Burpees: How To, Risks, Muscles Worked,…

Photo of author
Last Updated On

Find out how to do burpees, what muscles they work, and whether they are worth the somewhat higher injury risk.

Burpees are an exercise that is a sequence of a squat, plank, pushup, and jump squat.

By combining these, burpees focus more on cardiovascular health than each of these exercises separately does.

At the same time, many people will still get a lot of muscle fatigue from the pushups and jump squats involved.

The result is that burpees do offer improvements in cardiovascular health and often muscle mass (or at least endurance).

However, there are many burpee alternatives that are better in one of these areas.

Especially if your body is not used to exercise which involves a higher injury risk.

How to do a burpee

Take the following steps to do a burpee:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  2. Squat down and place your hands about shoulder width apart on the ground.
  3. Kick back your feet so that you get in a plank position. Make sure you keep your spine straight. Preferably keep your shoulders above your hands.
  4. Slowly fold your arms at your elbows as far as comfortable. Keep your upper arms at 45 degrees or less to your sides.
  5. Raise your upper body again until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
  6. Jump forward again so you are back in the position of step 2.
  7. Raise your body by stretching your legs with enough speed to jump in the air.
  8. Land with your legs at least slightly stretched to absorb the shock of landing.
How to do a burpee

Beginners, whether they are men or women, can do burpees by skipping the parts they struggle with or implementing a smaller range of motion.

For example, if the pushups are currently too hard for you, you can just implement a plank and do knee pushups to build strength separately.

What not to do when doing burpees

Some of the main things not to do when doing burpees are:

  • Caving your knees inward when squatting down. Keep them above your feet.
  • Bending spine too much during squats. This generally involves a higher injury risk than just keeping your spine straight.
  • Keeping arms fully stretched in plank position. Slightly folded tends to be more comfortable.
  • Not keeping shoulders above wrists in plank position. This makes burpees unnecessarily hard in terms of balance and coordination.
  • Keeping hips at the wrong height during the plank and pushup. This is not always the end of the world but does involve an extra injury risk.
  • Keeping upper arms too far from your body. This arm position tends to involve a higher injury risk for your shoulders.
  • Landing the jump squat with stretched legs. You want to bend your knees at least slightly for comfort and injury risk reduction.

These suboptimal burpee technique habits are not always the end of the world.

However, you do still generally want to avoid these things. Especially if your body is not that used to working out yet.

How to do burpees when overweight

The two main parts of the burpee exercise that can cause issues when overweight are the jump to plank position and the jump squat.

To resolve this, someone who is overweight can do burpees by stepping back into a plank position instead of jumping and doing a regular bodyweight squat instead of a jump squat.

Muscles worked with burpees

The main muscles burpees work are:

  • Quadriceps (front thighs)
  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Front deltoids (shoulders)
  • Abs
  • Glutes (butt)
  • Hamstrings (back thighs)
  • Calves
  • Erector spinae
  • Hip flexors

It is clear that burpees work many muscles but you also want to know that just working muscles is not always enough.

More specifically, whether burpees are enough to actually grow and strengthen muscles will depend on your personal capacities.

If you can do more than about 18 burpees without any muscles fatiguing, this is likely more of a cardiovascular and muscle endurance exercise for you.

On the flip side, beginners may feel their chest, triceps, and front deltoids fatiguing after something like 8 reps.

In that case, 3 to 6 sets of 8 burpees can help these beginners grow these muscles.

It is worth mentioning that more experienced individuals can do burpees with a weighted vest to get a higher chance of building muscle.

Ultimately, how many burpees you should do depends on details like your training goals, experience level, how much extra weight you use, and more.

Benefits of burpees

Even if it is not the number one exercise for everyone, burpees do offer benefits. Some examples are:

  1. Muscle endurance: At the very least, burpees can help you improve muscle endurance in a variety of areas.
  2. Better cardiovascular health: The jumping and switching between positions make burpees engaging for your cardiovascular system. This can lead to improvements and all of the benefits that come with that.
  3. Can help with losing weight: Moving more intensely by doing burpees will require extra energy. This can lead to weight loss if your other lifestyle habits are good enough.
  4. No equipment or location required: You can do burpees basically everywhere. This means you don’t have to invest in equipment or spend time going to the gym.
  5. Balance & coordination: Getting in position for each part of the burpee requires some balance and coordination. This can lead to benefits in these areas.

Burpees are not unique in these benefits but they are a fun option anyway.

What do burpees do for your body?

Working up to something like 100 burpees a day and sticking to it will do a few different things for your body.

One of the first things you may notice is that walking around and climbing stairs becomes a lot easier for your cardiovascular system.

In simpler words, your body will get out of breath less easily.

Additionally, the extra muscle endurance you can get will likely make a variety of daily tasks (including climbing stairs) easier.

You should also see some of the more general benefits of exericse like better sleep, mood improvements, and energy increases:

Initially, you may also see some weight loss.

Are burpees good for weight loss?

Burpees are good for weight loss in the sense that they help increase your energy usage.

In combination with good lifestyle habits, this can get you to the point where you use up more energy than you take in and in turn, lose some weight.

You do need to keep in mind that as you lose more weight, your burpee workouts will burn fewer calories.

In turn, you will have to do more burpees or make other positive lifestyle changes to keep seeing weight loss results.

Potential risks

Burpees do not only look challenging.

The shocks on your body can also be too much for your ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and back.

Even if you do burpees the “right” ways.

If you have (a history of) issues in these areas and/or are carrying around a few exta pounds, you likely want to start with other exercises.

Burpee alternatives

You likely want to know what alternatives are more effective or safer than burpees. A few of these that work similar body parts are:

  • Lunges
  • Plank jacks
  • Jump squats
  • Jumping jacks
  • Chest presses
  • Running
  • Mountain climbers
  • Box jumps

What burpee alternatives you want to do depends on why you don’t like the exercise and what areas of your fitness you want to improve.

Are burpees a good exercise?

Burpees are a good exercise in the sense that they can benefit your cardiovascular health and muscle endurance a lot.

At the same time, it is also fair to say that you can likely see more results by keeping your cardiovascular and resistance training workouts separately.

This especially applies to injury-sensitive and/or overweight people since burpees do involve a decent injury risk with all the jumps involved.

It is worth noting that your personal preference matters for your workout program too.

If you really like hating burpees, doing them could make it easier to stay consistent with your workout routine.


Do burpees slim your waist?

Yes, burpees slim your waist for at least some amount of time if you keep your other lifestyle habits the same.

Do burpees burn fat fast?

Yes, burpees burn fat fast compared to many other exercises.

At the same time, you need to keep in mind that your other lifestyle habits will influence your fat burning results a lot too.

Additionally, after the initial positive results, you will need to do more burpees to see more fat loss results.

Photo of author


Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.