Why do we do burpees? Why is it called a “burpee”? Why do they suck so much? Why hasn’t someone made them illegal? Why is it called a burpee? According to Oxford Dictionaries Online, the exercise was named in the 1930s for American physiologist Royal H. Burpee, who developed the burpee test. He earned a PhD in applied physiology from Columbia University in 1940, and created the “burpee” exercise as part of his PhD thesis as a quick and simple way to assess fitness. The exercise was popularized when the United States Armed Services adopted it as a way to assess the fitness level of recruits when the US entered WWII. Consisting of a series of the exercises performed in rapid succession, the test was meant to be a quick measure of agility, coordination and strength. The version created by Dr. Burpee did NOT include the push up or jump portion. Instead the exercise consisted of a squat, then a backwards leg thrust while staying in the front leaning rest position (plank), and back to standing. The style most commonly seen in CrossFit is sometimes called the burpee push up or affectionately known as the “bastardo”. Why do we do them? There are few bodyweight exercises that illicit the type of cardio pulmonary response we all know and love that the burpee produces. One minute of burpees leaves the unconditioned panting for breath and wishing they were still following the latest video workout craze instead of walking into CrossFit Lobo. There are also a number of practical applications. Military, law enforcement, and CrossFit coaches are often times in situations where someone might shoot a pesky bullet or two at them. If we can get down on the ground, return fire and get back up quickly we stand a better chance of surviving. Also, who hasn’t fallen and needed to get back up quickly? Especially if you’ve been out drinking with friends. It’s important to be able to know how to fall and then get back to standing before someone in the group gets a photo. Practical application. Finally, the burpee is an excellent exercise for the elderly population. Yes, I said that. Remember all exercises can vary in intensity. It doesn’t matter how quickly or slowly the athlete gets to the floor and back up. The important thing is that they get to the floor and off of it. Most of us know an elderly relative or friend who has fallen and was unable to get back up, then lay on the floor for hours. Teach your elderly friends and relatives to burpee. Use boxes if necessary to simulate furniture or counter-tops they could use to assist in a real life situation. Why do they suck so much? There is a lot of power output that goes into lowing your entire body onto the floor and then getting it back up into the fully open position. The burpee is one of the most taxing bodyweight movements you can do. You burn more calories and demand more from your cardio vascular system than most other unweighted mono-structural movements (More than running, swimming, rowing, etc.). The burpee is a fantastic way to raise your heart rate and get some great mobility training at the same time. Because of all the moving parts and distance you have to move, it really pushes your system, but it’s also a great way to increase your fitness. They also travel well. You can do burpees in almost any hotel room, hotel fitness center, next to the pool, on a camping trip (don’t burpee in poison ivy), etc. Pack them in your luggage.