Today we will be looking at a bodyweight exercise involving all your muscles: burpees.
A burpee is, in fact, just a combination of different movements to which others may be added to create variations on the basic exercise. You need to use your entire body to perform this exercise properly. That is what makes burpees a similar kind of physical exercise to swimming, which also requires you to use all your muscles.
A BASIC burpee works your legs, abdominals/lower back (core stability), arms and shoulders. By adding certain movements, you can work either your upper or lower body more effectively, particularly your chest and back.
Having said that, be warned: this is not an exercise for beginners and requires a good level of physical fitness.
1. Start in a standing position with your legs shoulder width apart.
2. Bend your legs and place your hands between your feet making sure your back remains straight. You are basically doing a deep squat.
3. Extend your legs in one single movement so that you are in a front plank position resting on your hands.
4. Again in just one single movement, perform the movement backwards so you return to the position described in point 2.
5. Return to an upright position.
Here are three variations involving just one extra movement.
To work your legs harder, after completing the first 4 points of a basic burpee, jump up powerfully into an upright position. Make sure you land gently with slightly bent knees so as not to strain your joints.
If you do not feel that jumping works your legs hard enough, then (without using free weights, dumbbells etc.) you can jump on one leg only, alternating between your right and left legs for each separate rep.
To work your chest muscles harder, after completing the first 3 points of a basic burpee, do a press up in the front plank position. After completing the press up, continue from point 4. Always make sure your back is in a straight line with your head and legs, without bending or arching it.
N.B.: this variation requires the use of a pull-up bar. To work your back muscles harder, after completing all 5 points of a basic burpee, grab the bar with your palms facing either inwards or outwards and do a pull-up. Lower your feet back to the floor and begin your second rep.
After warming up properly, you can perform 4-5 sets of 8-15 reps (with a 30”-1’ rest between sets) of either the basic movement or one of the variations.
Once you have reached an excellent level of fitness, you can (as you may already have guessed) combine all these different variations I have suggested to do a complete work-out.
You can even do a highly specific training session at the poolside: combine a set of burpees with a high number of reps with 50/100 metre anaerobic swim concentrating on your breathing or a lower number of reps combined with 15/25 m sprints.