Squat thrusts and burpees are exercises with some similarities but also some differences. What are these and which option should you choose?
In the squat thrust, you squat down and put your hand on the ground, kick your feet back to a plank, kick your feet forward again, and squat up.
Burpees also use this sequence but you add a pushup in the plank position and you do a jump squat instead of a regular squat where you stop at the top of the movement.
This makes it so squat thrusts focus mostly on leg and core muscles. Burpees also target your chest, triceps, and shoulders, and your legs in a more explosive way. The flow of burpees is also usually easier to do at a high pace to train your cardiovascular health.
As a strength training beginner you can use these exercises to build some leg and core muscle strength. However, for many people the main downside of squat thrusts and burpees is that they are not challenging enough to build a lot of muscle.
At that point, these exercises become more of a cardiovascular exercise and burpees are likely the more effective choice. However, if training your cardiovascular health is your main goal, there are better exercise choices.
Squat thrusts vs burpees: technique
Squat thrusts are a combination of a bodyweight squat and a plank. Burpees add a pushup and change the bodyweight squat to a squat jump.
This change makes a difference in the muscles you work, your injury risk, the cardiovascular training potential, etc.
How to do a squat thrust
How to do a burpee
Squat thrusts vs burpees: muscles worked
Both squat thrusts and burpees work the following muscles:
- Erector spinae
- Variety of upper back muscles
Burpees also work the following muscles on top of that:
The way you train your muscles influences what fitness component you improve. Regular squats at a slower pace will train either muscle endurance or muscle strength. The jump squat part in burpees works on your muscle power fitness component.
The way you build muscle is by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough. This may sound counterintuitive but this damaging makes it so your body repairs these muscles, and adds a bit more to be better prepared to exert similar efforts in the future.
If you stick to exercises with the same weight, as your muscles become stronger this same effort may not damage your muscles enough to promote extra muscle growth.
This is why initially both squat thrusts and burpees can help you build some muscle in these places. However, relatively soon other exercises will be more effective for building muscle. At that point, both become more of a cardiovascular workout.
Comparison of injury risk
Another important thing you need to look at in the squat thrust vs burpee comparison is the injury risk with each of these workouts. An injury can reduce the amount of time you can exercise to 0 in the worst case.
Consistency is an important factor when improving your health. Doing one big workout is often not as effective as three medium ones.
That means that a workout with a smaller injury risk may be less effective today but more in the long term by avoiding periods of injury in which you do no exercise at all.
Burpees are generally worse in this category than squat thrusts. The jump at the end puts extra shocks on body parts like ankles, knees, hips, and back. Besides that, pushups done with a suboptimal technique can be hard on your shoulders.
Squat thrusts avoid both of these movements that increase your injury risk. Keep in mind that squat thrusts can still be rough on body parts like your knees and back.
If you have bad knees and a lot of pounds to lose you most likely shouldn’t do either of these exercises. In that cases, exercises like walking, swimming, or using an elliptical trainer are likely better choices.
So in terms of injury risk, squat thrusts are generally better than burpees although squat thrusts are not perfect either. Not everyone is as sensitive to injury so whether this factor is important depends on your personal situation.
Which one is right for you?
Whether squat thrusts or burpees are the best choice for you depends on your personal situation.
For resistance training beginners, both options can help build some leg muscle. Burpees likely slightly more and more in an explosive way. If you are more experienced with leg resistance training and want to build more muscle, other options are likely better.
Besides that burpees can help you build some tricep and chest muscle.
The sequence of movements in burpees is generally easier to do at a high pace. This means burpees are likely better for cardiovascular training.
However, burpees also involve a higher injury risk than squat thrusts. So if you are injury sensitive in certain body parts you may want to choose squat thrusts or even better alternatives.
You also preferably want to like doing your workout. If you don’t, it becomes harder to stick to. The exercise that doesn’t get done doesn’t offer any health benefits.
Ultimately you want to weigh each of these factors versus each other for each workout and your individual situation. You can then decide which one suits you best. You can also give both a shot and find out which one works the best for you.