Here at 8fit, we have a love-hate (but, mostly “love”) relationship with burpees. If you have trouble properly completing the full burpee because of muscle weakness or an injury, we have some alternative movements for you to try.
What is a burpee?
Let’s start by defining burpees. Burpees are an exercise movement that incorporates muscular resistance and cardio. They are made up of several movements: a plank, push-up, squat, and jump.
To do a burpee, start in plank position. Complete one push-up, then jump your feet forward and come into a squat position. Jump with hands over head and return to a squat position right after. Place your hands on the ground and jump pack to plank with softly bent elbows.
Build strength for a burpee
If you have trouble completing burpees in their entirety, it is best to master each individual component before stringing them together. After you master each movement (the plank, push-up, squat, and jump), string two movements together. Once your body starts to build neurological motor pathways (highway from brain to muscle), your movements will become more fluid and coordinated.
Here is a breakdown of those movements:
Plank hold: If unable to do a plank from the ground for at least 30 seconds, start with hands at shoulder height against a wall. Lower down to different levels (i.e. hands at hip height on a counter or hands at knee height on a coffee table) until you can do a plank with hands on the floor. After mastering plank, practice transitioning from plank to standing. From a standing position, place your hands on the ground and walk your feet back to plank. Then, walk your feet forward and return to standing.
Push-ups: Similar to plank, if you can’t complete a push-up from the floor, then start with hands at shoulder height and work your way down. As you build strength, you can also do push-ups from your knees with hands on the floor. Practice holding a plank (for 5-10 seconds), then doing one push-up. Repeat and feel your upper body and core getting stronger.
Squat: This is a tough movement for beginners since mobility is required. When it comes to squats, we are working towards a nice, deep bend in the knees. Start by going as low as your mobility allows. Sit your hips back like you’re going to sit in a chair. Keep your weight in your heels, your spine straight, and don’t allow your knees to track in front of your toes (more on proper squat form here). Once you feel comfortable doing squats, add the jump to the top of them.
Once you have these three aspects mastered, start to string them all together. Hey, look! Now you’re a burpee pro and you can stop swapping out burpees for other exercises on your 8fit app.
9 Alternatives to burpees
Explosive push-ups (push so hard on the way up that your hands leave the floor)
Pike planks (keep your elbows slightly bent as you jump both feet closer to your hands at same time forming a pike, then jump back to plank)
My personal favorite, surfees (start in a plank, then pop up into a surf stance keeping low then jumping back down into plank)
4-counts (start standing, place your hands on the floor outside of your feet as you squat, jump back to plank, jump feet wide apart, jump feet back together, and then jump forward and return to standing)
Remember, you get out what you put in.