Tag Archives: burpee


That’s what it said on a bumper sticker on the car in front of me. I’ve never been in prison and hope I can always say that. But it’s a funny sticker.

I’m sure there’re some clever people locked up, and they have lots of time to kill. And prisons seem like they have a “survival of the fittest” thing going, right?

If you were in a restricted space with no access to a gym, eventually the best exercise for those circumstances bubbles up to the surface. The knowledge would be passed along from prisoner to prisoner and refined along the way. So workouts would have been through many iterations of lots of different exercises to arrive at something that’s the most effective. I can’t be sure it’s true; but there’s an exercise that supposedly comes out of the prison experience.

The exercise is called a Burpee pushup. It’s an exercise I do and like. With Burpee pushups you’ll really get the most bang for your buck. It’s an especially effective exercise to do if (unlike a prisoner) you don’t have much time or (like a prisoner) have a limited space. Say you’re traveling, staying in a hotel room and don’t have much time before a meeting. Do some Burpee pushups in your room, take a shower, and scoot off to your meeting, all in a very short time. Of course, they’re great to do at home too.

Here’s how they’re done. Drop down into the starting position for a pushup. Do a pushup. At the top of the pushup when your arms are straightening, jump your feet forward so your knees are at your chest and you’re in a crouching position. Then leap up, reaching for the ceiling with you hands. As you land, bend over, put your hands on the floor and pop your feet back so you’re in the starting  position for a pushup again. That’s one rep.

If you’d like, you can find videos of Burpee pushups on YouTube. Here’s one I like.

How many to do? Well, this is what I’d recommend and how many I do. Usually twenty one. But not all at once. I do only one at first; then I wait one minute; and then I do two; wait one minute then do three … and follow this pattern. I usually stop after the sixth minute/sixth set, which would at this point, have me doing six Burpee pushups during the last set. Adding up all six sets we have: 1+2+3+4+5+6=21. Twenty one reps of a hard exercise in six minutes and I’m done!

The other nice thing about doing it this way is you get a warm-up in there too. Sure, you can do more than one, but start with just one and go through adding a rep to each set.

This pattern of the rep number equaling the set number is called a “ladder.”  You can scale it up or down to suit your situation; and you can use it for other exercises too.

I have a feel for the time now but I usually use a cool little interval timer called the Gym Boss. It’s cheap, $20, easy to use, and keeps you honest. Of course you can use a watch or maybe a kitchen timer. The GymBoss is just easy and you can set any interval time you wish to use. Plus, it counts the number of intervals for you too. Just do your workout and listen for the beeps (it has a vibrate mode too in case you’re stealthy or in a loud area). Side note: An interval timer is handy for other exercises too because you can work out for timed sets, which is a more effective method.

At first, start out doing a couple of minutes worth and work up to six (or more) minutes. Don’t over do it and you’ll keep it up. Burpee pushups are a really good, quick, and surprisingly effective exercise.