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Describing a burpee is a bit like trying to describe a piece of abstract art -- each person interprets it a little differently. Depending on the source, a burpee may or may not include a pushup or a jump at the end of the movement. Modify different parts of the burpee to create an exercise that fits your exercise needs and goals.
Regardless of the specifics, all burpees involve moving from a standing position to a horizontal position and back to a standing position in a series of smooth, explosive motions. Start in a standing position with your arms by your sides and your feet about hip-width apart. Bend your knees, lower into a squat and place your hands flat on the floor in front of you. Explode off the balls of your feet to extend both legs out behind you. This places you in the plank stance, which is the top position of a pushup. Jump your feet forward, returning them to their original position near your hands. Jump up, extending your arms overhead, and return to a standing position. When you land, immediately bend your knees and move into your next burpee.
To make a burpee easier, eliminate some of the explosive movements and change the angle of your body. Beginners can start with an incline burpee. Place your hands on a bench or other sturdy surface between knee and waist height. Step back one leg at a time to an angled plank position. Hold this stance for a moment before stepping forward one leg at a time. The lower you place your hands, the more challenging the exercise is.
As you become more adept at burpees, perform this modification on level ground. Instead of jumping back and forth with both feet simultaneously, step with one leg at a time. You can also remove the jump at the end of the burpee and simply return to a standing position. These modifications eliminate the explosive movements and lessen the impact on your joints.
Adding weight to a burpee increases the difficulty of the exercise. Wear a weighted vest or hold dumbbells or a medicine ball while you perform burpees. You can also add a pushup to the burpee. After jumping back into a plank position, perform a pushup before jumping your feet forward to finish the movement. Modify the end of the burpee to increase the challenge of the exercise. Instead of jumping straight up, jump forward. You can also place a step box in front of your feet. When you explode up, jump onto the box.
Learn proper form and perfect the basic burpee before you modify the exercise to make it more challenging. Do not bend over at the waist to place your hands on the floor. Bend at the knees and push your hips back to lower into a squat. When you are in the plank stance, do not allow your hips to rise or sink. Keep your body in a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. If you cannot do a full pushup with good form, place your knees on the ground, do a knee pushup, then lift your knees and return to the plank position to finish the burpee.