Unstupid (and Liberate) the Burpee

Updated: Aug 23

Let's start by lobbying for the renaming of them, since what I'm advocating a Burpee should be seems so different from what it currently (and slightly historically, for that matter) is. How 'bout a Squat 'n' Plank? According to legend, the Burpee began it's life as a test, not an exercise. Named after its inventor, Royal Huddleston Burpee, the original idea was as follows: 1. Squat down and put both hands on the floor in front of you

2. Pop your feet backward into a plank position

3. Bring your feet back forward.

4. Stand back up. According to physical culture lore, WWII eventually helped make the Burpee a military training exercise. When it turned into the sloppy mess we see today is anyone's guess. I remember the Burpee as one of those PE standards that no one did properly, if we did them at all, often just throwing our hands up at the top of each rep, like we were celebrating counting. 3... yeah! 4... Woooo! The exception was that one kid who was always good at stuff. He or she would kick our ass, politely, at every sport the gym teacher tossed us into. During the warm-ups, their jumping jacks were solid, and their Burpees fluid and exact. I was reminded of that kid when I was in prison. Here's a fun bit of prison trivia. Don't wear shorts. There I was at the gates, invited by my friend, Patti, who was overhauling the health and wellness program at the penitentiary in Vacaville, CA, and they almost didn't let me in. Shorts, apparently, are, shall we say, provocative. Anyway, the prisoners in Patti's prison were like muscle-covered metronomes in their Burpee precision, reminding me of that gym wiz-kid and their rhythmic precision the rest of us secretly envied, but publicly ridiculed. But I wasn't about to make fun of these guys. I don't care how fast your favorite Crossfitter can do 100 Burpees. They won't look anything like the movement poetry that these inmates had, at probably a very similar speed. I went there to teach. I walked away humbled. So THAT"S what a Burpee can look like! Let's look again at Royal Burpee's requirements: 1. Squat down and put both hands on the floor in front of you

2. Pop your feet backward into a plank position

3. Bring your feet back forward.

4. Stand back up. A squat into a plank. Now it isn't listed here, but let's also say from that plank go back into a squat. Not just "bring your feet forward," but forward into that squat. In other words, the Burpee was not intended to be a bend-over or flop to the ground. I'll posit we apply that same precision to rising back up. No squirming! It's a squat into a plank, back into a squat. Two foundation moves put together in a beautiful fusion of flux. Which makes the Burpee, (or hopefully Squat 'n' Plank), a potent template for learning movement, understanding presence, and increasing athleticism. So much so that I've created an entire series of movement, mobility, and strength just built around the basics of a Burpee. Even if you never end up using the Burpee in an actual workout, you can have a higher level of connection with your body just by grokking the parts and their cohesion. If you're a member here, the series is in the member section. If not, you can purchase it here. How 'bout a quick preview...


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