How to Blast Through Burpees as Quickly as Humanly Possible
Written by Michele Vieux
There is no more appropriate time than CrossFit Open season to talk about how to speed up your burpees. AMRAP of Burpees in 7 minutes anyone? To go along with that, let’s start with a quote from my most favorite coach of all time regarding this hated-by-many movement to help give you a new perspective.
“Yay Burpees!” – Coach Mike Burgener
Why People Hate Burpees
Well, number one is that they are hard. That’s no lie. They fatigue your muscles and lungs faster than any movement out there. They are also frequently used as punishment by gym teachers, football coaches and drill sergeants around the world so they might stir up negative memories for some. But by following the tips below, hopefully you can make yours easy – or at least manageable – super fast, and not the part of the workout that you dread or day you avoid going to the gym.
Why Burpees Matter
They fatigue your muscles and lungs faster than any movement out there and therefore are a highly effective tool to improve your gymnastics strength and overall conditioning. You also don’t need any equipment or much space to perform them. Plus, EVERYONE can do some form of a burpee – beginning athletes, people with a little (or a lot) of weight to lose, kids (they LOVE them) and you! Besides, everyone should be able to get themselves up and down off the floor for quality of life reasons. And if you are an athlete where you hit the ground and need to get back on your feet quickly – volleyball, football and wrestling to name a few – these are the perfect drill to practice that. Have you ever surfed? How do you get from the paddling position to your feet? Yay burpees!
The Basics: Strict 6-Count Burpee
Just like any other movement we do, let’s start with the basics and master those before building on the intensity. The key to strict burpees is the 6-count cadence and maintaining good form through each position. This movement is done for strength improvement and perfect reps. Every position must be hit for them to count.
To execute 6-count burpees:
1 – Squat & place hands on ground
2 – Jump legs back so you are in the top of the push-up position
3 – Perform a Push-Up Negative (lower yourself with control and perfect position i.e. straight line from your head to your toes)
4 – Press yourself back up to the top of the push-up position
5 – Jump your feet back in and so that you are in position 1
6 – Jump and clap hands behind head
Rev Up the Speed by Removing 3 Counts
Once you are comfortable with the 6-count burpee, it’s time to start picking up the pace! To do this, you will need to start eliminating some steps. The first to go is step 1 – or at least you will need to merge it with steps 2 and 3. Here’s what that looks like.
1- Place hands on ground at the same time you are kicking back into the push-up. Remember that we are not going for strict reps here so the more of the actual pushing you can eliminate, the faster you can move and the less you will fatigue your muscles (mostly biceps and triceps). We are also eliminating the squat here to save those quads. In the beginning, you might only be comfortable landing in the top of the push-up however with more practice, you will become more comfortable catching yourself near the bottom.
Try this drill: Using a crash mat if you have one, practice falling to the ground as quickly as possible. Figure out where you are most comfortable landing. Don’t worry about the next steps yet. Just do ten reps of this and see how quickly you can hit the deck.
2 – This was steps 4 and 5 in the 6-count burpee. At the same time you are pressing yourself off the floor in what we would normally consider an “ugly” push-up where your chest rises first (“cobra”), snap your legs forward by closing your hips rapidly. Try to keep your legs as straight as possible in order to avoid extra squatting. If you’re struggling with this, your hamstring flexibility is likely to blame. Stretch them often and keep doing burpees often.
Try this drill: From the “cobra” position, snap your feet to your hands as quickly as possible then reset. Keep your feet in the same position (about shoulder width or squat stance) for each rep. Try to hit that position each time so that you aren’t spending extra time adjusting them. Repeat this ten times for speed. This can even be used as part of your pre-burpee warm-up.
3 – This is the only part that’s the same as the 6-count burpee. Jump and clap your hands behind your head. Although your feet need to come off the floor for the rep to count, unless there are other standards specified (like touching a target), they only need to come off the floor a teeny, tiny bit. Less time in the air means more control of your body and faster burpees. Don’t stop in the standing position. This is a rebound, not a rest and you should be moving as quickly as possible into your next rep. Basically as soon as your feet hit the floor after the jump, you should be starting your descent into the next burpee. Think fast arms, fast feet. Swing your arms down and rapidly close your hips. This looks similar to what you do with your arms in a GHD sit-up.
Use your clap behind the head as a rebounding opportunity or another chance to catch the bounce. Punch and go. You should literally be throwing yourself back down to the ground instead of floating down. Kind of like barbell cycling…
Try to find a rhythm – set a cadence in your head and stick to it. Be the machine. The machine keeps moving and does so to the same beat over and over and over until the work is complete, at which point, it is shut off. It doesn’t slow or stop. Pick a pace you can execute this with.
If you must rest, do so standing up and NOT on the floor. “Catching the bounce” off the floor is part of what makes these fast. Plus, resting on the floor is a posture of defeat that we want to avoid. Stand tall. Stand proud. Stand with confidence or else you let the burpee win.
Burpees only suck if you let them. Keep a positive mindset and know that you can never fail a burpee! Breathe calmly. Count up then down. Meaning, if you have to do 20 burpees, count them from 1-10 and then 10-1. It is much easier not to stop when you know your rep count is getting smaller and closer to the end.
The next time you see burpees on the whiteboard, attack them with confidence and by trying these tips. And let’s all try to save future generations from burpee disdain – never use exercise as punishment!
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