What Muscles Do Burpees Work?

You’ve heard the burpee’s name many times in the gym and everybody, from beginners to professionals and trainers, know it as a beneficial whole-body workout. But what muscles do burpees work, exactly?

Burpees work many muscles in your arms, shoulders, legs, back, and core, including glutes, hams, calves, deltoids, triceps, quads, etc. If you do them properly, they can add bulk and strength to your whole body. They can also improve your cardio fitness and burn calories faster than other exercises.

Read on to learn what muscles burpees hit during reach movement. You’ll also discover more of the workout’s advantages, plus some instructions, tricks, and tips to do them properly.

Burpees As a Full-Body Workout

Burpees are a compound calisthenics exercise that contains several movements: Squats, thrusts, planks, push-ups, crunches, and finally, stand-ups. So, they can engage all your body muscles, including those in the core, chest, arms, shoulders, legs, hips, and buttocks.

To be more specific, burpees hit these muscles:

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Abdominals
  • Obliques
  • Erector spinae  
  • Calves
  • Quadriceps 
  • TFL
  • Iliopsoas 
  • Rectus femoris 
  • Deltoids
  • Pectoralis major 
  • Triceps surae 
  • Triceps brachii

Below, we’ll discuss each targeted muscle specifically and how burpees engage them in every motion.

Burpees Execution and the Muscles Worked

To get a clearer picture of why burpees target this many muscles, let’s delve into the exercise’s different phases:

  1. The Squat

To start a rep of burpees, you first switch to a squat form from the initial standup position. This primarily emphasizes your gluteus maximus, hip flexors, and quads. Your abdominal, lower back, calves, and hams also contract to shape a sturdy foundation for the move. That’s why you’ll notice slight vibrations in these areas when squatting.

Quickly after the squat, you put your hands on the ground to get ready for the upcoming plank. This position recruits your upper body, arm, and shoulder muscles as well as those in your legs.

  1. The Plank

While pushing your weight on your hands, you pivot your feet back to the plank position. This involves straightening your knees with the help of the quadriceps. You’ll also use your Iliopsoas (the primary mover of the hip joint), tensor fasciae latae (an anterior muscle in your thighs), and rectus femoris (the hip and knee flexor).

Other than extending your legs, planks also involve resting your foot fingers down and away from the legs. Also called ankle plantarflexion, this movement stretches and triggers your calves.

Your back muscles, including the erector spinae, also play a role because you move the spine to change from the seating to a prone-like position.

  1. The Push-Up

The push-ups step happens very quickly, but that’s enough to fire up your chest, shoulder, and arm muscles. Your pectorals get the most attention in this motion. And the rest of the load goes down to your anterior deltoids, triceps brachii, and stabilizers like quads, biceps, and abs.

  1. The Stand-Up

When raising up to the initial position, you almost repeat what you’ve done so far in a reverse direction. So, all the muscles mentioned above will get some tension.

  1. The Bouncing

Before you drop into a squat position again to redo the rep, most burpee variations require you to jump your feet, torso, and arms. This means you have to bounce into the air and back. As with any jumping movement, this initially exercises your quads, glutes, hams, and calves.

Your core and back muscles also receive a share of pressure. But notice that the activation degree of these muscles depends on your leaping power.

How to Do Burpees Properly

The previous section has probably given you a sense of how to perform burpees. But that was only about the sequence of phases. You can’t get the most out of this movement if you don’t know some posture and technique tricks.

Here’s a step-by-step instruction on doing burpees:

  1. Stand erect with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Now, bend your knees slightly, and drop your buttocks down and back into a squat stance. Don’t arch your back during this motion.
  3. Immediately after, put your palms on the floor and right in front of your feet.
  4. Take your weight on your hands, trust your feet back and pace your toes vertically on the ground. This is called a push-up position, where the neck, back and legs should remain linear to each other. So, don’t bend your knees, lower your neck, or throw your bottom in the air.
  5. Do a quick push-up (bend your elbows and descend your body so that your chest touches the mat and your elbows form a perpendicular angle. Then, pull your body back up in the plank position).
  6. Now, draw your legs up again with a breaststroke kick to sit in a low squat stance. Be careful to place your feet at the back and the outer sides of your arms.
  7. Stand upright in a snap, and end the rep with a tuck jump (use your leg powers and your arms’ momentum to lift your knees and jump as high as you can).
  8. Land softly before you redo the movement from step 1.

Other Benefits of Burpees

So far, you know that burpees can work almost your whole body muscles. But what exactly does that mean? Are you going to burn fat or build muscles in those regions? Are there other benefits to this workout?

The followings are other advantages that burpees can give you:

They Encourage Weight Loss

An average 155-pound person can shed almost 12.5 calories per one minute of burpees. It means only 20 minutes of this exercise can burn about 250 calories. And this is while a moderate-intensity (3 mph speed) treadmill session can only shed 74 calories in the same duration.

So if you want to shed some weight or remain at your current healthy weight, burpees are a good help.

They Burn Fat

Burpees can be done in a HIIT manner. And due to studies, high-intensity interval training is super effective at burning body fat and reducing your waist circumference.

So it visceral is fat in what you want to get rid of, look no further than burpees. Their rigorous nature combined with a HIIT style can do magic for your fat-burning process.

They Enhance Your Cardio

Burpees are a HIIT cardio program that makes your heart beat faster and your breaths shorter. Your heart, lungs, and overall cardiovascular system would improve; as a result, it lets you prevent hypertension, diabetes, lipid disorder, and heart diseases.

This will improve your life span due to studies and give you better stamina, agility, flexibility, and endurance.

Last but not least, cardio exercises use oxygen as fuel to trigger your moves. This enhanced oxygen transmission can even encourage muscle building.

They Add Definition to Your Abs

Six-pack abdominals are the pinnacle of a perfectly fit body. And they can be a by-product of burpees. That’s because they strictly work your abdominal muscles, and unlike other cardio workouts, they don’t only reduce your waist size by burning visceral fat.

They Improve Your Strength

Other than defining your muscles, burpees also make you stronger, especially in the core and wrist regions. This means you’ll get a more prepared body to perform strenuous workouts such as barbell back squats, tuck planches, ashtanga yoga, etc.

The increased mobility also plays a role in your routine activities like climbing upstairs, running to catch something, and carrying heavy objects. Especially if you’re engaged in activities with the chance of falling down, burpees can be beneficial because they improve your ability to stand up quickly.

They Give You Quick Results

You may be surprised to hear that only five minutes of burpees can exceed what a thirty-minute run can give you. It means you can reach whatever your goal is—weight loss, better cardio, or health benefits—in a shorter period. Or, you can achieve more in the time you specify to workout.

They’re Always Accessible

Burpees need no equipment or additional setups. So, you can do them anywhere, from your home to gym, hotel, outdoors, and on vacation.

Conclusion

Burpees engage the important muscles in your whole body, burning fat and building size and strength in those areas. They’re one of the most effective cardio workouts you can do since they don’t demand long sessions to take effect. So, no matter how difficult they seem from the outside, once you dip your toes in them, you’ll see how beneficial they are. 

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James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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