Dirt in your skirt blog

Burpee Debate

Posted on March 25, 2012 by Margaret Schlachter

The burpee, an infamous exercise in the obstacle racing world. With the push-up or without the push-up it is possibly the most loved, hated, loathed and feared exercise at the same time. It is also an exercise that has been around forever, however with the rise of CrossFit and other functional lifting programs it seems to came back into vogue lately.

If you search the internet you will find a bunch of variations claiming they are THE CORRECT or THE ORIGINAL form for the exercise. After some research and a consultation with the Oxford Dictionary this is the original definition as far as I can find for the exercise:

BURPEE – noun

a physical exercise consisting of a squat thrust made from and ending in a standing position

The burpees origins date back to the 1930s and are named for Royal H. Burpee an American psychologist. The Burpee Test was how the word was originally used to describe a test in which a series of burpees were performed in rapid succession to test and measure agility and coordination. There is another story that many Crossfitters tell with military undertones about where the exercise got it’s name but that is just urban legend.

Original Four-Count Burpee:


Start Standing Up

1. Place hands on ground in a squat position

2. Kick your legs out into the plank position

3. Return to Squat position hands on ground

4. Return to standing


However, the burpee most known to many today is the Eight-Count Bodybuilder Burpee or the Military Eight-Count Bodybuilder which is the one that includes the push-up and jump or jump and clap. All you have to do to find many variations of burpees is to pull up the Wikipedia Page on burpees. It lists twenty-one variations to the original movement.

If you are an obstacle racer, the official burpee for Spartan Race as demonstrated before the 2011 World Championships is the Four-Count Burpee. At the Spartan Race the penalty for failing on an obstacle is thirty burpees. This is the burpee used in races and the burpee I practice the most to be best prepared for race day. I personally work to increase my speed in the four-count in order to be able to move through penalties quickly. If I am looking to increase my upper body strength in the workout I prefer the Eight-Count Bodybuilder.

In the end it doesn’t matter which version of the burpee you practice. It is one of the best movements in order to work both your endurance and your agility. If you are a beginner try doing 10 in a row, as you progress work up to doing 40 or 50 without breaking. It’s harder than it sounds. Whichever burpee you choose make sure you are checked by a doctor before starting a new fitness routine and move slowly through the movement to practice proper form.