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5 Exercises to Try If You Hate Burpees
From Self Magazine-By Amy Marturana Winderl, C.P.T.
Burpees don’t spark joy? Time to stop doing them.
If you were to tell me you know someone who genuinely likes doing burpees, I’d have a hard time believing you. The burpee is one of the most vilified exercises out there (if not the most), and honestly, there are good reasons.
Burpees are hard. They’re meant to be. The goal is to do them as quickly as possible, so that your heart rate skyrockets. Some trainers like them because of this—a burpee really is a challenging, efficient, total-body cardio exercise. But other trainers hate them. Most famously, celebrity trainer Ben Bruno is quite vocal about how awful he thinks burpees are. The biggest criticisms: Many people can’t do them right, which increases the risk of injury, and more simply, a lot of people dread them. And being forced to do something you hate isn’t the best way to fall in love with exercise and get motivated to do it long term.
I, personally, feel pretty neutral about burpees. I don’t despise them (I actually dislike mountain climbers more), but I don’t particularly like them. I’m fine with doing them for 30 seconds here and there as part of a larger workout. But a burpee is not an exercise I’d ever do while working out on my own—I’m only doing them in a class when an instructor is telling me to do so.
“Burpees hurt no matter who you are, from the most regressed version to the hardest variation of a burpee,” says Morit Summers, certified personal trainer and owner of FORM Fitness Brooklyn. “They are hard, and no one truly enjoys pain.” But just like any other exercise move, practicing burpees can make you better at them and hopefully hate them less. “They can become easier to swallow with practice. Your body will get used to doing them and you will be more prepared, so it won’t be as mentally challenging as it was before,” says Summers.
But also, if you don’t want to do burpees, take this as your permission to give them up forever. There are plenty of other exercises you can do instead to reap the same benefits—ones that you might actually enjoy.
Here, Summers shares a few great burpee substitutes that you can do in place of, or to work up to, a burpee, depending on where you stand on the issue. Feel free to share this with all the fellow burpee-haters you know out there. We know you’re not the only one.
Demoing the move below are Cookie Janee, a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Rachel Denis, a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York state powerlifting records; and Kira Stokes, celebrity trainer, group fitness instructor, and creator of the Kira Stokes Fit app.
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- The squat jump trains explosive power in your legs similarly to a burpee but is devoid of the plank and lowering portion. “You should work on exploding and landing softly,” instructs Summers. If you have any interest in getting better at burpees, mastering the squat jump can help. “One of the other reasons people don’t like burpees is because they aren’t efficient in their movement: They land in a standing position which takes more time to head back down to the floor. Practicing landing into a squat will help make those burpees faster,” says Summers.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out, hands in front of your chest.
- Engage your core and keep your chest lifted and back flat as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees to lower into a squat.
- Jump as high as you can, swinging your arms down by your sides for momentum. Keep your back straight and chest lifted.
- Land with soft knees for 1 rep.
- “Holding a plank while pulling your knees to your chest is exactly what you will have to do in a burpee,” says Summers. “So, what better way to practice that movement without all the extras involved in a burpee?” You can do one knee at a time or alternate sides, but the goal is to pull your knees as close to your chest or elbow as possible. Think: very slow and controlled mountain climbers. You’ll primarily work your core with this move.
- Start in high plank, with your palms flat on the floor, hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders stacked above your wrists, legs extended, and core engaged. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your core tight, draw your right knee to your chest slowly. Hold there for two to three seconds.
- Return to the starting position and then draw your left knee to your chest slowly. Hold for two to three seconds.
- Return your left leg to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.
- Continue to alternate legs. Make sure to keep your core engaged and back flat throughout. If you have to slow down to maintain form, that’s fine.
- “Sometimes the act of the burpee on the floor is just too much and needs to be practiced with some of our bodyweight taken out of the equation,” says Summers. The squat thrust takes the lowering portion out of the move, and it’s easier to hop back up from this more elevated position. You’re still working on explosive power, cardio, and both core and lower-body strength.
- Stand with your feet feet hip-width apart, core engaged, and hands at your sides.
- Squat and place your hands on the floor so that they’re about shoulder-width apart.
- Jump your feet back to come into a high plank position.
- Jump your feet back in toward your hands, and stand. Squeeze your core and glutes to keep them engaged throughout.
- “From a plank position, lower yourself slowly all the way to the ground,” says Summers. Then, get back into a plank however you want to (no need to push up straight from the floor) and do it again. Negative push-ups help you get strong in that lowering movement so that you can do it in a very controlled way (instead of flopping down onto the ground).
- Start in a high plank, shoulders directly above your wrists, hands shoulder-width apart, palms flat, legs extended behind you, core and glutes engaged.
- Bend your elbows and lower your body to the floor as slowly as possible. Drop to your knees if needed (keep your core engaged even in the modified position).
- Get back into high plank position, either by pressing through your palms and straightening your arms again, or just sitting back toward your heels and resetting.
- “If you’re looking for a higher intensity movement but getting on the floor isn’t for you, ball slams are a great option,” says Summers. Bonus: Slamming a ball with all your might is a superb way to work out any built-up stress after a long day.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width (or wider) apart, and hold a medicine ball at waist height.
- Raise the ball up over your head, rising up on your toes as you do.
- Keep your abs tight and glutes squeezed as you slam the ball down to the ground in front of you as hard as you can. At this point, you should naturally bend your knees a bit.
- Grab the ball as it bounces back without dropping your chest or rounding your shoulders forward. You want to keep your back as flat as possible throughout. Push your butt back and bend your knees more if you need to catch the ball without sacrificing form.
- Stand back up and bring the ball overhead to immediately go into the next slam.