By Joe Cartwright, B.A., CPT
The burpee. What a love-hate relationship we have with this exercise. Why is it called a burpee, and who was the twisted person that invented this exercise? The history may surprise you; what was intended for good has been turned into a beast of an exercise that was blown way out of proportion.
According to the Huffington Post, the burpee today is nothing like it used to be when physiologist Royal H. Burpee invented it in 1939. Mr. Burpee needed an exercise to test overall fitness so he came up with a four step exercise to do so, contrary to the six step burpee we do today. The original exercise invented by Mr. Burpee consisted of a squat position with both hands on the floor, kicking feet back into a plank position, kicking feet back up to a squat stance, and returning to the original standing position; there was no push up or jump at the end. An even more interesting note is that Burpee himself limited the repetitions of the movement to only four at a time and advised the exercise to never be done in high volumes, because it could be detrimental to the knees and low back especially for those lacking core strength.
Thanks to our newest fads in crossfit and other high intensity programs poor Royal H. Burpee is rolling over in his grave; not only did we add two extra counts and 46 more reps, but we decided it would be a good idea to “snake up” on the burpee which adds more torque to the lower back. So, the next time someone asks you to do 50 burpees as fast as you can, you educate them on the history of the exercise and refuse to do more than a four count, four rep exercise in honor of Royal H. Burpee himself!