My Frustration with Personal Trainer’s Obsession With Burpees

Every year you hear the same New Years resolution from your family at christmas dinner and your friends on social media,  “This year I am going to lose 20 pounds and become a healthier version of myself.”  This is a fantastic goal as our society is facing another health epidemic besides Covid-19 and that would be obesity.  The Obesity rate has significantly increased over the last 50 years. This is not because people aren’t trying to lose weight. Research has shown in the USA between 25 and 50% of females constantly trying to lose weight.  Another astounding fact, is that 80% of new gym members will quit within 5 months.  What these statistics say to me is that people are trying to lose weight and become a healthier version of themselves, however us as a fitness and health industry are failing them.  Too many in this industry push “lose 20 lbs in 20 days”, “magic pills” and “booty bootcamps” that are blatantly ineffective and cause people to lose faith in our industry and themselves. Too many rush into their new year’s resolution like they are rushing into war, however, we do not do a proper job of preparing them. We need to spend more time preparing our bodys, strategizing and creating a plan that will last.

Now there is one particular exercise that I associate with this dilemma more than any other.  BURPEES.  Almost every lose weight quick scam or personal trainer who takes on countless new years resolution clients uses in extreme excess.  Don’t get me wrong burpees can be an extremely effective exercise for metabolic conditioning circuits for individuals who are in great shape.  However, for most new year resolution clients they do not have either the aerobic base or required strength to make this an effective exercise to lose weight. Listed below are my main issues with Burpees.

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  1. Destroy Adherence Rates
    • I don’t know about you, but I hate burpees.  We know that the biggest issue with getting people to lose weight is that we struggle with getting them to stick to both a workout and diet plan.  Giving them exercises that can absolutely destroys a sole is probably not the best way to get them to stick around
  2. Ineffective at Burning Calories
    • Now this will be a controversial statement, as one of the biggest reasons you should do burpees is that it will turn you into a “fat burning machine”(yes i read that in a magazine article)  However, I would argue against that. My argument would be the same as my argument against swimming. If you throw Michael Phelps in a pool, yes he is going to burn an incredible amount of calories(i.e. why he could eat 12,000 during the 2008 Olympics) However, if you threw me in a pool, I will only be able to swim for maybe 3 minutes before I would drown. Those 3 minutes is not nearly enough of a stimulus to trigger major fat burning.  The same thing can be said for burpees; if you take someone who can do burpees all day, then yes it will be a great exercise to burn calories, however if you take someone who can only do 12 burpees before being fried, you may have only burned 20 total calories. In my professional opinion getting someone to do a walk/jog for 25 minutes it will be a much more effective measure to burn calories and build an aerobic base. 
  3. Does 3 thing poorly and nothing extremely well
    • Many describe burpees to be the perfect exercise because it is a “total body exercise”. Personal trainers promise clients it’s going to strengthen their lower body, upper body and cardiovascular system.  However, many times when we try to create this perfect exercise, it does not create enough of a stimulus to create optimal stimulus to improve any of these areas.
  4. Most trainers don’t care about form with Burpees
    • Most trainers view this as a way to get the heart rate up.  However, when we have not trained our clients on how to do a burpee properly and how to safely load our joints/muscles, we put them at risk for injury.  This becomes amplified when we have them doing this exercise at high speeds for high reps.
  5. Most trainers include Burpees because they look fancy and make you feel the “burn”
    • As I discussed above Burpees suck.  We are quite literally repeatedly throwing our body onto the ground generating tremendous amounts of stress on joints that haven’t been stressed like this in years.  The next day there is no doubt you will feel like you got hit by a truck. Many personal trainers, view this as a win and makes them think they did their job.  However, for long term success this is a terrible idea.This puts the client at great risk for injury and takes away much of the joy of training.  Also we are not creating strategic adaptation that will lead to long term success