Burpees. They’re the exercise that everyone loves to hate, including me. In fact, nothing fills me with dread faster than when a PT asks me to get down and give them 20. Many a fitness class and bootcamp holiday has been ruined over the years by this horrid move, and, if I’m honest, I’ve even ghosted several fitness instructors once I’ve found out they like to include burpees in their roster of exercises. As far as I’m concerned, if you like burpees, you’re a sadist.
The problem with disliking burpees, however, is that they’re an incredibly effective and versatile exercise that work your respiratory system to the max until you’re gasping for air and target just about every single muscle in your body at the same time. Which begs the question: why just jump, squat, plank or do press-ups separately when you can string all these elements together to form one single timesaving move?
Suffering from burpee FOMO, I hated to think I was losing out on the benefits of burpees just because my mindset was programmed to resist them. So, with that in mind, I decided to turn my negative feelings towards this tortuous exercise around by setting myself a challenge: to do 100 burpees a day for a week. After doing 50 squats a day for a month and 100 kettlebell swings a day for a week, this burpee challenge seemed fitting. Did I learn to love them? Let’s find out!
What is a burpee?
The burpee is the ultimate cardo-strength hybrid exercise because it works your heart and lungs, builds strength and endurance from top to toe, challenges your coordination, mobility, and flexibility, and improves power and explosivity. Additionally, studies show that high-intensity moves such as burpees can burn 50 per cent more fat than traditional strength training exercises. As a bodyweight exercise, it requires zero equipment, so it can also be done anytime, anywhere. The easiest way to think of a burpee is to split it into four exercises: a squat, followed by a plank, then a push-up, and then a jump squat.
How to do a burpee?
You can read T3's full explainer here: How to do burpees and master this much loved/hated full-body cardio exercise. Below, you'll find a quick explainer of the sequence:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then squat by bending your knees and sending your hips back, keeping your chest up.
- Place your hands on the floor with your knees wider than your elbows. Keeping a flat back and core engaged, jump your feet back, so you land into a plank position.
- Ensuring your shoulders are over your wrists and your body forms a straight line from head to heels, lower your plank into a push-up.
- Now, reverse the movement by pushing through your hands to come into a straight-arm plank position, jumping your feet towards your hands, and extending your hips to come into an upright standing position. At the same time, jump upwards and reach your hands overhead.
I did 100 burpees a day for a week – here’s what happened
I split my burpees into five sets of 20 on days one and two to spread them through the day. My thinking was that this would help to ease the load and reduce some of the physical and mental stress I’d be putting my body under (please note, you probably shouldn’t attempt this challenge if you have issues with your back or wrists).
If I’m honest, I detested every single second of my burpee sets and felt utterly miserable knowing I still had more sets to do. Physically, I woke up on day two feeling very sore and stiff, especially around my core and glutes, but the mental agony was far worse.
By day three, feeling in a whole world of pain, I decided the best approach was to attempt all 100 burpees in one go to get them over and done with as quickly as possible. That said, slow and steady definitely wins the race here because good form is essential if you want to avoid injury, and that means you need to be watching your hand and foot placement at all times, as well as keeping your core braced.
If truth be told, I took minute-long rests after every 10 burpees to catch my breath and refocus and crumpled into a sweaty heap on the floor after I’d completed my 100 reps. But at least they were finally over, and I could get on with the rest of my day, even if stairs were a bit of a problem because my legs and glutes felt so wobbly.
On day four, I was grateful to wake up and find that most of my DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) had disappeared overnight. Physically, at least, I felt much better and stronger, but mentally, I tackled the burpees as though I had a death sentence hanging over me.
But on day five, I’m glad to report that something finally clicked in my head. Maybe it was the repetition of doing so many burpees over and over for five days in a row, or that I was getting a little bit fitter, but suddenly the burpees were becoming easier, less painful, and I didn’t have to take so many rests.
By day six, I only had to take one break at the 50-rep mark, and I noticed my jumps were a little higher, my push-ups weren’t such a struggle, my mobility had improved, and I could jump my feet in and out a lot easier. There wasn’t an inch of my core that didn’t feel sore from every angle, but I felt proud of how far I’d come in such a short space of time.
When my final seventh day arrived, I had mixed thoughts. Yes, I was glad the challenge was almost over, but I found my feelings towards burpees had changed considerably. I’m not going to say I love them now but doing 100 burpees every day for a week meant that I felt stronger, fitter, better coordinated and more mobile, and that meant I found them a lot easier. More importantly, I was able to do all 100 burpees in 12 minutes straight, and I’d actually like to keep doing this challenge a few days a week to see if I can knock a few more minutes off that time.
Would I recommend others to try this challenge? I would, actually – especially if you have a mental block about burpees. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and who knows, you might even grow to like them!