Do Burpees Have Push Ups? (Original, Crossfit & Spartan)

It has to be one of the most commonly asked questions, “Do Burpees Have Push Ups?”

Some people will tell you that there’s no need to perform push ups with burpees.

Others will say that it’s not a “proper” burpee without a push up.

So, who’s right?

I’m going to introduce you to the 3 of the most popular types of burpees.

And then I’ll let you know whether you should be doing push ups or not.

Do Burpees Have Push Ups?

The original burpee, as invented by exercise psychologist, Royal H. Burpee, in the 1930s, did not have a push up. It was a 3-movement sequence that required a squat, plank, and stand up. In fact, the original burpee wasn’t even intended as an exercise, but rather as a physical test.

The Original Burpee (No Push Ups)

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If we go back to the origins of the burpee, then there was definitely NO push up involved.

In truth, the inventor of the burpee (and possibly the most hated man in exercise and fitness), Royal H. Burpee, would probably be turning in his grave if he saw how we performed the “exercise” today.

The humble burpee was originally invented to be administered as a physical test.

In fact, the movement would only need to be performed 4 times.

Royal H. Burpee’s version simply required a person to squat down, kick their feet out into a plank position, before bringing their feet back in and standing up.

So, not only was there no push up, and there was no hide nor hair of a jump or a clap.

To be honest, the original burpee is what we would refer to as a squat-thrust in the modern day-and-age.

If Mr. Burpee knew how we had massacred his physical test over the years, I’m sure he’d have plenty to say.

You can read more about the origins of the burpee in my article, Why Are Burpees So Hard?

The Crossfit Burpee

A Crossfit Training Gym

Many of us associate the burpee with Crossfit.

But, this is definitely one exercise they can’t take credit for.

With that being said, a vast array of WODs (Workout of the Day) will typically contain burpees.

There is a common misconception that the Crossfit burpee contains a push up.

However, even if you watch the elite-level Crossfitters you will notice that there is no real “push” in order to raise the chest from the floor.

When performed at full speed the Crossfit burpee will see the chest come up and feet come in almost simultaneously.

How to Perform the Crossfit Burpee

Here’s the standards required for a Crossfit burpee:

  • In the bottom position of the burpee the chest and thighs must come into contact with the ground.
  • Your feet must come back in together. There was a time when it was deemed permissible to step one foot in at a time (and this is still acceptable for beginners), but this has now changed.
  • Fully extend the hips, jump and clap overhead. For a rep to be “acceptable” you should be standing up fully before moving onto the next rep. So, no finishing in a bent-over position in anticipation of the next rep.

No Push Up Required

As speed is of the essence when performing Crossfit burpees, there is a leaning towards conserving as much energy as possible.

So, you could almost say that getting into the down position is literally like splatting yourself onto the floor, and there’s no need for a strict push up.

In fact, a burpee with a push up is almost frowned upon by the Crossfit community.

Here’s Ben Dziwulski to guide you through the Crossfit burpee.

You’ll notice that as Ben is doing the movement fairly slowly (for instructional purposes), it almost appears as though he is pushing himself up.

However, Ben clearly states that you should not be doing a strict push up.

Crossfit Burpee – Top 6 Mistakes

The Spartan Burpee

A Woman Jumping Over a Fire During The Spartan Race

Now here’s a burpee that I’m far more familiar with after my own experience of the Spartan Race in June 2019.

The purpose of the Spartan burpee is as a penalty or punishment (isn’t that the purpose of ANY burpee?)

Basically, you are competing in an obstacle course race.

The obstacles range from crawling through mud, carrying heavy objects, climbing ropes, moving across monkey bars, sneaking under barbed wire, jumping over fire, etc.

However, should you fail any obstacle then you’ll incur a penalty.

And that penalty is to perform 30 burpees.

Just what you need when you’re out of breath, covered in mud, and have almost been burned alive.

How to Perform the Spartan Burpee

The standards for the Spartan burpee are as follows:

  • In the bottom position your chest must touch the ground.
  • You must push yourself off the ground, thus performing a strict push up.
  • Fully extend your hips and stand upright.
  • Jump off the ground ensuring that both feet are in the air.
  • Your hands must go higher than your ears.

I can tell you now that during my training for the race I would often throw in 30 burpees numerous times in the middle of a workout.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many burpees I performed over the course of a few months.

Let’s just say that I eventually got to a stage when 30 burpees seemed like a treat in comparison to some of the other exercises.

Here’s Jason Jaksetic giving you the lowdown on Spartan burpees.

Burpees – Spartan Race

Should You Do Burpees With Push Ups? 

A Man Performing a Burpee

So, even though the “original” burpee didn’t include push ups (and it wasn’t even intended as a form of exercise), you’re probably wondering whether you should be doing push ups with your burpees.

You may even want to know which one of the above burpees is the right way to do the exercise.

In truth, they are ALL the “the right way”.

How you choose to perform burpees depends on your workout protocol.

That being said, you may not even be training for anything in particular.

You aren’t following Crossfit or Spartan standards.

You’re simply performing burpees because you know what a fantastic all-round exercise they are.

Look, these are just a few burpee variations, and realistically there are literally hundreds of ways to perform one of the most despised exercises in history.

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Whether you choose to include a push up or not is completely down to you.

If you choose to perform the original or Crossfit burpee you will typically do them much faster.

This will result in a more cardio-based workout.

However, that doesn’t mean that performing Spartan-type burpees, with a strict push up, won’t have your heart beating out of your chest too.

Burpees With Push Ups to Build Strength

By performing push ups during a burpee, the exercise does become slightly more anaerobic, as there is more focus on building strength in the upper body.

So, if you have the strength and are looking to increase the intensity of the burpee, then by all means complete a push up.

But, if you’re someone who struggles to do push ups, or needs to work on their upper body strength, then you may be better off excluding the push up.

There’s no point in trying to build strength in your upper body when you’re struggling to catch your breath.

You’ll end up doing a few crappy push ups that don’t really achieve anything.

Break Up The Burpee

I often think breaking the exercise up into 4 parts is a great way to train the burpee and get better at it.

So, I see nothing wrong with training the bodyweight squat, push ups, planks, and jumps separately in one workout.

Even performing the 4 exercises as a circuit would be a fantastic workout.

  • Complete 10 bodyweight squats
  • Then 10 push ups
  • Then 10 planks (jumping your feet in and out counts as one rep)
  • And finally 10 jumps

Try completing all the above exercises without any rest in-between and that counts as one set.

Then depending on your current fitness levels you can complete 3-10 sets.

I’ll guarantee that after a few sessions of this circuit, burpees won’t seem so daunting after all.

Final Thoughts

So, it appears that the burpee never started out with a push up included.

But, then again, it was never intended to be used as a form of exercise.

Whether you choose to do burpees with a push up or not is solely down to personal preference.

Personally, I always include a push up in my burpees, but I’m also inclined to add various other exercises to the movement too.

I’m not adverse to burpees with pull ups, box jumps, manmaker burpees with dumbbells, etc.

I’ve even completed “laps” around my local park with burpees (jumping forward rather than up).

What I will say is that no matter how you choose to perform your burpees, it is one awesome exercise.

The burpee happens to be one of only 8 exercises included in Lane Goodwin’s workout program.

He has produced a superb 12-week bodyweight training program that sticks with the basics, but promotes both muscle growth and fat loss.

You can discover more in my Ripped With Bodyweight Review.

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6 thoughts on “Do Burpees Have Push Ups? (Original, Crossfit & Spartan)”

  1. Awesome post man, the burpee is a killer all by itself let alone with a push up included. Enjoyed hearing about Mr. Burpee and the origin of the burpee, funny how things evolve over time. I do typically include the push up with mine, Spartan style man! And doing so I definitely still feel the cardio burn! lol Thanks man, keep up the great work, really enjoy your posts. Cheers

    Reply
    • Hey Robb,

      You’re right, it is funny how things evolve over time.

      I’m not sure what Mr. Burpee would make of us nowadays, jumping about, clapping, performing push ups, etc. in the middle of HIS exercise, LOL.

      I’m with you Robb, I typically perform all of my burpees with push ups.

      That’s not to say that I don’t also do many other varieties of burpees too, but I seem to find that the push up just comes naturally now.

      Each to their own I guess.

      Thanks
      Partha

      Reply
  2. Very informative article Partha. I must admit I have a love/hate relationship with burpees. I know they are a great exercise and I do include them in my workouts but I really hate doing them. Probably because they are so challenging and exhausting. I enjoyed learning about the different styles of burpees. I had no idea there were even different ways of doing them. Is there one style more suited to women or does it still depend on the type of workout you are doing? Thanks so much for another great article.

    Reply
    • Hey Deb,

      Great to hear from you.

      I think most people have that “love/hate relationship” with burpees, LOL.

      You know they’re difficult, but fantastic for you at the same time.

      I even remember a time when I absolutely despised them.

      However, I think much like most things in life, if you do something regularly enough it becomes a habit, and you even start to enjoy it.

      Believe it not, I actually love doing burpees nowadays, and I probably do hundreds and hundreds of them every week.

      Funnily enough, there are literally hundreds of types of burpees as well. You can typically add other exercises onto them just to make them more difficult.

      I’m not adverse to doing burpees with pull ups, throwing a mountain climber or jumping lunge into the mix, etc. Basically, you name it, you can do it with burpees.

      Oh Deb, I’ve never really differentiated between how men and women train to be honest.

      We have different hormonal capicities, so it is unlikey that we will look the same even by performing exactky the same type of training (which I think we should do – there is no difference in my mind, so we should all train in the same way. If anything, I believe most women actually train harder than most men)

      I think this is why many women avoid training with weights. They’re worried about becoming big and bulky. But without that extra release of testosterone, this will never happen.

      Plus, I quite regularly train with two different ladies in the gym and we typically perform all the heavy-weighted exercises. Admittedly, they’re both half my age, but I often find myself struggling to keep up.

      So, as to whether there is a burpee more suited to women, my answer would always be NO.

      However, there are burpees more suited to an individual’s abilities, as well as their current strength and fitness levels.

      You can’t beat the “original” burpee as invented by Mr. Burpee himself, and this is the easiest format of the exercise.

      What type of burpee you choose to perform will be based on what you want to achieve and your overall body composition goals.

      That being said, there are few better full-body exercises than the burpee. So, if you’re doing them, regardless of the type of burpee, then you are definitely do your health and fitness the world of good.

      Partha

      Reply
  3. Partha, I like how you delve deep into the history of exercises and their origin and in this case the burpee that was never even intended to be an exercise to begin with.

    It is also great for me to see that you include a variety of exercises within the way you perform the burpee as I feel that there should be freedom to adapt exercises as long as it provides you with results. Being creative makes it so much interesting.

    To explain my view on things a bit better in this regard I will use an unrelated fitness example. I once lived in a house share and one of the house mates was Italian. I cooked spaghetti bolognaise but when he saw me adding chutney to the minced meat he almost got a heart attack as how do I dare call it spaghetti bolognaise when adding chutney to it after I added all the other ingredients that are typical to the original Italian way.

    My reply to him was “Oh please, all this political correctness lol. I make food to enjoy it and add ingredients that I believe will make the food tasty. I cannot care less if Italians approve of it or not. I am the only one that will be eating it and the only one that needs to approve it, and I do lol.” So in the same way I believe that creativity when cooking food should not only be allowed but encouraged in the same way I believe there is also room for creativity when it comes to fitness.

    Saying this, I do understand however that when it comes to fitness there are some exercises that are proven to be effective and there is a proper way to perform those exercises and proper form and technique that does not always allow for creativity.

    Reply
    • Haha Schalk,

      I think your housemate would DEFINITELY have a heart attack if he saw what I did with spaghetti bolognese.

      Don’t ask me why, it’s a habit I first picked up from my cousin when I was about 6-years old, and one that has stayed with me ever since – I love spaghetti bolognese smothered in tomato ketchup, LOL. And I can’t eat it without.

      As for exercises, you’re right in what you say at the end, there are many exercises that must be performed with strct form, that’s a must.

      However, just about every exercise you can think of will have variations that can be performed.

      Sometimes these variations are to make the exercise easier or harder, and other times it will be to hit the muscles from a different angle and in a different way.

      I guess when it comes to burpees, many people ask whether they should include a push up or not. To me, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to including a push up.

      It’s based on the individual’s ablities and what they’re looking to achieve from the exercise.

      Even looking at Royal H. Burpee’s original version, this is still a tough conditioning exercise to do for an extended period of time (although let’s not forget, he never intended it to be an exercise, LOL).

      Thanks for stopping by Schalk, always great to hear from you.

      Partha

      Reply

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