The burpee is the ideal exercise, used in both strength training and aerobic exercise. It is also extremely unpopular with those attending HIIT workouts, CrossFit, and other fitness classes.
“It's a great exercise,” says Gary Dhillon, owner of U Rise Personal Training in Richmond. “But everybody hates them.”
A burpee, also known as a squat thrust, is done in four steps – dropping into a squat, with hands on the ground; jumping back into a plank posture with extended arms and doing a push up, then returning to plank; jumping back to the squat position; and then jumping upright.
Many within the fitness community recommend it because it uses so many muscle groups and incorporates so many exercises at once, including squats, pushups, and jumps (similar to jumping jacks).
Physiologist Royal H. Burpee created a less strenuous version of today’s burpee in the 1930s. Since then, it has evolved into a much more vigorous exercise.
Dhillon believes the burpee is loathed not because it’s such an intense workout, but because so many people are doing it wrong.
“People come in and they have this predisposed idea of burpees,” Dhillon says. “They think it's horrible, they don't know how to do it, they hurt themselves.”
Dhillon includes information about burpees and the importance of proper form in his studio’s newsletters.
A big issue is studios and gyms that tell their clients to do too many burpees at a time, including clients who have only just started exercising regularly, he explains.
“You have to start at your own pace,” he says. “You just can't dive in. You really need to ease in to all of this stuff, and then increase difficulty.”
Dhillon would rather his clients do five good burpees instead of 45 burpees incorrectly, he says.
In addition to easing into any exercise routine, he suggests those doing burpees speak with a personal trainer about the correct form before starting a routine, or go on YouTube and watch videos on how to and how not to do a burpee.