In the wide world of exercise and conditioning, few moves are as polarizing yet as ubiquitous as the burpee. Praised by some, reviled by others, there’s certainly one thing that can be said: it leaves no one indifferent.

When I think about burpees, I can’t help recalling a conversation I had, several months ago during a break at a fitness workshop, with a group of trainers and exercise enthusiasts of different backgrounds where we were discussing our workouts and, by extension, what we liked doing and what we didn’t.

At some point, one of the girls, a former bikini competitor looking into becoming a trainer herself blurted out: “Well, at the end of the day, you just have to do burpees. I mean, they’re just what works, right?”

:: Record scratching noise ::

Um, excuse me?

I was unfortunately unable to reply to this, as the formal part of the workshop was resuming and we had to go back in. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder: how many—whether professionals or enthusiasts—firmly cling to the belief that there are certain exercises that you simply must do at all costs?


Listen, it all comes down to what you’re training for. Obviously, you can’t train for powerlifting while avoiding deadlifts, just like you can’t delve into Olympic weightlifting and forgo the clean entirely. In that same vein, burpees will obviously come in handy when you’re competing in CrossFit and, if that is your goal, do include them.

But for the vast majority of exercisers—with goals of looking and feeling better, losing fat and gaining some muscle—seeing any precise exercise as being absolutely mandatory is a fallacy.

I’m not talking about ensuring that we’re training essential movement patterns here—i.e. making sure to include both knee-dominant and hip dominant exercises, pushing and pulling movements both horizontal and vertical, core stabilization as well as unilateral and bi-lateral work.

No, what I’m talking about is clinging to the belief that a “real” training program must include exercise X, without any questions asked. The same case could be made for claiming that we must eat super food Y, or drink supplement Z, causing so many of us to rush headlong without pausing to ask ourselves a very good question: WHY?


Whether it’s with food, with exercise, with mindset practices or all kinds of different habits, we can all benefit with asking ourselves why, exactly, we are doing it. And how whatever it is that we’re doing can achieve what we’re aiming for.

If we circle back to the burpee, we can break it down as such: the burpee is an intense full-body exercise that will quickly significantly raise one’s heart rate, thus making it a great exercise for conditioning and fat loss. Ok.

If either of those are among your goals, then feel free to include burpees in your workout regimen. Do be aware, however, that burpees aren’t the only exercise that can help you achieve this, and clinging to that belief can actually do you more harm than good.

In a world of instant-access information, exercising a little more critical thinking can actually go a long way.

Any time someone touts something—again, this could be an exercise or an exercise modality, a way of eating, a supplementation protocol, etc.—as a magic bullet that is the only solution to whatever issue we want to address, we need to take a step back and assess if it makes sense to us, before throwing ourselves blindly into something that can turn out to be ineffective at best, and harmful at the worst.

Because so and so said so is never a good enough justification to eat something that you can’t stomach, or to perform and exercise that crushes your very soul.

Wouldn’t you agree?

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