9 Burpee Variations That'll Test Your Full-Body Strength

Plyometrics FTW.

Originally Published: 
Trainers share burpee variations that'll test your full-body strength.

Few exercises are as dreaded as the burpee. While many people hate to do them, the classic move is a staple for a reason: It delivers a super fast and effective dose of cardio. And since it requires an array of muscles to do, it also counts as a full-body exercise, especially if you incorporate other burpee variations into your workout routine.

No matter which variation you choose, burpees are known for making a workout extra challenging, says Pierre Armand, a NASM-certified personal trainer with Fhitting Room. But that tough factor is why they’re so effective: The burpee is an explosive movement that combines multiple tough moves — like a plank, squat, and push-up — into one plyometric exercise that trains your agility and power, Armand explains.

Andrew Lenau, an ISSA-certified personal trainer, likes burpees because they truly do hit every major muscle group: They work your chest, triceps, and biceps during the push-up; your shoulders, back, and core during the plank; and your legs and glutes in the squat. Moving through them all really quickly, as you’re supposed to, is what boosts your heart rate.

To make the most of the exercise, Armand recommends focusing on form. To do a classic burpee, start with your feet shoulder-width apart. From there, lower into a squat, place your hands on the floor in front of you, then kick your feet back into a high plank. Lower your body with your back straight, do a push-up, then spring your feet back into a wide squat. Complete the move by jumping into the air.

While you can always stick with the traditional version, there are plenty of burpee variations to try. Read on below for a few options, including those that make the move even more challenging.


Low-Impact Burpee

To get started, Kate Cherichello, a certified fitness professional and founder of Be. By Kate, suggests doing a modified burpee, which is perfect if you’re trying the move for the first time.

- Start in a standing position.

- Place your hands down and step your feet back one at a time to get into a high plank.

- To modify, keep your knees on the ground.

- Stay in the plank for a moment or do a quick push-up.

- Step one foot forward, then the other to return to standing.

- Do as many reps as you can.


Mountain Climber Burpee

Cherichello suggests adding mountain climbers to the exercise for more of a cardio boost. To stay within a good heart rate range, repeat the move until you reach about a seven on a perceived rate of exertion scale, then take a break.

- Place your hands on the ground.

- Jump your feet back into a high plank.

- Bring one knee into your chest and then the other for mountain climbers.

- Jump back into a squat.

- Leap up, raising your arms.

- Land in a squat with knees bent.

- Repeat as many reps as possible.


Star Jump Burpee

Adding a star jump instead of a regular vertical jump will challenge your heart rate and also work your thighs. “Be sure to take your time to go from squat to star jump to squat and not rush through,” Cherichello says. “Establish each part of the exercise for safety and form.”

- Start from a standing position.

- Jump back into a plank then move into a full push-up.

- Jump both feet forward into a deep squat.

- Jump off the ground while you reach your legs and arms out into a “star” shape. (This is also called an ‘X’ jump.)

- Land in a squat with bent knees.

- The final squat leads you into the next push-up.

- Repeat as many reps as possible.


Superman Burpee

This burpee variation borrows the Superman move from Pilates to give a little extra attention to your back, hamstrings, and glutes.

- Jump upward, reaching your arms to the sky.

- Land in a squat.

- Kick your feet back into a plank.

- Lower body to the ground.

- Elevate both arms and legs off the ground to Superman.

- Quickly jump back up into a squat.

- Repeat as many reps as possible.


Renegade Row Burpee

To work your triceps, back, and obliques, Armand recommends adding a renegade row to the move with medium to lightweight dumbbells.

- Start in a high plank position with each hand on a dumbbell. (Make sure the dumbbells are flat.)

- Do a push-up.

- Row your right hand back to your hip, then return.

- Row your left hand back to your hip, then return.

- Keep your hands on the dumbbells as you jump your feet out wide.

- Jump your feet back in.

- As you stand, deadlift the weights off the floor.

- Do a bicep curl into a shoulder press.

- Move as fast as you can.

- Repeat eight times.


Tuck Jump Burpee

To slightly tweak the jumping portion, Cherichello suggests adding a quick tuck.

- Jump your feet back into a high plank.

- Move into a full push-up.

- Jump both feet forward into a deep squat.

- Spring off the ground.

- Drive both knees up toward your chest.

- Land in a squat with bent knees.

- Fold forward into a push-up and repeat.

- Do as many reps as possible.


Burpee With Box Jump

Lenau recommends adding a box jump for an extra cardio element. “If you are new to burpees or box jumps, start with a lower box,” he tells Bustle. “As you get more confident with the movement, you can increase the height of the box and/or add more repetitions.”

- Stand facing a plyo box or sturdy elevated platform.

- Squat down and plant your hands on the ground in front of you.

- Kick your feet back so that you are in a plank position.

- Do a push-up.

- Jump your feet back up to the starting position.

- Stand up and jump onto the box, landing with both feet.

- Step or jump down from the box and return to the starting position.

- Beginners should try 1 to 3 sets of 5 to 10 reps.

- Advanced exercisers can aim for 5 to 10 sets of 15 to 20 reps.


One-Legged Burpee

For an even tougher variation, try doing a burpee on one leg. TJ Mentus, an ACE-certified personal trainer, says it’ll challenge your balance and light up your core. “This variation works the deeper core muscles during the one-legged push-up and the stabilizing muscles of the hip and legs on the outer and inner thighs,” he says.

- Stand on one leg.

- Drop your hands down to the ground and hop one leg back to a plank with the other still lifted off the ground.

- Perform a push-up by lowering your chest to lightly touch the ground then push yourself back up to that one-legged plank position.

- Hop your leg forward, stand up on one leg, then jump off the ground and land on the opposite leg.

- Repeat on the other leg.

- Start with 5 sets of 5 with each leg alternating.


Burpee Pull-Ups

Now for the trickiest burpee of them all: the burpee pull-up. “This move adds in the upper body pulling motion in addition to the traditional burpee,” Mentus tells Bustle. “This makes it even more of a full-body movement, makes each rep longer, and challenges your endurance even more.”

- Stand directly under a pull-up bar.

- Lower your hands down to the ground.

- Kick your feet back behind you and completely lower to the ground.

- Push your chest off the ground then hop your feet forward to your hands.

- Lift your hands up and jump to grab the pull-up bar.

- Pull your chin over the bar by thinking about pulling your elbows down towards your sides.

- Straighten your arms to drop down.

- Try 5 rounds of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds rest.

Studies referenced:

Machado, AF. (2018). Description of training loads using whole-body exercise during high-intensity interval training. Clinics (Sao Paulo). doi: 10.6061/clinics/2018/e516.


Pierre Armand, NASM-certified personal trainer with Fhitting Room

Andrew Lenau, ISSA-certified personal trainer

Kate Cherichello, certified fitness professional, founder of Be. By Kate

TJ Mentus, ACE-certified personal trainer

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