How long is your list of excuses for not working out? I’m pretty sure I have used them all but give it a shot—surprise me! People get very creative with excuses and sometimes an excuse become a mantra to rationalize to yourself why not to work out, with expressions ranging from “I don’t have the time” to ” I don’t have the equipment”. However, there’s one fantastic exercise that wins over these two excuses (and most others), leaving you with only your weak character left to overcome.
It’s a great conditioning exercise that engages your entire body; it builds strength, and you can adjust the intensity from a light mobility exercise to making you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck. All this after only 5 min of exercise, without equipment and in just 20 square feet of space. Moreover, this particular exercise is engaging at least 5 of the 10 skills of fitness. It will work your cardiovascular endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, and speed, depending a bit on how you perform the exercise.
The ultimate exercise is…
This fantastic exercise is called “the burpee” and it’s a simple, not easy, body weight exercise that you can perform in minimal space.
It’s essentially an exercise combing the Hindu squat, the push-up and a vertical jump.
- Stand straight, with your feet in a neutral stance.
- Squat down to and place your hands approximately one foot in front of your feet, slightly wider than shoulder width.
- With your weight on straight, vertical arms, jump back with both feet into plank position (same as the top position of the push-up).
- Perform a push-up with your chest touching ground in the bottom position, and up to plank position again.
- From plank position, jump forward with both feet, raise your upper body and land in the bottom of the squat.
- Jump straight up from the bottom of the squat, raise your arms and clap your hands over head. Landing back in position 1.
Sounds easy? Don’t let the simplicity fool you. I’ve seen Ironman distance triathletes (some people consider triathletes fit) and competitive boxers totally crumble under the mighty burpee. If you think you’re fit I am pretty sure that the first 10 will make you cocky, but at around 25 you’re surprised how tough it is.
Check out the video instructions to help you get burpeein’!
Complete beginners must first learn to perform a correct Hindu squat, after which you can work yourself up to 10 repetitions of each component of the burpee in isolation: that’s 10 Hindu squats, followed by 10 push-ups, and finally 10 vertical jumps—hands from floor to overhead clap. When you feel comfortable with the Hindu squat and can perform these 30 repetitions uninterrupted, it’s time to burpee.
Start with 10 burpees uninterrupted, and work yourself up 25 in a nice steady flow—don’t think about time.
The most common limitation to the burpee is that people can’t keep up with the push-ups, so instead of giving up early, I suggest that you do push-ups with your knees on the ground. If needed, you can even start without the push-up: just jump out to plank position and back (skip step 4 above).
Beyond beginner: 5-minute burpee flow
When you have worked passed the beginner stage above, it’s time to increase the volume and/or work faster. To improve, you must measure time, so use a stopwatch. Set your countdown timer to 5 minutes, and do as many burpees as you can. As you keep to the 5 minutes, it’s easy to keep track of your progress and stay motivated. Always make sure to keep good form though: you want to improve because of increased work capacity— not sloppier, potentially unsafe, form.
When you can do 5 minutes uninterrupted, I suggest you test yourself on 100 of these to get an idea of your time: the world fitness elite does 100 burpees in around 4 minutes, but get below 8 minutes and you can be proud.
In addition to it being a great exercise while traveling, I use 100 burpees for time as a benchmark for my own fitness level. My personal record is 100 repetitions in 7 min, and when I get over 8 min it feels like slap in the face, letting me know that it’s time to get serious with training again. Honestly, now that the December holidays have passed, it’s burpee time!
Let me know how it goes! Which Lifehack reader can do the most burpees in 5 min?
Featured photo credit: Running Sport. Runners on road in endurance run outdoors via Shutterstock