If you’re looking to get your heart rate going, burpees will do the trick in seconds flat. The movement is part of any super-effective, super-sweaty workout, but let’s be real: no one likes them. I certainly don’t. You probably don’t either. We might pretend we do because of the #gains (or because we want to get on Kayla Itsines‘ level), but every single time my palms hit the floor, everything within my being begs for it all stop. Luckily, we’re not alone. Even one of the best celebrity trainers in the biz can’t stand ’em, which is why he’s more than glad to share a few burpee alternatives.
Ben Bruno, who regularly works with Chelsea Handler and Kate Upton, recently shared an Instagram post entitled “Why I Don’t Like Burpees.” It’s not because they’re challenging, he says. Bruno doesn’t let his clients do burpees because, simply put, “the risk isn’t worth the reward.” (See? My sore muscles were trying to tell me something all along.) While they’re frequently recommend as an exercise for beginners, he says jumping straight into burpees—either as part of a group at a bootcamp class or at home—isn’t a good idea.
“Most people lack the requisite strength and mobility to do them properly at all, let alone for high reps, which is how they’re programmed since he goal is metabolic conditioning,” Bruno says. “Fatigue exacerbates form faults. Those high reps and poor form are a recipe for injury. Strong athletes and advanced trainees with good mobility can probably get away with doing them, but have you ever seen a professional strength coach prescribe burpees? Me neither.”
Bruno says burpees “put undue stress” on certain parts of your body, particularly your wrists, shoulders, knees, and lower back. Instead, he suggest a handful of burpee alternatives, forms of exercise he uses to get the same results safely.
Here’s how you can get burpee-level results without the burpees
1. Break burpees down into separate parts
Instead of doing burpees as a full motion, Bruno recommends breaking the exercise down into its constituent parts. “So do push-ups and squats separately in a circuit. Or even squat jumps,” he says. Just make sure you do less than 10 jumps per set because “high rep plyos are bad news.”
2. Use a cardio machine
Bruno says you can use basically any cardio machine at the gym to achieve similar results—”the bike, ski erg, elliptical, Versa Climber, rower, sleds, StairMaster,” he explains.
3. Do some sprints
Not into cardio machines? Then try some sprints. It might be a basic form of exercise—one that Kristen Bell loves, BTW!—but it gets the job done. In the words of Bruno, just do “literally anything else besides burpees” and you’ll be just fine.
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