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Essential Exercises: the Burpee

Push ups and sit ups may be more well-known, but for sheer, heart-pounding intensity, nothing beats the burpee. This total body exercise develops explosive power and endurance that translates to any martial art. It will also induce heavy breathing, and possibly a desire to lie down and cry. Consider yourself warned.

The basic mechanics of the burpee go like this:

  1. Begin in a standing position, feet parallel, roughly shoulder width apart.
  2. Squat down.
  3. Kick your feet back so that you are in a push up position.
  4. Perform a push up
  5. Bring your feet back into the squat position
  6. Explosively jump as high as you can.

That cycle is one burpee. When you land from the explosive jump, you can flow right into the next one. If you try performing a few, you will discover that the exercise causes fatigue very, very, quickly.

When performing a burpee, remember that the goal is to be explosive. Don't shorten the jump to try and get them done more quickly. Get as much hang time as you can.

Depending on your goals, burpees can form the core of your workout,  be part of a circuit, or just a quick finisher at end of the night. A common challenge among burpee enthusiasts (there's even a Facebook fan page), is to perform 100 burpees in under ten minutes. If you can manage that, your conditioning is pretty solid.

If the basic burpee is somehow not challenging enough for you, here are a couple of variations you can try.

  • Perform the burpee under a pull up bar. When you reach the top of the jump, grab the bar, do a pull up, and then drop back down.
  • Perform the burpee with dumbbells in your hands.

Boston Based Burpees? 

Mountain Strength Fitness often uses burpees in their conditioning routines.
Redline Fight Sports in Cambridge offers a Fighter Fitness class, which again, includes burpees (among other things).
Burpees are a regular feature of the post-class circuits at Sityodtong Muay Thai Academy.
Of course, like all bodyweight exercises, the best thing about burpees is that they can be performed just about anywhere. Whether you're in a small studio on beacon hill, or a big house in the suburbs, burpees can and should be a regular part of your routine. Accept no substitutes.

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