Call Me on 07730609165

The Trainers Guide to Burpees!

The Trainers Guide to Burpees!

Burpees! An exercise that gets used and abused in gyms up and down the country.

If there is one exercise that can polarise opinion it is the humble burpee! There are the sadistic few that love them and those who hate them as much as I would hate never eating chocolate ever again (if you don’t know me that’s a lot of hate!)

Often burpees are thrown into a session just “because it makes someone tired”. It’s an easy way to make someone think they had a great workout. It’s unfortunate that some people associate tiredness with a productive training session. That’s not always the case and any coach worth their money can explain why.

If this is your burpee…what do you hope to get out of the exercise? How can it be improved? Our time is precious so we should seek to get the most out of everything we spend our time on. That includes exercise.


Just because it makes you tired is not a good enough reason in my opinion. We should be able to justify our exercise selection for clients.

Take an overweight 55 year old pre-diabetic chap who avoided exercise at school and knee’s ache just getting out the chair  ….you think getting him doing burpees in his first training session is a good idea? No it’s not. It’s unfortunate this seems to be a go to exercise for many trainers just because “it makes someone tired”. For this demographic client we have an opportunity to influence the rest of their lives – teach them how to enjoy exercise and we may very well stop them being another statistic in the fight against obesity related illness.

The first rule of “burpee club” is “DO NO HARM!”

So in this blog I am going to cover why someone maybe shouldn’t do burpees, how we can scale the exercise to suit different abilities, and also why we may use this exercise.

Let’s start with why someone maybe should not go straight into full burpees:

  • They haven’t learnt how to land safely from a jump.



  • They likely don’t have a foundation of strength within which to jump. Jumping is an application of power – its taxing and demanding, one is exerting maximum force in quickest time. Your 45 year old overweight client probably isn’t ready just yet.
  • They can’t support their own body weight with their arms.
  • They don’t yet have the ab strength to stop their spine sagging to the floor in a plank.



I am all for the training experience to be an opportunity to improve people.

Show them how they can love their body for what it can do. Let them experience the joy of being able to do that which they couldn’t before. Let them realise how much fun it is being able to go cycling with friends, play in the park with your kids or walk  up a hill and earn the right to enjoy the view.

I personally feel great when I hear my kids saying “my mummy went running with me!” or “my daddy did all the monkey bars at the park!” Yes even fitness unlocks quality parent-child bonding time! You get to influence them positively too! My eldest daughter asks to train with me and my wife, it’s seen as an enjoyable part of our lifestyle that enhances our life. I could go on but I shouldn’t have to sell the benefits of being a positive role model to anyone.

Anyway; back to burpees.

So what are some justifications for integrating burpees into a training session?

1) It’s a safe power-endurance based exercise for the lower body for those who have good landing mechanics.
You have to use power to jump up! The more reps you do the more this taxes your power-endurance.

** Technical info: You know how on a regular vertical jump you can get more height than a burpee? That’s because as you lower down to load up the jump you create a rapid stretch of the muscles. This stretch energy like on an elastic band is returned and aids in getting your height. The burpee loses some of this as you have to drop all the way to the floor, so some of the elastic energy is lost. This means you won’t jump as high. That means less forces when you land. Less forces means your tolerance to doing more reps is generally going to be great. That’s why I feel its better suited to power/endurance. Or you could do box jumps which also reduce the landing forces – but it’s not without its risk if going for power endurance (nobody wants their shins scraping the box if they fatigue earlier than planned!)

This is how I would coach a burpee:



2) It reinforces squat mechanics. It does if done well and someone has the requisite mobility. You want to be powering straight up from the crouched position in a straight line – like you would on a squat. If someone doesn’t have the mobility I probably wouldn’t have them doing burpees – or not as you see most people do them. I would probably use the incline or stepping burpee. As with any exercise they can be modified to suit the individual. They can even be done as part of the warm up to integrate hip mobility and wake up the core by doing a stepping burpee.


3) It can help with straight arm strength and integration of the core.
You wouldn’t sag your hips to the floor on a push up so don’t sag them to the floor at the bottom of the burpee. If you are not strong enough to hold a straight arm plank with core engaged (that’s butt, gut and quads tense) then they probably need modified. Use the incline burpee instead.


4) It can help with mental resilience under pressure.
Yes they are taxing if done well, and sometimes we want people to be able to show themselves exactly what they can do. It’s an option in the coaches tool box. Through physical endeavours we can build mental resilience. The resilience not to look for the easy way out – yes slouching burpees for half reps are easier! It’s a great way to challenge performance under pressure. The aim is for your last rep to look as good as your first – quality counts, but with the effort to persevere when its getting tough and your body is saying “make it easier, just slouch and do a half rep!” Don’t slouch and don’t do a half rep.

5) It can aid training for sports performance.
The burpee is a quick way to exert faster breathing in someone prior to any core dominant exercises where we want them focusing on controlling their breathing. Think of sports and situations where this is important. You wouldn’t want a dressage rider who is getting tired to start slouching and not keep control of their breathing while engaging their core. You don’t want a cricketer losing their posture after a few sprints  leaving them in a poor position to bat from. So we can exert challenges like this to pressure test that ability. Remember sport specific training is not about mimicking the technical demands of the sport – you don’t put a dumbbell on the end of a golf club and start swinging it round – it changes the skill. But you might challenge someone’s posture and core endurance whilst their respiration demands are elevated. A burpee could be a time efficient way of achieving this aim.

Here are a few examples:

20s burpees
20s mountain climbers
5 breaths straight arm plank
6 deadbugs

Repeat 5 times.

And one more:

20s burpees
5 breath dish hold
5 breath arch hold

Repeat 4-5 times.

So there it is, a guide to burpees through the eyes of a trainer.

Hopefully this gave you a little insight into what coaching is about – it’s about making training purposeful and specific to the individual. The aim is to be a little bit better as a result of training, not just tired.

Leave a Reply

Latest Posts

Steve Bridgeman Personal Training
Phone: 07730609165
Location: Gym and Tonic, Bredon, Tewkesbury