Home » Burpees | What muscles do Burpees work and Burpees Exercises and Benefits (Nov. 2023)

Burpees | What muscles do Burpees work and Burpees Exercises and Benefits (Nov. 2023)

Burpees - The Best Exercise Ever

Burpees are referred by pros as being the single best exercise ever. Burpees target and work more muscle groups than any other bodyweight exercise. In this article we’ll go over what muscles are used in burpees, step by step guide and videos showing the proper way to do burpess. Maybe you didn’t do burpees before…



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Burpees are referred by pros as being the single best exercise ever. Burpees target and work more muscle groups than any other bodyweight exercise.

In this article we’ll go over what muscles are used in burpees, step by step guide and videos showing the proper way to do burpess.

Maybe you didn’t do burpees before or think it’s an exercise that’s just for Marines and Navy Seals.

The truth is that, with just a little bit of practice, almost anyone can do this amazing bodyweight only exercise.

There is no other bodyweight exercise that I can think of, that can help you build muscle and improve your cardio at the same time as effective as a burpee does.

Although the burpee is a bodyweight only exercise, don’t mistake it for being easy or ineffective.

If you are strong and feel burpees are too easy for you, I’ll show you how you can work your muscles harder by adding resistance to get stronger and add muscle mass.

There is no other single exercise that works so many muscles.

You don’t need a gym membership or any equipment to whip yourself into shape. You don’t even need an exercise mat, nothing. You can do burpees anywhere, whether in your bedroom, office or at the hotel when travelling.

Even if you work out in a gym or have your own fancy home gym, I still suggest you implement burpees as part of your fitness routine.

We’ll go over all the benefits of burpees, the muscles they are targeting and more so you’ll be a burpee ninja.

Although the burpee has been invented over 80 years ago, it has exploded in popularity only in recent years.

This Google Trends diagram shows people interest in the word “BURPEES” over time.
Notice the major increase in popularity in the past 5 years

What Is A Burpee?

The Burpee is a bodyweight exercise that combines several movements together into one compound movement that works many muscles at the same time.

Because it’s a bodyweight only exercise, you don’t need any specialized equipment to perform them besides yourself 🙂

Not that using machines is inherently bad or anything, they have their place.

Burpee vs. Machines

If the burpee is the best bodyweight exercise, then the vertical climber has to be the single best exercise machine. It recruits more muscles than any other machine and provides an intense full body workout.

However, machines are bulky and not exactly something you can carry around with you wherever you go. The burpee, on the other hand, doesn’t require anything, making it the ultimate on the go exercise.

The burpee is a relatively simple exercise too.

Sure it requires some getting used to, but you can get familiar and good faster than you think.

Even though the exercise is simple to perform, it’s not necessarily easy. After doing a few reps, you’ll start to appreciate how hard the exercise can get.

I will discuss ways in which you can make burpees harder, such as when your goal is to add muscle mass, or to make it easier when you want to work more on endurance.

There’s a good reason burpees are referred by many as the perfect exercise.

Combining Burpees With Other Exercises

While the burpee is a compound exercise that hits so many muscles at the same time (both directly and indirectly), sometimes you want to target a specific body part so you can work it harder.

For example, if you want a fully developed chest, it makes sense to do exercises that focus more on your pectorals. The good news is that just as you don’t have to go to the gym for burpees, the same goes for working out your chest and other muscles.

You can get an intense chest workout at home, getting fuller biceps or thick forearms.

Although all exercises can be done without weights, homemade dumbbells are another option.

How To Do A Basic Burpee

In order to get the most out of this straightforward bodyweight exercise, it’s important to perform it correctly.

Fortunately, the burpee is pretty easy to learn.

Step 1

You begin a burpee standing upright with both feet planted firmly on the ground about a shoulder width apart.

Step 2

Lower yourself into a squat until you can place your hands flat on the ground in front of you.

Step 3

Moving quickly, thrust your feet and legs backward until you’re in a plank position.

Step 4

Lower yourself to do a pushup.

Step 5

Jump straight up with your hands over your head to complete one rep before squatting to place your hands on the ground again.

The trick to doing the burpee is to perform it as quickly as possible.

This means that you may find that you’re breathless and sweaty after only 10 reps.

That’s just how effective the burpee is, and that’s why so many elite athletes make burpees a part of their routine.

Here’s how to do burpees :

Burpees For Beginners

Burpees are a strenuous exercise that requires strength, agility, and coordination.

If you’ve been sedentary for quite some time, then start out slow.

It’s advisable that you consult with a physician before you begin any exercise program to make certain that you’re healthy enough.

Rather than just trying to perform 30 burpees in one workout session, choose a way to pace yourself.

Try five slow burpees while you’re getting used to the movement.

As you practice, you’ll find that the exercise begins to feel more natural.

That’s when you can start moving faster and doing more reps.

Here’s a video about Burpees for beginners:

Take your time.

As your strength, coordination and endurance improve, you’ll be able to do more burpees at a faster pace.

Keep at it, and chances are good that you’ll be surprised at how quickly you begin to see progress.

Advanced Burpees – Make It Harder

One of the great things about the burpee is that there are millions of variations you can do to make it harder.

The most frequently seen variation features a push-up.

Basically, once you’re in the plank position, you perform a push up before springing your legs back in.

That the version I prefer and the one demonstrated.

Like the basic push up exercise, adding this movement to the burpee works your arms, shoulders and chest. Talk about a small change that can make a huge difference in your upper body strength.

Making Burpees Harder With Dumbbells

If you want to make burpees even more challenging and work your muscles harder you can them with dumbbells. 

Hitting Your Muscles Harder With An Upgraded Burpee Workout

You can supercharge burpees into a muscle building workout by using heavy dumbbells and adding more moves into the exercise.

Here’s a good way to do it with this 90 seconds grueling burpee set:

The Benefits Of Burpees

From torching calories to working out every muscle group in your body, burpees are endlessly beneficial.

Here are a few of the benefits you’ll get when you add them to your workout routine.

Benefit #1 – You’ll Burn Tons Of Calories

They provide you with an intense, full-body workout that demands that you give everything you’ve got.

This means that you will burn serious calories as you perform the exercise.

However, that’s not where the calorie-burning benefits end.

As you perform burpees on a regular basis, your metabolism will start to change.

You’ll probably gain a bit of muscle mass, too, and that means that you’ll burn more calories even while you’re sitting behind a computer or sleeping.

Benefit #2 – You’ll Improve Your Endurance

Whether you’re training for a challenging hike, to run your first marathon or just to get through the day with less fatigue, you’ve got to improve your endurance.

The better your endurance is, the better prepared you are to deal with periods of prolonged stress.

Whether that stress comes at the office or in the midst of a long run, your body will be better able to take on the challenge when your endurance is up to snuff.

Fortunately, burpees are a wonderful method for improving endurance.

That’s because they give you not only a cardio challenge, but also the strength-building aspect that is essential to enhancing endurance.

When you make burpees a part of your fitness routine, chances are good that you’ll see your performance increase in other areas, like your ability to run long distances, as well.

Benefit #3 – Burpees Work Many Muscles At The Same Time

There’s nothing wrong with isolation exercises like dumbbell curls and crunches, they can form a valuable component of your workout routine.

However, isolation exercises don’t allow your body to work in concert the way it is designed to do.

By focusing on one muscle or group of muscles at a time, you may be shortchanging yourself.

Full-body exercises give you plenty of bang for your buck by working many muscle groups at once.

Full-body exercises like the burpee allow all of the major muscle groups in your body to work together, which is exactly what they have to do in real life.

That means you’re training your body to meet everyday challenges in a more natural and realistic way.

Benefit #4 – Burpees Build Total-body Strength

There aren’t many full-body exercises that target as many muscle groups as the burpee.

As you squat to place your hands on the ground, you’re relying on your quads, hamstrings and glutes.

Your erector spinae muscles, which are your lower back muscles also get engaged to keep you stable.

As you thrust your legs backward, you continue to engage your glutes and hamstrings, but more muscles get involved the moment your toes hit the floor.

Your hip flexors and quads get in on the action during most of the movement.

At the same time, your abs tighten and the muscles of your shoulders, upper back, chest and arms tighten and contract.

Burpees for Strength and Muscle

If you’re adding a push up to your burpee, which is what I recommend, then you’ll be putting even more stress on your chest, shoulder and triceps.

Because maintaining proper spine alignment is critical, this movement will also give all of the muscles of your core a workout.

Springing your legs forward gives your abs another challenge while also working the hip flexors. Your upper-body muscles will also remain tense so you don’t fall over.

As you leap up in the air, your quads, glutes and hamstrings will contract. Swinging your arms over your head offers another challenge for your shoulders.

When you look at it this way, it’s easy to see why the burpee is such an incredible strength-building exercise.

Did you count all the muscles I mentioned that are used during the movement?

Your upper and lower legs: quads, hamstrings and calves.

Your butt: hip flexors and glutes

Your lower and upper back: erector spinae and lats (latissimus).

Upper body: chest and shoulders.

And of course your arms, abs and core musclesThese are other secondary muscles working, but you get the idea, tons of muscles are involved with just one single exercise.

Benefit #5 – It’s Easier To Do One Compound Exercise

A compound exercise like the burpee can simplify your workout routine because you won’t have to do as many isolation exercises.

Simple is good.

Just as importantly, you can probably get a better workout in much less time when you focus on full-body moves like the burpee.

Sometimes just thinking about the next exercise you have to do is daunting.

Suddenly, the excuse that you don’t have enough time to exercise doesn’t make much sense.

Even three rounds of 10 or 15 burpees may be all you need to squeeze in a good workout on a really tough day.

Benefit #6 – Anyone Can Learn Burpees

Because you don’t need specialized equipment, you already have everything you need for doing burpees.

You can master master the exercise yourself.

In fact, you could say that burpees are deceptively “easy”, while at the same time giving you an intense physical challenge.

You may have thought that this exercise was just for Army Rangers, but the truth is that anyone can benefit from making this full-body exercise a part of their routine.

For working most of the major muscle groups while also providing a cardiovascular challenge, you really can’t go wrong with burpees.

Burpee History

If you’ve done some burpees in the past, then you’re probably wondering what kind of psychopath came up with such a tortuous exercise.

Actually, you have an American physiologist to blame or thank, depending upon your point of view.

In the 1930s, Royal H. Burpee was working on his PhD thesis. He was trying to come up with a single exercise that could quickly determine overall fitness.

The U.S. Armed Services adopted the exercise to help them evaluate the physical abilities of recruits.

Now, you see burpees everywhere.

From professional football players to soccer moms in fitness boot camps, the burpee is extraordinarily popular.

We’ve already discovered that the burpee is a bodyweight exercise that can be performed anywhere.

However, that only scratches the surface when it comes to what makes the burpee such a perfect exercise.

The burpee remains popular because it works on so many levels. While you are building strength, you’re also getting a tremendous cardiovascular workout.

At the same time, you’re improving your balance and coordination.

You may feel more agile after performing burpees for a few weeks. In fact, there’s virtually no end to the benefits you can get from burpees.

What’s Next? Beyond Burpees

While Burpees are great as a single exercise, there are other bodyweight exercises you can do to focus more on your chest and  back muscles or even your biceps and forearms.

About Tim & Lisa


Hey there, I’m Tim, co-founder of GymPerson.com.
I am a former fitness physique competitor with over 20 years of intense experience in strength training, weight lifting and body transformation.

I’m Lisa, a donut eater turned into a health conscious person turned into a marathon runner (side note: losing some 60+ pounds along the way!)

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