees is to control your heart rate. If you heart remains under control, your breathing and fatigue will be under control and you will be more efficient in your movement and get more done in the long run.
5. Increase the intensity
We have covered getting the mechanics right, and consistently getting your technique consistent and efficient. It is time to do intense interval training to improve your fitness! Remember – be safe, warm up well and keep the form/technique sound. We recommend you try to do 5 sets of 10 burpees at a 1:1 ratio aiming for 30 – 40 secs per set of 10 reps. Try to do this 3 times per week.
Have fun out there and remember, quality training leads to quality testing and longevity in your fitness!!!