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The Beginners Guide to the Perfect Burpee!

Read any fitness magazine or internet article and you're bound to come across the most popular exercise on the planet. 

Our members have a true love/hate relationship with them. 

They love them because they are a great cardio exercise but hate them because they are tough!

We are of course talking about the burpee. 

We use these across the board with our members -- from our youth athletes, to our adult groups and women's beginners group training. 

For those who have never tried or seen a burpee let's start by breaking it down -- what is it and how do you do it?

The burpee is a total-body cardio exercise that can be done just about anywhere and when done correctly:

  • Increases your heart-rate
  • Burns calories
  • Shreds fat
  • Improves total-body strength
  • Improves core stability 

The key though, is to make sure you're doing them correctly. 

This will allow you to get the most out of the exercise, see progress and significantly decrease your risk of injury.

Too many people jump right into the most challenging, full version of the burpee without the prerequisite technique, strength, endurance and mobility. 

Here is a quick video of DSC Performance Coach, Kurtis West demonstrating the beginner, intermediate and advanced versions of the burpee. 

Now that you've seen how it looks, let's break down the beginner version of the burpee, step-by-step!

Step 1| The start

Before we get into the full burpee, we are going to improve our technique and fitness with what we call the elevated burpee. Here, you are completing the burpee from an elevated surface like a sturdy bench or chair. Going from this position makes the movement easier by working less against your own body-weight and requires less mobility, especially through your hips. 

It is important to note, to improve your burpee and work closer to the floor, you should be working on both your front plank and push-up throughout the week. 

Key Points:

  • Choose an elevated surface that is right for you
  • The higher it is the easier the burpee is going to be
  • Start with feet hip width and arms overhead
  • Feet should be roughly 2 feet from elevated surface

Step 2| Hands down

The next step is one of the most crucial points of the burpee. Here is where we place our hands down to support our body during the most challenging parts of the burpee. When our members get this part nailed down, the other parts of the burpee seem to fall in place.

Key Points:

  • Bend forward from waist, bring hands towards bench or chair
  • Hands should be shoulder width and directly under your shoulders
  • Think of pushing chest away from floor, not allowing chest to cave
  • Do not let arms bend
  • The closer your surface is to the floor, the more upper-body strength you will need

Step 3| The kick-out

This is the most challenging step in the entire burpee. It requires a great deal of upper-body and core strength to hold your body in the correct position. In order, to be really good at this position, be sure to master your front plank.

Key Points: 

  • Start by making sure all your weight is in your arms
  • Kick back both legs so legs extend straight
  • When feet land your body should be in perfect plank, with hands under shoulders
  • Keep a straight line from your head to your heels
  • Keep stomach braced and do not allow hips to sag

Step 4| The kick-in

Once you've kicked your feet out into plank position, it's time to kick them back in under your hips. This requires a good amount of ab strength and hip mobility. If your hips are tight, check out some of our favorite hip stretches and warm-ups, HERE and HERE

Key Points:

  • Keep weight in hands
  • In one motion, bring feet back in to starting position
  • The closer your hands are to the floor the more this position should resemble a low squat
  • Shift your weight into your feet rather than your hands

Step 5| The finish

Here is the finish to your burpee. Depending on strength and injury history, you can increase the challenge of your burpee by adding a jump and reach at the top of your burpee.

  • Once you've kicked in, weight should be in your feet
  • Add a jump and reach at the top or a stand up and reach depending on your ability
  • Start the movement over

Common Mistakes

Let's get into the top 3 most common mistakes.
(mistake image on left, correct on right)

1) Progressing too quickly

This is certainly the most common of the mistakes. People try to start their burpees by going directly from the floor and adding push-ups. If you're new to the burpee, be sure to work your technique from an elevated surface and work yourself closer to the floor overtime. This not only increases your risk of compensation and injury but will decrease your performance and results. 

2) Hands too far forward

Hand placement is crucial for your performance, strength and injury prevention during the push-up. One common mistake is to place the hands too far forward, putting excessive stress on the neck and shoulders. This is both a technical error as well as compensation. Make sure to keep hands directly under your shoulders. 

3) Hip sag

Our final common mistake is the most easy to do because it takes place during the most challenging part of the burpee -- the kick out. When you kick out, be sure to keep hips up and stomach braced to prevent your hips from sagging and to keep stress off your low back. 

How to make your burpee more challenging

1) Move closer to the floor

So, maybe you started by doing your burpees off a bench that is 2 feet from the floor. Once you've gotten used to that height it's time to keep progressing and move that surface 1 foot from the floor. Keep challenging yourself and slowly progress to the floor. 

2) Add a push-up

To make the burpee more challenging, add a push-up right after your kick-out. This will make your upper-body work double time to improve your shoulder, arm and core strength!

Your Beginner Workout 

Ready to get started? Here are two sample workouts you can do at home or at the gym. 

Try this 1-2 x/week. 

Workout A) :20/:40 x 8-10 rounds

Complete :20 of burpees followed by :40 of rest for 8-10 rounds. 

Workout B) Countdown 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 

Start with 10 burpees, then 8, then 6... all the way to 2. Complete the workout as fast as you can, taking breaks as needed. Be sure to time yourself to track your progress. 


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