The burpee has become notorious, recognized far and wide by many as the worst exercise to ever be subjected to. Burpees can be incredibly challenging, especially for those who are still developing a base level of aerobic capacity. They are indeed an effective conditioning tool and, as a result, have found their way in just about every general fitness program in one form or another. However, they are so commonly used that they may seem to be nothing more than a trope; something to be tossed in the mix because they are so intrinsically associated with endurance training. Is there any unique reason why burpees should be included in a strength and conditioning program?
As it turns out, burpees are incredibly simple. However, simple exercises are often the most challenging and effective and, consequently, the most rewarding. Take, for example, the squat or the deadlift. There is nothing particularly extraordinary about them, but they are analogous to the foundational movement patterns that we use in everyday life, such as sitting down onto and standing up from a chair or picking up an item from the floor. These basic exercises provide an incredible return on investment, especially later in life. The burpee is very similar. Although it is not necessarily a strength-building exercise, it does mimic a very important movement pattern; getting up from the ground.
According to the CDC, about 36 million falls are reported among older adults (age 65 years and older) each year, resulting in more than 32,000 deaths. Each year at least 300,000 older adults are hospitalized for hip fractures, 95% of which are caused by falls. (fn. 1) Clearly, falling is a substantial health risk to older adults. A well-rounded general fitness program increases strength, bone density, and resilience. Through use of the burpee, individuals also practice and improve the foundational ability to get up from the ground. True, the burpee may be annoying to you, but so are most things that are good for you. Your older self will thank you, so keep doing them!
(fn. 1) “Keep on Your Feet-Preventing Older Adult Falls.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Dec. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/older-adult-falls/index.html.