Burpees Voted As Top Exercise by Trainers, Fitness Gurus and Kinesiology Experts

Is it running?

Not even mentioned. Today experts mostly discourage long distance running. It’s found to increase free radicals, lower immunity, eat up muscle and carry a high risk for injury.

Is it the butterfly?

Greg Whyte, a professor of sport and exercise science at Liverpool John Moores University in England and a past Olympian in the modern pentathlon, told the New York Times that when compared to other exercises the butterfly: “…would probably get my vote for the worst.”[1]

It’s too strenuous with a high potential for injury, thus requiring additional flexibility exercises just to condition the body for the exercise. Whyte referred to the butterfly as “miserable, isolating, painful.”

Is it high intensity interval training (H.I.T.)?

Yes. But what type of H.I.T.?

Sprinting on foot, on a bike or in the pool are all affective for increasing endurance, improving insulin sensitivity, burning fat and building muscle. The one limitation of these workouts is that they can easily be overdone.

Fitness trainer, “stubborn fat expert,” and blogger Shaun Hadsall recently wrote in his newsletter Get Lean in 12[2]:

“Most people don’t realize that too many interval workouts on a weekly basis can block fat-burning because you’ll stress out your adrenal glands and release nothing but cortisol.”

H.I.T. is still highly esteemed among today’s experts. If you’re doing a sprint form of H.I.T. trainers only recommend 3-4 sessions per week, max, alternating sessions with heavy load resistance training. The modern wave of fitness is all about intensity.

TIP: Hadsall says always do resistance before cardio if you’re doing both in one session. Otherwise you run the risk of actually losing muscle.

Hadsall goes on to say that the best way to avoid adrenal fatigue and prevent the dreaded plateau is to switch things up.

There’s one oldie-but-a-goodie exercise being touted as the most effective with the least risk of overdoing or causing injury. It may make you groan but it’ll help you hit your goals.

The Burpee: A Brief History

The Name

For those hearing of it for the first time we’re not talking about indigestion. The movements comprising this exercise are probably as old as human life, but its formal use as we know it today is a mere squat back in time.

Surprisingly, the title didn’t originate from some Greek or Latin word meaning pain, dreaded or gruesome. It came from the man who invented it.

Royal Huddleston Burpee was an American physiologist and exercise enthusiast at a time when the general public probably saw boot camp as a mild form of torture. There were no exercise “gurus” or fanatics in that day as in our day, but Burpee was both ahead of his time and in the nick of time.


The physiologist was intent upon discovering the best possible exercise to assess fitness level. In 1940 he obtained a PhD in Applied Physiology from Columbia Teacher’s College and the centerpiece of his thesis was the exercise eventually to be named the “burpee.”

As fate would have it, shortly after publishing his thesis the United States stepped into WWII and both the Army and Navy were in need of an effective fitness assessment for new recruits. The burpee test was instated.

According to Burpee’s granddaughter, Sheryl Dluginski, who refers to him as Goog, he was Executive Director at the New York City YMCA and a “fitness-assessment pioneer.”

Indeed, what began in the small quarters of Royal H.’s study has become all the rage in America’s race to get in shape (aka look better naked).

Why It Works

Burpee’s granddaughter Dluginski now runs a holistic fitness consulting company called Generations Fitness.[3] In her article published by DNAinfo New York she expounded on the reason for the burpee’s challenge level,

“According to Goog’s book [thesis], it’s the quick positional shift required when going from a vertical stand, to a horizontal position, and back up to a stand that taxes the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively to accommodate the working muscles.”[4]

Lose belly fat

Today’s trainers may put it more simply: the burpee combines two of the most hated – er – challenging exercises into one. It consists of both a squat and a pushup. Even the most basic versions typically add a jump at the end.

Andrew Killion, owner of District CrossFit, called himself a burpee “connoisseur” and told the Washington Post “that every time he wants to make a workout tougher, he just adds in a few burpees.”[5]

Also referred to as a squat-thrust, describing the initial squat and the thrust into the plank position, burpees bring dozens of muscles into play. They tone, strengthen and condition while increasing endurance.

Why You Should Do Them…Regularly

Next week we will post simple step-by-step instructions on a basic burpee along with some variations.

Here are four excellent reasons to jump in immediately.

1. H.I.T. to Torch Fat

Sprints are still great but remember that they can be overdone. Burpees have all the characteristics and benefits of H.I.T. minus the burnout. Research shows that H.I.T. anaerobic exercises eat up as much as 50% more fat than aerobic, and the fat melting metabolic effects continue for hours afterward.

2. Build Muscle

Burpees offer a full body workout and are considered both cardio and strength training. With each rep you’ll build and tone metabolic boosting muscle in your arms, shoulders, chest, lower back, legs, butt and abs.

3. Burn Carbs (not muscle)

Rather than forcing yourself to completely eliminate carbs from your diet, use H.I.T. to command your body to burn them.

Burpees are fueled by carbohydrates, using up glycogen and increasing insulin sensitivity so blood sugar goes into the cell to be used for energy rather than being stored as fat. Unlike marathon running, which is catabolic in nature (“eats” or “breaks down”), burpees are anabolic (“constructs” or “builds”).

The best part is that one short session of burpees sets your body in fat burning mode for hours afterwards.

4. Portable and Money $aving

If you want to learn new techniques and variations you might invest in someone’s downloadable vids or buy a DVD, but otherwise they cost you $0, zilch, nothing.

You can take them wherever and do them whenever. When I’m at the computer writing for hours I’ll get up periodically to do a set. It’s better than coffee. The only equipment you need is your body.

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