Burpees…..why?

Burpees. The suck. Whatever you call them, if you have ever done them, this topic probably makes you a bit uneasy, perhaps because you fear that you have unknowingly stumbled onto a feature that’s going to encourage you to get up RIGHT NOW and bang out 100 of these bad boys. Never fear. I, too, have had the best intentions of learning to love burpees, but even after performing literally thousands of them over the years, I have failed. Miserably.

CrossFit aficionados participate in the “fun” tradition of yelling “Yay, Burpees!” when their coach says the word and/or they appear in a workout. However, this is meant to be ironic (at least, I think it is—the Alanis Morissette song has confused me and an entire generation about the actual definition of that word). Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be a single exercise that inspires in athletes the kind of invective and old-fashioned cussin’ that burpees do.

To wit, the very same CrossFit community described above recently posted the following prompt on its Facebook page : “If burpee had an alternate name, it would be _____” .

Out of the 885 comments people posted, note the following sample of responses:

  • Hell
  • Torture
  • Burpee! Thy name is DEATH
  • Vomits
  • Kill-mes
  • Suck jumps
  • T.T.I.M.M = taste throw-up in my mouth
  • The devil
  • Satan’s idea of fun
  • Poop!
  • Awful!!!
  • My ex-wife
  • Skunks ‘cause they stink

There were many more in the same vein, far outstripping the number of responses that actually had something positive to say about burpees. And these don’t even include any of the many R-rated suggestions.

Why all the fuss about burpees? What is it about them that strikes fear and revulsion in our hearts? Descriptions of how to perform burpees don’t sound that bad, and they are legion (simply conduct a Youtube or Google search and you’ll see what I mean). Individual descriptions are vary somewhat, but they are all variations on the same theme; all you have to do is squat, sprawl, execute a pushup, jump back to the squat position, and execute a vertical jump. How bad can it be?

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