Burpees offer full-body movement, but not everyone is a fan. This option gets you the same results — and you may actually love it, too.
A burpee is a series of movements that work every major muscle group, while also getting your heart rate up for a cardio burst. It starts with a forward fold and moves quickly into a plank, pushup, squat, and finally into an explosive jump back to standing.
Although it sounds pretty awesome, many people have complicated feelings about the sequence — from dread to downright hate. Fortunately, there are ways to get these same muscle-building benefits with different, lower-impact moves.
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Why Burpees Are So Effective
To better understand the value of burpees, it helps to understand what’s happening at each point in the movement. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to swap in modifications to suit your fitness needs — and that you’ll enjoy doing.
Here’s what happens as you do a burpee:
- Forward fold: Just by bending at the hips and reaching toward the ground in a controlled way, you’re warming up the hamstrings and hip muscles for what’s next.
- Plank: One the best full-body moves in fitness, plank pose is a core muscle builder, while also activating the shoulders, arms, and quads.
- Pushup: Whether you drop to your knees first or not, a pushup is a key move for building upper-body strength, particularly in the triceps and biceps, but also for the chest and shoulders.
- Squat: Ideal for lower-body muscles, the way the squat works in a burpee engages more muscles since you also reach your arms overhead, activating the muscles in your back.
- Jump back to standing: This type of explosive movement helps cardiovascular fitness since it increases your heart rate, which strengthens the heart and boosts cardiovascular endurance.
The benefit of targeting so many muscles in such a short amount of time is efficiency. According to the American Sports & Fitness Association, burpees are also an effective way to burn calories and fuel weight loss since they combine strength training and cardio in one sequence. Plus, the complexity of a burpee challenges your balance and coordination.
Even with all those advantages, you may yearn for a burpee-free existence and that’s OK. The sequence below hits all the same muscle groups, without the jumping and dramatic transitions.
Recommended reading: Cardio Exercise for Older Adults: The SilverSneakers Guide
How to Use the Alternative Burpees Sequence
As always, safety is key. Get your doctor’s OK before beginning a new exercise program. If you have a chronic condition (including osteoporosis and arthritis), balance issues, or injuries, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.
With this sequence, pay attention not just to the moves themselves but also the transitions between them. Keeping a sense of control and going at a moderate pace can help you maintain proper form throughout.
What you need:
Yoga mat or carpeted area
Space to move
Sturdy chair or bench
Blank wall space
Water to sip, as needed
Practice each step of the sequence separately a few times to become familiar with the movements.
When you’re ready, string them together: Do one “mini rep” of each movement to form a combination exercise. The full combination would be considered 1 rep.
Repeat the step series 5 to 10 times, moving as quickly as you can while maintaining good form. That would be considered one set of 5 to 10 reps. Gradually work your way up to two to three sets.
Step #1: Hip Tap
How to do it:
- Stand with your back a few inches away from a wall or chair, with feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides. Engage your core.
- Keeping your core braced and your back flat (don’t arch your lower back), allow your knees to bend slightly as you push your hips behind you until they tap the wall or chair.
- Pause, then push through your heels to reverse the motion and stand up, feeling your glutes squeeze at the top.
- If needed, extend your arms out in front of you to provide a counterbalance as you lower.
Step #2: Supported Plank
How to do it:
- Stand facing the back of a sturdy chair, keeping both hands on the chair. (You can also do this movement facing a wall.)
- Step both feet as far back as you’re comfortable with.
- Hinge forward at the hips, keeping your back straight.
- Lift one arm and rotate your torso to the side. Let your gaze follow your fingertips.
- Return your hand to the chair and repeat on the opposite side.
Step #3: Elevated Pushup
How to do it:
- Stand facing the wall with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Place your palms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the wall.
- Bend your elbows and lower your upper body toward the wall, keeping your core tight so your body stays in a line (no dipping in your back).
- Pause, and then press back to the starting position.
Step #4: Squat With Overhead Press (without weight)
The video below shows the movement using a dumbbell. For this series, do not use added weight.
How to do it:
- Stand tall with your core engaged and feet about hip-width apart. P
- Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a shallow squat.
- As you squat, press your hands up.
- Push through your heels to stand up tall again. If you’d like, add a small “bounce” as you come up.
Recommended FREE SilverSneakers On-Demand Class: Exercises for Back Strength
See our sources:
Benefits of burpees: American Sports & Fitness Association
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