We all remember that first CrossFit workout that had burpees in it. How could we forget? It was awful!
Now time has gone by, and you’re surely a better athlete. But whenever burpees come up in your training, you think, “UGH!”
Why? Because burpees are hard. And if you aren’t following a few guidelines when you do them in CrossFit workouts, you’re probably only ever going to get marginally better at them.
Yes, a burpee is essentially getting on the ground and getting back up again.
At a glance, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to coach.
But there are a few keys to making the movement easier and more efficient, which will allow you to do far more of them without feeling gassed.
Here are 4 proven methods that break down the burpee and will make you much better at them. Apply them to your training now and watch how quickly your perception of them change.
1. Control Your Breathing
Believe it or not, getting better at burpees is mostly about controlling your breath and keeping your heart rate down. Tips 1, 2, and 3 give you strategies to achieve this goal.
You may feel like the real reason you suck at burpees is that you aren’t strong enough yet to do a lot of them.
That’s true to a degree, but even for seasoned CrossFitters, your breath is more important than muscular strength or endurance.
The keys for breathing properly during burpees are to focus on the exhale and get into a rhythm.
Do the first, and the inhale will take care of itself.
The rhythm you should aim for is to breath once when you go down (right before you jump back for the push-up) and again at the top of the burpee.
This video walks you through that breathing technique and offers a few solid pointers on burpees, too.
Bonus Breathing Tip:
As a guideline for improving your fitness and becoming a more competitive CrossFitter, you should prioritize and strategize how you’ll breathe during workouts.
Here’s a tip: you do any workout, especially a triplet or couplet, scan the workout for breathing breaks. Ask yourself, “Which movement of the 3 can I get my breath back during?”
Movements where you will be standing up during the exercise are usually good for recovering your breath. For obvious reasons, heavy barbell movements are never ideal.
For example, if the workout is:
- 5 RFT:
- 6 Muscle Ups
- 6 Clean and Jerks, 155/105lbs
- 12 Burpees
2. Relax During Your Burpees
You can keep your heart rate lower by relaxing your muscles during burpees.
When you go down to the ground, right before your hands make contact with the floor, let your arms and shoulders relax. Do the same thing when you come back up before you jump and clap.
Don’t relax in the push-up position, if only because it’ll make it more difficult to get off the ground.
Be methodical about your burpee work sets. Control your breath, relax your muscles, and consistently crank out reps, even if they are a bit slower.
3. Practice Efficiency & Proper Form
This may sound like an obvious tip, but always do your burpees correctly. Make sure you know the new standards.
CrossFit HQ made the 2018 CrossFit Open standards for burpees more strict for a reason. What was a burpee for some gyms wasn’t for others.
The more efficient you are, the lower your heart rate will stay.
- Squat down instead of hinging forward. This puts your spine in a better position when going to the floor and uses less energy.
- Go right to the floor. Don’t pause in the top of the push-up. A full push-up is not necessary for a burpee in CrossFit.
- Jump wide when coming back up from the burpee. Aim for right outside of your hands.This way, your feet have to travel a shorter distance.
This video on moving better during burpees also has a few good tips.
4. Set Mini-Goals Or Do A Burpee Challenge
The best way to defeat your struggle with burpees is to practice them a lot. Once a week in a WOD will help, but if they are a real pain point for you, consider setting a goal or doing a challenge.
One simple- but not easy- suggestion is to do the 100 day burpee challenge. On day 1, do 1 burpee, on day 2, do 2.
Wash, rinse, and repeat until you reach day 100. If you happen to miss a day, just add the totals together. Be careful, because after about day 50, missing a day really starts to add up.
Over the course of 100 days, you’ll complete 5,050 burpees.
Other burpee challenges:
- Complete a weekly AMRAP Burpees Tabata challenge. Record your total and try to beat it.
- Do 100 burpees for time on the 1st of each month. Aim to eventually do 100 burpees in under 6 minutes. A coach once pointed out to me, correctly, that few people who can do 100 burpees in under 6 minutes are unhappy with their body composition. If you want to lose weight, that might be a good challenge for you.
Getting Better At Burpees- Conclusion
The key to getting better at burpees is to control your breath, relax your muscles, and consistently crank out reps.
If you’re new to CrossFit, focus on getting quality reps in over a period of time. Prioritize efficiency over a good time in a WOD.
Even if you get gassed after 11 instead of 10, consider that a small win.
Burpees are challenging, but with proper technique and good rhythmic breathing, you will build up quicker than you think.