Are Burpees Really The One Exercise You Should Never Attempt?

If you ever meet someone who says they love doing them, they’re lying. They’re such hard work – which is why we do them even if we hate them. No matter how fit you are, do enough of them and you’ll soon tire.

But according to Zac Efron’s PT, Patrick Murphy, burpees are the one exercise ‘everyone’s doing in the gym’ that you should actually swerve. He told Men’s Health a while ago that ‘burpees aren’t good for the human body.

You know what burpees are good for? They originated in the military as a way of dodging bullets. They’re good for relocation’. Although it’s a fat busting move, he says they’re not good for your wrists or spine. Let’s be clear here: any move executed badly will result in injury.

Are burpees really the one exercise you should never attempt?

If you do a press up with a funky spine, you’ll start to get lower back pain. If you run lopsided, you’ll end up with all kinds of ankle and knee problems. If you lift with a bad posture, you’ll do some serious damage. Burpees are no different – if you’re trying to do as many as possible in a short space of time, chances are that you’re attention to posture will wane and could lead to various issues.

We asked two experts whether we really should be ditching burpees for good…and both say that there’s no cut and dry rule. Laurence Hannah runs Metabolic London – a functional group training gym – that certainly loves handing out burpees, just when you think the pain is over.

‘I think if it’s done incorrectly – like anything – it can be bad for you…but isn’t that what coaching is all about?’ he tells Metro.co.uk. ‘If we as coaches show you the correct method, and then forget to stretch you off before you go and sit at the desk, then what’s the problem.

If you squat heavy and sit at a desk, if you spin and sit at a desk, if you box and sit at a desk without stretching afterwards then you’d have tightness. ‘As long as you perform the move correctly, have the right flexibility and strength AND look after yourself when the training is done, THEN I think it’s a powerful move.’

He says that burpees ask so much of the body – if you want to create change, you need to work hard, and burpees are about as tough as it gets.

‘Plus, you can modify the burpee depending on agility and level of fitness…I think there is always room for a burpee!’ And celebrity online trainer, Scott Laidler, agrees. ‘It’s always potentially confusing to hear cut and dry statements about particular exercises or modes of training, I’d certainly agree that burpees are not for everyone, they require a pre-requisite level of strength, conditioning and body mechanics to be used responsibly, there will certainly be populations for which they would be far from ideal.’

Having said that, he stresses that in a strong, fit and posturally correct individual, burpees can provide a good bodyweight challenge.

‘With regards to maintaining posture throughout the exercise, life is always going to throw unorthodox movement requirements and stressors at us so it serves us to be strong through multiple plains of motion and capable of adapting to the demands of our environment.

‘We might consider that almost all martial arts, dance, competitive sports are of this nature. In the end, I think deciding whether burpees are suitable for a given person, is all a part of the coaching process and depends on the level of conditioning and purpose of the workout.’ So no, you’re not getting away that easily.