How to Master the Burpee

A friend of mine and I were recently discussing books and we both mentioned how much we liked The New Toughness Training for Sports by James E. Loehr. While reviewing it I found some key lessons on something that seems to stump and stumble a lot of people, and that is mastering the burpee.

You may have seen many facebook posts like “Burpees, 0 people like this” or “Burpees don’t like you either.” In fact, when I helped to give a Commando Krav Maga Class in Monterey, California it was the burpees in the warmup that made people say that they would like to take the class but they felt intimidated by the warmup and never signed up.

So what is it about the burpee that inspires so much hatred and fear and how can we turn this around so we can master the burpee? OK, burpees is one of those exercises that the more you do them the more it SUCKS. OK, we all agree on that. Now, how do we master the burpee? Here is where some lessons from Toughness Training come into play.

The book makes a brilliant explanation of three key terms.

The first one is talent which is genetic potential, this is what you were born with. However, note that there is yet to be a single champion, a worthwhile athlete, or person who got in shape merely on potential.

The second one is skills which are learned and include the mechanics of jumping, running, kicking, etc and are acquired through hard work, repetition and practice.

The third one and the most important one is toughness which is the skill that enables you to bring all your talents and skills to life on demand.

OK, so what do we have here? If you have two legs, two arms, and a spine that works then you have all the talent or genetic potential required for performing burpees. That’s one checkmark next to talent in mastering the burpee.

Now what? If you have learned the proper mechanics of performing the burpee and all its variations then you have the required skill for mastering the burpee. There are countless youtube videos to see what it looks like, however if you want a detailed explanation of the burpee and all its variations along with key guidelines on how to incorporate the breathing (which is KEY!) then I highly recommend my program Extreme Military Fitness Basic. If you have the skills (or mechanics) of the burpee down then make a checkmark next to skills in mastering the burpee.

Here is the exciting part, toughness is learned, it is a skill that has to be practiced just like the mechanical ones. Toughness has to do with the type of mental, physical and emotional attributes you access when you are challenged. If you can do burpees with gusto and explosiveness for long periods of time, even when you feel tired or you REALLY DON’T WANT TO DO THEM but do them anyway, then you can mark of your toughness quota on the burpee checklist.

If you need to work on the toughness part, then here is how we can start. First, start changing your whole mindset and approach to the burpee. Adding feelings of confidence, energy, and fun while attacking the burpee, even though you may be dying on the inside is the first stepping stone on your path to master the burpee. If you start thinking that “this is going to suck” or “I never get them right anyway” or “why do I even have to do this, this is stupid” or “OMG, not burpees, ANYTHING but burpees!” then you are defeated before you even start.

The second stepping stone would be to practice it consistently until you master the movement. This reminds me when I joined the Army and everyone was having problems with the two mile run and making the times they needed. There was one guy who always got outstanding scores in his run time. When people would ask him what they could do to improve their run times he would simply say “RUN!” He later confided in me that people seem to think there is some sort of trick which sucks less than actually running. He related how they were looking for some easy stretches or stride running trick that would take up the actual practice of running regularly. The same applies with the burpee.

I have a confession to make, I too was challenged by the burpee. So how did I change that? Well I underwent a process which is described in Extreme Military Fitness Basic where I started myself and others on the basic burpee and built us all up to the more advanced jump burpee with pushup. It was a 12 week program where you already knew in advance that you would be doing burpees twice a week every week.

I also know that there is a public element to the burpee. Yes, you know what I am talking about. If you are overweight, lack conditioning and coordination, and go to a class or group setting where there are people banging away at burpees and make it look easy while you are stumbling after your fifth repetition, then you get an inward motivation to avoid doing it because of feelings of shame and inadequacy. One way to address this is to practice in private until you master it and then join a group. The best way to do this is with Extreme Military Fitness Basic.

In the Extreme Military Fitness Basic webpage I mention that I ran my Navy Physical Readiness Test 15 seconds faster without running a single day in four months. I realize now that the reason I was able to do that did not have to do with an increase in my talent or skill at running, it had to do with the toughness I had developed through the 12 weeks of organized training tackling things I was uncomfortable with, like burpees. This in turn created the mental, physical and emotional resources to endure which allowed me to run 15 seconds faster. I was able to bring all my talent and skill on demand to an event that and has consequences on my military career.

If you want to go through the same process and build toughness while mastering the burpee then order Extreme Military Fitness Basic NOW!

All my best,
Eric Guttmann

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