Excuse Me: Burpee Substitutions and Modificationsby Jen Sinkler
I don’t like burpees. Now, before you say “No one really likes them, Jen,” I want to clarify why: I just don’t see them done well very often, regardless of the fitness level of those performing them.
Burpees are a physically demanding movement that requires significant shoulder and core stability, plus hip mobility, and when you do them under fatigue for high reps, form tends to fail. I see rounded or saggy lower backs during various transitions during the movement, and I’ve heard complaints of niggling pain often enough afterward that I straight-up don’t include them in the conditioning workouts I write anymore.
To be clear, I don’t believe there are any inherently bad exercises, and burpees have plenty of redeeming qualities (they strengthen many major muscle groups, teach coordination, develop aerobic capacity and promote explosive power, to name a few). I simply believe that exercises can and should be tailored to you instead of forcing yourself into a form that your body isn’t currently well-suited for. There are reasons for the many variations of the squat and deadlift, and reasons why not everyone who runs does so at the same speed or for the same distance. If you’re seeking to do effective exercises (and of course you are, or what’s the point?) then it makes sense to adapt them to meet you where you’re at. And today, we’re going to do that with burpees.
In the following video, I talk about common form missteps that occur during the traditional burpee, and how to address them through different modifications and variations so that you build better stability and mobility. Better every day is the name of the game, and the path to progress includes being able to adapt along the way.