We used to have a banner at the top of our website that said, "No Weighing. No Measuring. No Burpees. See You Soon." I feel like we've addressed why we don't weigh or measure in several posts, but I don't think we've ever talked about why we don't do burpees.
For those of you who have never had the pleasure of the burpee experience, here's a quick description. A burpee, also known as a squat thrust, is a four-count combination exercise popular in both cardio and strength training classes. You begin in a standing position; drop down into a squat with your hands on the floor in front of you; jump your legs backward and drop into a plank position; return quickly to the squat position; and finally, stand back up. You repeat this many, many times. Until you are left questioning every life choice that got you to a place where burpees are a thing you do. Maybe that last part's just me.
Anyway, I hate doing them. But I also hate them as an exercise for clients for many reasons. Chief among them is that there are so many ways to injure yourself, even if you do them correctly. The pressure you're putting on your wrists and your shoulders alone makes them risky to do even once, let alone in the quantity and at the speed in which they're typically done.
In addition, they are so physically unpleasant that they negate the outcome we're trying to achieve with every client. We want exercise to be, at the very least, doable. And our dream scenario is that exercise becomes something that the client actually likes and looks forward to. If we make them miserable, what are the chances that they come back for their next session let alone develop a lifelong, positive relationship with exercise?
Trainers who advocate for burpees will usually cite one of three reasons why. One is that a burpee is a plyometric exercise for the lower body. Plyometrics, sometimes called jump training, falls under the category of advanced exercise. They require your muscles to exert a maximum amount of force in a short amount of time. Things like jump squats are examples of plyometric exercises. We would only introduce plyometrics to an experienced client who we knew was strong enough to do them correctly. And we'd watch their form like a hawk. So, the it's-a-plyometric-exercise argument doesn't really carry much weight with us.
The second burpee argument I've heard is that they're an upper body/total body exercise. Great. But, so are lots of other things. Push-ups and elbow planks, to name just two, and they're way safer.
And finally, you'll hear people say burpees add a cardiovascular challenge to strength-training routines. Again, there are a lot of other ways to achieve this result that are safer. Moving quickly from one resistance exercise to the next, aka circuit training, can also add a cardio element to your session.
So, the reason that we don't do burpees can be distilled down into this: they're risky, and there are other exercises that achieve better results, with less risk and that result in a much more pleasant workout experience for our clients.
What do you think of burpees? Do you do them? Do you love them? Hate them? Want ideas for other exercises you could do instead? Leave your thoughts below.