Burpees are the global currency of the Spartan world. The provoke equal parts love and fear. Love because of what they can do for you. Fear because of what they do to you.
But what if you were to shift your mindset? Carl Paoli, former elite gymnast and founder of GymnasticsWOD.com, writes about them in his book Free+Style: Maximize Sport and Life Performance with Four Basic Movements—addressing their true value in day-to-day life and better sport performance. Paoli notes that the movements within the burpee, including squats and push-ups, can make you better at both gymnastics and strength work—if you do them right.
“It’s one of the most fundamental movement patterns required to understand in order to get off the ground,” he told Spartan Life. “The burpee is a great way to practice pushing mechanics (push-ups), hip power through flexion and extension (as seen in sit-ups or leg lifts), and squatting/jumping landing mechanics. All of these movements, if understood at the most basic levels, are transferable to all other movements such as walking, running, jumping, landing, throwing, and catching.”
Plus, burpees can help you build the strength and power that you need for any OCR and Spartan race, like climbing and getting over endless obstacles.
Here, Paoli offers us his top tips for getting the most out of each and every burpee. Note: he suggests you incorporate them regularly into your routine. Have an extra two minutes at the end of your workout? Try an AMRAP-style challenge (as many reps as possible), and see how many burpees you can knock out before the clock hits zero.
1. Think about your backside
In the upward phase of the burpee, it’s really important to keep both your legs and core in mind. “When you push off the ground, allow your body to naturally arch while engaging your glutes,” suggests Paoli. By doing this, you’ll keep your lower back in a safe position.
2. Keep an upright chest.
Just like when you’re performing heavy Olympic lifts, like a squat or a snatch, it’s important to maintain an upright chest position any time your feet have full contact with the ground in your burpee. “Lift your chest up proud,” he suggests. “By doing this, you’ll be able to gain essential momentum that can carry you into your jump.”
3. End where you started
The last thing you want to do is start the burpee at point A and end it at point Z. If you’re far off your starting mark at that top jump, your form is likely all over the place—and you’re doing extra work. “You want to jump and try to land in the same place and with the same stance as you took off,” he says.
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