Anyone who has watched or participated in any type of Cross-Fit style workout has witnessed the power of the exercise called

The Burpee (UGH!)

Maybe you are new to “functional fitness” and have seen someone complete a burpee (or 12) then voiced the athelete’s thoughts:  (UGH!).  As well, you’ve wondered:

  • “What is so “functional” about a burpee?”
  • “And who came up with that name – Burpee?”

Plus, if you are a MissionFiT athlete, start warming up.  The Gym Challenge for February 2023 is our topic!

The NameThe Burpee (UGH!)

Royal Huddleston Burpee, Sr. is credited with inventing the exercise that now bears his name.  According to Men’s Journal, “Royal’s middle name…was Huddleston, his mother’s maiden name. His last name was likely the Americanization of the French-Canadian surname Beaupré.”  Burpee was completing his doctorate in Applied Physiology at “Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City, in 1940 and created the “burpee” exercise as part of his PhD thesis”.   The original exercise is what millions of junior high school kids know as a Squat Thrust.  But it wasn’t long before the exercise became known by the name of its inventor.

The Purpose

According to Wikipedia, “the original burpee was a “four-count burpee” consisting of movements through four different positions…the burpee was performed four times, with five heart rate measurements taken before and after the four successive burpees to measure the efficiency of the heart at pumping blood and how quickly the heart rate returns to normal.”  After Burpee completed his PhD., the US Armed Services began using the exercise as part of several fitness tests to assess inductees when the United States entered World War II.  Since then, the exercise, has been modified to include other movements like push-ups, pull-ups, box jumps and weights.

Healthline also notes these health benefits:

  • stronger heart and lungs
  • improved blood flow
  • lower risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • lower blood pressure
  • improved cholesterol levels
  • improved brain function

However, as strength & conditioning specialist, Mark DiSalvo explains, “[burpees] are an advanced, complicated movement that require a high-level of strength to perform properly…”  Specifically, burpees require stable shoulders, tight core and hip mobility.  In addition, Men’s Health Fitness Director, Ebeneezer Samuel, recommends Bear Crawls, time on the rower or Jump Squats as suitable substitutes.

The MissionFit Challenge

Veteran and rookie MissionFit Athletes alike are used to seeing burpees sprinkled throughout workouts.  And Coach K is great about making sure athletes who need the extra help know how to modify this exercise (and every exercise) to their benefit.  With that in mind, the MissionFiT Gym February 2023 Challenge is 20 Burpees each day.  Here’s the scoop:

  • Do them all at once or in sets throughout the day.  Make sure you pace yourself!
  • Make sure your check with Coach K if you need modifications…and stick with those modifications.
  • Keep track of your total each day on the calendar of your choice (digital, paper & pencil).
  • Remember:  The burpees you do in class also count toward your daily goal.

Need some guidance in completing a burpee?  Just click this Resources Link and scroll to the section on Burpees.  Then watch how to do a regular burpee and a few of the different variations.  Remember:  You DO NOT have to be a World Record Holder!

Two Burpee “Helps”

If you’ve done any number of burpees in your life, then you know the exercise quickly gets you breathless and can wear you out.  That’s where both pacing and breathing techniques can be helpful.  Let’s take a look at these factors.

The Burpee (UGH!)Pacing The Burpee

Recall that when Dr. Burpee first created the exercise, he created a four-count movement.  You can use this pattern AND a metronome (there’s an app for that!) to help you find a pace that challenges you to complete a set of burpees with good form.  Say you want to do one minute of burpees.  Instead of going all out, set the metronome to 36 or 40 Beats/Minute.  Complete each part of the burpee on each beat.  After four beats, you will have completed 1 burpee.  Continuously repeat each movement, to the beat, for an entire minute and you will have completed 8-10 burpees.    Here’s what we mean:


  1. Begin standing
  2. Move to a squat position with hands on the ground.  This is count 1.
  3. Kick your feet back into plank.  Keep arms extended. This is count 2.
  4. Return your feet to the squat position.  This is count 3.
  5. Stand back up.  This is count 4.

Remember, find the pace that’s right for you to complete the exercise with good form.  You can always increase or decrease the pace, using the metronome beat to help you.  Read Using A Metronome For Exercise Workouts to learn more!


During any “chipper” workout, you hear Coach K yell out “Don’t forget to breathe!”  Proper breathing during any strenuous exercise is key to improving overall fitness and endurance.  Watch as Nick Ortega demonstrates his breathing technique when completing a chest-to-ground burpee.   You can use the same technique for the 4-count “squat thrust” burpee.

The Burpee (UGH!)In addition, read over this article on Exercising Mindfully.  Before doing a heavy cardio workout, think about “warming-up” with breathing exercises.  This will help you begin to focus on a good breathing pattern, bringing more oxygenated blood into your arms & legs, helping to alleviate fatigue.  Don’t forget to focus on your body, too, especially while you are completing different movements.   By bringing mindfulness to your training, you won’t just be “going through the motions”.  Getting to the end of the workout should not be your focus.  Using your time lifting weights or rowing or doing burpees should workout your mind as well as your body.

In Summary

Learning to do burpees properly will give you a better overall workout experience.  You will improve your overall fitness level and can use tools, like the metronome, to help you complete other body-weight and CrossFit style workouts.  Developing good breathing techniques during exercise takes time.  But with practice and conscious effort you can become more efficient in the gym and complete longer workouts with less rest.  In addition, if you complete the MissionFiT Gym challenge, you will have done 560 burpees in 28 days.  And, just maybe, you will have a little more confidence in the gym to continue on your journey to be MissionFiT!

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