Ben Bruno trains some of the baddest of the badass stars, and you can rest assured his celebrity clients are NOT doing burpees.

By Ben Bruno as told to Faith Brar
Updated: March 15, 2019
Photo: Vadiar / Shutterstock

I don't believe in burpees. My primary problem with them is that they're a set of advanced, complicated movements that are often used with beginners who are not ready. Not to mention, throwing yourself to the ground repeatedly, as fast as you can, is inherently a stupid idea. Why would anyone want to do that?

Most people who disagree with my opinion are strong, athletic individuls-and I'm sorry but my argument isn't directed at you. I'm not talking about the savage CrossFitter or former track star who now just likes to exercise. I'm speaking to the average person with an average fitness level. If you're trying to lose weight and feel better about your body, and are learning the ins and outs of exercising, you don't have any business doing burpees. Why? Because people in this group often lack the requisite strength and mobility to do the movements correctly, which unnecessarily increases the risk of injury. (Related: Why Jillian Michaels Wants You to Stop Kipping In CrossFit)

Just watch a boot camp class or group fitness class where an instructor tells 50 plus people, who are all at different fitness levels, to just drop down and do 20 burpees. It's cringe-worthy. For most people, 18 of those 20 burpees will be in horrible form because they don't have someone telling them not to arch their back or to modify if they feel like they're putting too much stress on their shoulders, etc.

And let's be clear, I'm not saying that these people are fragile, or that burpees are as risky as doing a max deadlift. I'm saying that if the goal of doing burpees is to get your heart rate up, there are literally a million safer and more effective ways to attain that goal. (Related: Legit, Certified Instagram Trainers to Follow for Serious Fitness Motivation)

I think a lot of people equate being tired with having had a good workout. Burpees epitomize that. People like feeling smoked in the middle of a workout. A couple of burpees in and you feel like your heart is beating out of your chest, you're breaking a sweat, and you're out of breath. It creates an illusion that you're doing something. But to get the cardio effect, you have to do them in higher reps and at an accelerated pace. And there are people doing that who don't have the mobility to do the movements correctly. It's just the wrong tool for the job, and the risks outweigh the benefits. (Are you overtraining? Here Are 9 Reasons to Skip Your Workout)

Still, some will argue that burpees are a "functional" movement-that in life you're going to fall down and burpees will help you learn to get back up. TBH, that rationale makes no sense. I don't think you should practice repeatedly falling. That's like saying you should tackle football players during practice every day since they're going to get hit on the field. Or spar with a boxer daily since that's what they're doing in the ring. But all those athletes will tell you that it's much more efficient to build overall strength through safer training methods and make your body more resilient to prep you for the inevitable. Why put your body at risk when you don't have to? (Try these three substitutes for burpees instead.)

Now I know that there's no point to talking sh*t about something without offering an alternative. So as an educator and a personal trainer who works with people fighting to improve their health, I want you to know that there are plenty of alternatives to burpees that promise the same results. Pretty much any cardio machine-think rower, VersaClimber, stair-climber-will get the job done. And of course, sprints will never disappoint. If you don't have access to equipment, bodyweight circuits are also an awesome alternative to get your heart rate up. Literally, do any other cardio-based workout other than burpees and you're likely better off.

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Comments (3)

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