The Hated Burpee – Maybe the Perfect Exercise?

by | Jan 10, 2019


How to Do A Burpee

A “burpee” is an exercise performed as follows:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Squat as deeply as you can and place your hands on the floor.
  3. Kick back into a push-up position.
  4. Do one push-up.
  5. Bring your legs back to a squat and jump up, throwing your hands above your head.
  6. Land and repeat.

Benefits of Burpees

  • According to Dr. Jordan D. Metzl, a New York-based sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery “burpees target every muscle in your body and train your cardiopulmonary fitness by repeatedly bring your heart rate up and down,”
  • Burpees build explosive power, strength, endurance and VO2 Max.
  • They are great for total body, functional strength. With every rep, you’ll work your arms, chest, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and abs.
  • They are an intense exercise and thus you can get an amazing workout from just doing burpees for a relatively short period of time.
  • According to Livestrong, “the intensity of burpees and the number of muscles needed to perform this exercise results in a large caloric expenditure.”
  • Burpees require no equipment and you can do them anywhere!
  • They can be fit into almost any workout routine

Related IFOD: The Four Minute Workout

History of the Burpee

The exercise now known as a “burpee” was invented by Royal H. Burpee way back in 1939! Dr. Burpee was a New York physiologist who created the exercise as part of a fitness test for his PhD. Note, however, that the original burpee exercise just had four steps – it did not include the push-up in the middle or the jump at the end of the exercise. The modern burpee evolved to include those two steps.

The “Burpee Test”

In his thoroughly entertaining and excellent book Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet, Jesse Itzler invited a super-fit former Navy Seal to live with him and train him for 31 days. SEAL (as Jesse referred to him in the book) went with him everywhere and often woke him up at all hours of the night to train. It’s a really fun book. Here is Jesse’s Burpee Test Story:

SEAL sits in a chair in my office, motionless. That is, until he jumps out of the chair, unprompted.

“Burpee test, mother#@&!,” he barks.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Burpee test, mother#@&!. Why do I have to keep repeating myself?”

“I just didn’t know what you meant.”

“Dude, you know what a #@&!ing burpee is, right?” He’s not really asking but telling me.

“Yeah, I know what a burpee is.”

“And you know what a test is, right?”

“Yes. I know what a test is.”

“Well then, mother#@&!, this is a burpee test.”

SEAL tells me he wants to time how long it takes me to do a hundred burpees. “It’s a fitness test,” he says, and makes sure to emphasize these are burpees with push-ups.

He explains that anything under ten minutes is solid, under eleven minutes is acceptable, and he finds over thirteen minutes is unacceptable.

“In fact, if you don’t go under thirteen minutes, we are doing them again,” he says.

In the book Jesse Itzler completes one hundred burpees in 11 minutes 45 seconds. Try it out. It’s brutal.


  1. Went to the gym. a few months back. My daughter had mentioned burpees, so I decided to try some. Did ten, pretty good, right. Woke up the next morning and could hardly get out of bed. Went to doctor, after he stopped laughing, he told me 80% of people have back problems some time in their life. It is your turn. Took a couple of weeks to recover. I have eliminated Burpees from my gym routine, but I am sure 100 in ten minutes would kill me. They are good, but take it easy!!

  2. I played soccer with Dr. Metzl at Mizzou.

    • Wow.
      Was he fit?


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