Despite the funny name, and perhaps not being as well-known as pushups or squats, burpees are a challenging exercise that work many of the major muscle groups in your body.

A burpee is essentially a two-part exercise: a pushup followed by a leap in the air.

Doing several burpees in a row can be tiring, but this versatile exercise may be worth the payoff, especially if you’re looking for a way to build strength and endurance, while burning calories, and boosting your cardio fitness.

Here’s a look at how to do burpees correctly and safely, and variations you can try if you want an easier or more challenging burpee option.

If you’re not sure whether to jump on the burpee bandwagon, consider the following benefits.

Burns calories

Most people can do about 20 burpees in a minute. Based on this, the table below shows how many calories you can burn by doing burpees nonstop for a minute.

WeightCalories burned
125-pound person10
155-pound person12.5
185-pound person15

Based on this chart, a 155-pound person can burn around 250 calories by doing burpees for 20 minutes.

You’ll burn more calories if you do burpees at a higher intensity.

Offers a full-body workout

Burpees are a calisthenics exercise. This means they use your body weight for resistance. With burpees, the focus is on a full-body calisthenics workout that aims to build muscle strength and endurance in both your lower and upper body.

A standard burpee exercise works to strengthen the muscles in your legs, hips, buttocks, abdomen, arms, chest, and shoulders.

Boosts cardio fitness and burns fat

Burpees can be performed as part of a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) regimen. HIIT is a type of cardio workout that requires you to do short bursts of intense exercise, followed by a short rest period.

Research has shown that HIIT may be an effective way of burning body fat, especially around the abdomen and stomach area. Also, according to a large study done in 2015, researchers found that doing more vigorous forms of exercise seemed to be associated with living a longer life.

In addition to burning fat, including burpees in your workout routine can help you reap many other cardio benefits, such as:

  • stronger heart and lungs
  • improved blood flow
  • lower risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • lower blood pressure
  • improved cholesterol levels
  • improved brain function

Convenient and versatile

You don’t need any equipment to do burpees. All you need is your own body weight and enough space to do the move. So, even if you’re in a small apartment, a hotel room, or a tiny office, you can still get your blood pumping by doing burpees.

If you want variety, it’s easy to make some modifications to the standard burpee by including weights or adding an extra pushup or jump.

The easiest way to describe a burpee is to think of it as a pushup followed by a jump squat.

How to do a burpee with correct form

  1. Start in a squat position with your knees bent, back straight, and your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower your hands to the floor in front of you so they’re just inside your feet.
  3. With your weight on your hands, kick your feet back so you’re on your hands and toes, and in a pushup position.
  4. Keeping your body straight from head to heels, do one pushup. Remember not to let your back sag or to stick your butt in the air.
  5. Do a frog kick by jumping your feet back to their starting position.
  6. Stand and reach your arms over your head.
  7. Jump quickly into the air so you land back where you started.
  8. As soon as you land with knees bent, get into a squat position and do another repetition.
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Try to complete several reps quickly to get your heart and lungs working.

If a standard burpee is too challenging at first, you can make some adjustments to dial down the intensity. Try these variations if you’re new to burpees:

  • Skip the pushup and jump. Start with a squat thrust. It starts out just like a burpee, but instead of doing a pushup and then jumping up, you simply begin in squatting position, kick your legs back so you’re in a pushup position, and then return to your starting stance.
  • Skip the jump. Instead of jumping into the air after the pushup, just return to the squat position.
  • Skip the pushup. If your chest muscles or shoulders aren’t ready for pushups, hold a plank position for a couple of seconds instead of doing a pushup. You could also do a partial pushup until you build up more strength.

There are several ways to ramp up the difficulty of a standard burpee. Here are three examples.

1. Burpee box jump

For this variation, you’ll need a plyo box or a bench or other solid object that will support your weight.

  1. Stand in front of the box in your usual squat position, but instead of dropping down to the floor for a pushup, place your hands on the box or bench, and do a modified pushup.
  2. Then, instead of jumping into the air, jump up on the box instead.
  3. Land gently on the floor, with your knees bent, and move straight into the next repetition.

2. Burpee with a Bosu ball

With this variation, you’ll use a Bosu ball with the flat side up.

  1. Start in a squat position with your knees bent, holding the outer edges of the Bosu ball.
  2. Lower your hands to the floor, holding the Bosu ball.
  3. Place the Bosu ball directly beneath you, and place your hands on the flat surface while you do a pushup.
  4. Then, grab the opposite edges of the Bosu ball and lift it above your head as you stand straight up.
  5. Lower it to the floor and repeat.

3. Burpee with dumbbells

  1. Start in a squat position holding a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Lower yourself to the ground, with the dumbbells beneath your shoulders. Hold onto the dumbbells while you do the pushup.
  3. Instead of jumping up, stand and raise both dumbbells above your head.
  4. Lower the weights to your side and return to the starting position.
  5. For an even greater challenge, you can jump while holding the dumbbells, but only if you can easily control the weights.

Like any exercise, burpees are only effective if you do them safely and avoid injury.

Start slowly and just do a few reps at first. Once you get used to the move and can do it easily with no pain, try adding more reps.

Try to work up to doing 8 or 10 reps in a row before pausing, then doing another set.

Because you need to drop to a pushup, burpees can put extra stress on your wrists and shoulders. Be careful not to go so fast that you twist your wrist when you land.

Make sure you have the basic components of the exercise down before you add weights or extra pushups or jumps.

Burpees can be exhausting. What makes them tiring and challenging is what also makes them a highly effective exercise that can help build strength, endurance, and cardio fitness.

If you’re unsure of how to do a burpee, ask a certified personal trainer to help you. Also, if you’re new to exercising or high-intensity interval training, or if you have a health condition, talk to your healthcare provider first to make sure burpees are safe for you.