Exercise Anatomy

Better Your Burpees

Make your burpees less miserable with these three tips.

Josh Zitomer, a CSCS-credentialed trainer, offers the following techniques he employed to make arguably the most dreaded exercise on the planet a little less miserable. “But they’ll always be kind of miserable,” he adds.

Technique #1: Knee Snap


“A critical aspect of burpee efficiency is your landing position. If you land with too much knee bend (full squatting position), you’ll end up wearing your quads out pretty quickly. I started using something I call the ‘knee snap’ to ensure I was landing with higher hips to make it easier on my legs.

“Here’s how it goes: After doing the push-up and being back in the perfect full plank position, bend at the knees as if you were dropping them to do a kneeling push-up while maintaining that flat-back plank. When your knees are about an inch from the ground, forcefully snap them back into a straight position. As you do so, begin your upward movement of the hips to come out of the burpee. The goal is to create momentum that will help you get your hips higher coming out of the burpee.”

Technique #2: Shoulder Punch


“I created this technique because my hip flexibility isn’t so good. The ‘shoulder punch’ is actually what’s called shoulder/scapular protraction — pushing forward of the shoulders. This is essentially what I do coming out of the burpee. As I’m finishing my push-up and snapping my hips up, I also add the shoulder punch, which allows me to do two things more efficiently: (1) It allows me to get my feet farther underneath me and my hips higher, which requires less range of motion in the hips; and (2) it creates some upward momentum, which again allows me to get my hips higher on the landing.”

Technique #3: Hand Placement


“To save the arms and shoulders, hand placement is key. When you drop down into your plank position, your hands should be directly under your shoulders. This means that when you go down into your push-up position, they’ll end up just below your chest with your arms tucked in close to your sides. What you don’t want is the hands being too wide and too high. This causes internal rotation at the shoulders, which causes the elbows to bow outward and the shoulders to ‘collapse in.’ Not only is this an inefficient movement, but it’s also a dangerous position to be in when you load the arms to come out of the burpee.”