The Big Question: Burpees- Overused or Underrated
19/10/2021 | Andrew Tracey
Andrew Tracey is a long time collaborator with Bulldog Gear. A coach, writer and current fitness editor of Men’s Health Magazine, he has been in and around the fitness industry for the past 16 years. Having enjoyed and endured a number of disciplines from endurance racing, to strongman, to Crossfit AT enjoys getting neck deep in the practice just as much as the theory.
Love them, hate them or feel completely indifferent towards them, there’s no denying that burpees are a ubiquitous feature in the fitness world.
But, of late there’s been a shifting in the tides- the ongoing joke that burpees are unpalatable at best and criminal at worst has taken another turn, with many coaches and trainees arguing that they’re a completely useless exercise, programmed arbitrarily and unimaginatively by coaches who have run out of better ideas; an overused ‘filler’ movement, that can actually do more harm then good.
Personally, I’m not convinced, I quite like to believe that the ability to ‘stand back up from the ground’ is fairly foundational, and one I wouldn’t like to lose. Performing them (safely) at a supra functional level, and using the correct scale for a trainees abilities, I see a movement with universal carryover, and far more real world applicability than other movements that get a free ‘functional’ pass.
So the question is, are burpees overused or underrated?
We put this to you guys via social media to crowdsource an answer, let’s take a look at what you had to say-
THE MARMITE OF BODY WEIGHT MOVEMENTS
Many of you were strictly pro burpee, even if you were in the ‘love to hate them’ camp.
MAKE BURPEES GREAT AGAIN
Some of you agreed that burpees are an invaluable tool to have in your arsenal, but- they have to be used correctly. Throwing them in arbitrarily for a beasting, or worse still using them as a punishment is more likely than not the reason burpees get a bad rep in the first place.
MORE RISK THAN REWARD
We wouldn’t be asking this question if the burpee didn’t have it’s detractors. It’s easy to say ‘they suck’ and just move on, but some very valid points were made as to their use (or abuse) in the average trainees programme.
Interestingly enough, if you read between the lines, whichever camp you fall into the general premise remains the same; yes, they are an excellent movement when used correctly. The context in which the burpee is used is what matters most, and an appropriate scale or substitution should always be sought out when the full movement doesn't marry with the trainees goals or abilities.
But the truth is, this line of reasoning can (and should) be applied to any movement, it may well just be that it's easiest to cast stones at the burpee due to it's prevalence in many functional programmes, the reason for this more likely than not being- it's a very accessible movement, that requires no kit and very little thought, for better or for worse.
So, for me, like anything else in fitness, the important question is-
'Are we using the right tool, for the right job?'
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