Burpees for beginners: The benefits and how to do them with the proper form

Discover how to do burpees with correct form using our 30-day challenge workout – as demonstrated our fitness expert

Personal trainer Jade Hansle demonstrating how to do a burpee
(Image credit: Jade Hansle)

They may look tricky, but once you've mastered how to do burpees they're not only surprisingly straightforward but also one of the most effective exercises you can do.

Burpees are a total-body workout, and once you've completed your daily burpee challenge, you've not only got your heart rate going to burn some calories, but you've worked your thighs, arms, chest, glutes, hamstrings and abs for all-round toning.

Personal trainer Jade Hansle shows you how to do burpees, and also demonstrates several modifications to leave you looking and feeling better than ever. She told us: "The burpee is a fantastic total body movement that uses your body weight as resistance. It's comprehensive and challenging by design for any individual, regardless of their fitness. The 'full burpee' has explosive components for the legs, a great demand on the core to protect the back, as well as an upper body element due to the chest to floor press up. Like our 30-day plank challenge, the key with a burpee is to make sure it is being performed well - with good form and with the recruitment of the right muscles." Jade added, "The Burpee was first developed by an exercise physiologist named Royal Burpee. It was used to evaluate fitness at Columbia University in the 1930s. So despite being around 92 years old, this boot camp-style exercise is still as effective as ever.”

The 30-day burpee challenge

To start your 30-day burpee challenge all you need to do is download the plan, print it out, and stick it somewhere that will remind you every day to do your burpees. Alternatively, you could just save it to your phone, so it's always handy when you have a few minutes to spare. Within the 30-day burpee challenge, you’re also encouraged to give your body a rest every six days to enable your muscles to recover. Jade explains, "If you continue to use the same muscle group day in, day out they are in a constant state of effort. This can lead to exhaustion, and imbalances and also mean you are more prone to injuries. A rest day gives the tissue the time they need to repair, grow and get stronger."

The 30-day burpee challenge exercises

How to do a full burpee

The full burpee is what you'll be building up to in this 30-day burpees challenge - so make sure you master the modifications first. And, with any exercise, make sure you're getting the positioning correct to gain the most impact and avoid hurting yourself. "When you jump back in the burpee, it's important your spine stays straight and your core is engaged, says personal trainer Jade Hansle. "This will help prevent injuries. If you experience any pain whilst doing the exercise stop right away."

  • Place your hands on the floor in front of you, then jump both feet back so you land in a press-up position.
  • From here, perform a press-up to the floor and return to the starting press-up position.
  • Then, jump both legs back in together before jumping up in the air and finishing in a standing position – this sequence counts as one rep

Modified burpees 1 – down ups

  • Start with feet wider than hips (this makes it easier to bend to the floor).
  • Place your hands on the floor in front of you.
  • Take one leg out behind you, then take the other leg back too, so you end up in the starting position of a press up.
  • Hold for two seconds then reverse the movement by taking one leg back up towards the hands, followed by the other leg.
  • Stand up straight and reach toward the sky.
  • Engage your core and repeat the steps.

Modified burpees are still challenging but much more gentle on your joints and pelvic floor. They are also better for beginners or anyone who needs to take it easier.

Modified burpees 2 – down up with knee drive

  • Perform a down up as described above, until you are in the start of a press up position.
  • Instead of holding this position for two seconds, bring one knee towards your chest before returning that leg back and performing the same with the other leg.
  • Once you have completed a knee to chest with each leg you then bring one leg in followed by the other and then stand as you would with a down up – this sequence counts as one rep. This variation is a great way to increase the difficulty of the modified burpee and up the ante.

Modified burpees 3 – down up with press up

  • Perform a burpee as described in the first modified burpee but instead of holding the press up position for two seconds, you now perform a press up – taking your chest as close to the floor as you can.
  • Lower your body while keeping your core tight (avoid arching your lower back) and then press out of it to return to the top of the press-up position.
  • After one press-up is completed, bring one leg in followed by the other, and then stand as you would with a down up – this sequence counts as one rep.

If you struggle with a full push up, you can modify this exercise by performing the push up on your knees. Ensure your core is engaged and spine neutral. 

Modified burpees 4 – down up with standing jump

This modification is the same as modification 1 but just with an added jump with hands above your head once you return to the standing position. This is getting you used to the explosive jump that finishes a full burpee movement. If you started out doing the modified burpees, then these are a great way to add a bit more difficulty to the exercise and help you work your way up to a full burpee. 

Modification 5 – Two-footed hop in/out

  • Start in the modification 1 position, with your hands on the floor.
  • Once the hands are on the floor, while the core is kept tight, jump back with both legs at the same time so they land together and a strong horizontal body position is created.
  • Make sure your tummy is tight and your back doesn't drop as you land.
  • Once you are stable in that position return your feet close to your hands by jumping them back in together. Return to the standing position to complete one rep. 

If you want to increase the difficulty you can add a jump at the top when you return to a standing position. This is a great way to get that heart beating that little bit faster!

Modification 5: ½ Burpee

What are the benefits of burpees?

Burpees are a fantastic, high-intensity exercise, and can be performed as part of your HIIT training. Research has shown that HIIT workouts are effective for burning fat, especially around your stomach. Plus, exercise programs including burpees could be linked to boosted longevity, according to a 2015 study. Jade tells us: "While we can't target fat loss from specific areas of our body, ensuring your core is kept tight throughout the exercise will help strengthen those abs. No matter your fitness levels, most people find burpees very hard! This is because it targets your whole body in one move, not only are you using your body weight as resistance you're also getting your heart rate up a lot meaning it's also a great cardiovascular exercise."

How many burpees should I do a day? 

If you're a beginner, five to seven minutes of burpees is a good place to start, and if you're starting with the modified burpees, you can still aim for this amount. Set a timer and off you go! Challenge yourself, and see if you can increase the amount you can do every couple of days. Jade tells us, "Performing several burpees a day will increase your cardiovascular fitness, strengthen several different muscle groups and increase flexibility. Performed correctly, burpees are a great exercise." Finally, if you're going for a mammoth 60-100 burpees a day, why not split these into sets ensuring you take adequate rest periods?

Personal trainer Jade Hansle demonstrating a cobra yoga pose
Jade Hansle

"As a Personal Trainer, my passion is to guide people towards a healthier lifestyle. Everybody is unique, with their own strengths and limitations. My method is to build a custom plan based on your health, schedule and more importantly, fitness goals. With a speciality in strength training, I aim to transform your body and help you be the best version of yourself.

"I love helping women lift weights and gain confidence in the gym. As a pre and postnatal specialist (and mother of two), I understand the importance of staying fit during and after your pregnancy."

Continue reading

Daniella Gray
Family News & Wellbeing Writer

From building healthy family relationships to self-care tips for mums and parenting trends - Daniella also covers postnatal workouts and exercises for kids. After gaining a Print Journalism BA Hons degree and NCTJ Diploma in Journalism at Nottingham Trent University, Daniella started writing for Health & Wellbeing and co-hosted the Walk to Wellbeing podcast. She has also written for Stylist, Natural Health, The Sun UK and Fit & Well. In her free time, Daniella loves to travel, try out new fitness classes and cook for family and friends.