Why the “Burpee”

By: Mako Athletics


This week’s topic is everybody’s favorite movement….. THE BURPEE!

I like to talk a little bit about the burpee. Specifically, the benefits and functionality of the movement. And also, why they hurt so bad, and ways that we can make them hurt a little less!

We get asked a lot about the “Why” of the burpee. It is one of the best movements in CrossFit because it works and strengthens more muscles than any other movement in the gym. You are strengthening your arms, chest, quads, glutes, hamstrings and abs/core. Another good thing about the movement is its functionality and how it transfers into movement outside the gym. We always preach that CrossFit is about longevity or quality of life as you get older. Well, think about when you are older and you happen to fall…… The burpee has taught you how to pick yourself up off of the ground! If this happens to any of us, I’m sure we would all just hop up and even ‘jump and clap’!

Breath of the Burpee

Let’s talk a little bit about why the burpees can hurt so good and ways to make them not hurt as bad. Everyone knows that there are very few movements that can get your heart rate up as fast as the burpee does. And if you are like me, I struggle to breath when I do high reps of burpees. To be clear on why this happens, let’s break down the movement.

  • Starting position is standing tall (full extension)
  • Drop the hands to the floor (flexion)
  • Legs extend as chest drops to the ground (extension)
  • Hips raise and feet are pulled under the hips (flexion)
  • Stand tall, and jump and clap overhead (full extension)

Do you notice the pattern above? Extension, flexion, extension, flexion, extension? Any time that we move through extension and flexion (especially at high intensity) it crushes the lungs and it can make breathing quite a struggle.

The best ways to remedy this is to try and pace yourself for endurance and to know the correct time to breathe. It’s important when you’re doing a burpee to focus your breathing around the points in the movement when you are at extension rather than flexion. It’s much easier to get a good breath in that way. Also focusing on the timing of your breath can help take your mind off of the fact that you are doing burpees!

Try this next time you do burpees and see if it helps. Let me know how it goes!

Yours Truly,

~ Cuz

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