The Do’s and Don’ts of Burpees

You love to hate them, but burpees are an efficient total-body exercise. Here’s how to do this move.

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Anyone who’s been training a while has a love/hate relationship with burpees: they’re a lung-busting total-body move that you know is oh-so good for you but oh-so nauseating! Here are a few dos and don’ts for this mother of all moves that will help you make the most of each precious rep, and might even make burpees your new favorite exercise! (Well, maybe that’s pushing it…)

Set Up: Stand with your feet parallel and then squat down, placing your palms outside and slightly forward of your feet.


Action: With your weight supported by your hands, thrust your feet backward to a traditional up position of a standard push-up. Do one push-up and return to the up position, then jump (or walk) your feet toward your hands in one movement, then stand in the start position and repeat.


DO warm up beforehand. Doing burpees cold turkey is like sprinting 100 percent off the line right after lacing your shoes. Your muscles, ligaments, joints and cardiovascular system all need priming if you’re to do burpees without gagging and hurling after rep 10. Do three to five minutes of light cardio such as jogging or rowing, then do five to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching, focusing on your back, shoulders and hips. Do a set of 10 easy burpees first, performing each step slowly and under control, rest one minute, then get to it.

DO know your level. If you’re a beginner, scale your goal and speed to match your abilities: step your feet back one at a time into a plank, skip the push-up and step your feet back underneath you to stand back up. Conversely, if you’re an advanced athlete, hop your feet behind you into plank, do a push-up, hop your feet back underneath you and explode upwards in a leap, clapping overhead to complete one rep.

DON’T drop your head. Keep your chin lifted to maintain a neutral spine. Typically, if you look in front of your hands a few inches this will do the trick, bringing your head up enough so you’re not straining your muscles and spinal column.

DON’T be sloppy with your plank and push-up. Just because this is a dynamic, quick-paced move does not mean that form flies out the window. Keep your head, hips and heels in line as you hop your feet behind you into a plank and maintain this position as you do a push-up, touching your chest to the ground and extending right back to the start. The tighter your core and the more stable your hips the better you’ll fare.

Related: 5-Minute Trainer: Do’s and Don’ts of Planks

DO keep your elbows in close to your sides when you do your push-up. Your hands should be directly underneath your shoulders and your elbows should brush your sides as you lower toward the floor.

DON’T emulate Quasimodo, hunching over as you stand up to the start. Extend your hips completely at the top, even give your glutes a little squeeze, then go into the next rep.

DO pace yourself. Set a number of burpees you’d like to complete in one workout, for example 50. Begin by doing five reps, rest 10 to 20 seconds to catch your breath then continue. As you become more proficient, increase the number of continuous reps, then increase your goal number.

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