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The Burpee Enigma: Literature Review

  • Bingley S
  • Witchalls J
  • McKune A
  • et al.
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Background: The burpee, is one of the best-known exercises worldwide due to increased popularity among high intensity interval training programs. However, previously conducted research on the burpee has used inconsistent terminology and discrepancies in technical knowledge that has resulted in uncertain data representation. This literature review is the first to collate evidence of different forms of burpees from previous research, and critically analyse the physiological and performance effects of each different version. Methods: The preliminary search was performed electronically using Google Scholar, PubMed and Web of Science. The search was conducted on all language written papers pending legible translation, published in peer reviewed journals from January 1939-September 2018 (when the initial search started). Studies that investigated physiological responses (heart rate, blood lactate and oxygen consumption) and/or anthropometric values (height, weight, age, gender) and/or the development/history of the nomenclature of the burpee were included. Results: From the initial 2700 results, only 19 papers were examined in depth having met the appropriate inclusion criteria. Discussion: Synthesis of the study results indicated that when physiological responses are being measured, the type of the burpee is of great importance, because the use of different movement sequences has different metabolic demands. The traditional or the modern burpee places large metabolic and neuromuscular demands due to the compound nature of the individual movement, and utilising both upper body and lower body in unison adds to the complexity. Exercises that require greater complexity and are less familiar to the participant create more central and peripheral fatigue, that in turn affects the rate of recovery. The burpee is a high-intensity bodyweight movement that is difficult to qualify and quantify due to variation in technique, sequence, and individual athlete somatotypes. It has multiple uses across many sport specific contexts, however is often overlooked in favour of other conventional cardiovascular exercises. While previous research on the burpee has been of high quality and valuable to the strength and conditioning community, the burpee has not received appropriate attention over the years. Applicable research regarding the burpee must have consistent naming and standardised technique to remove the inconsistent terminology and research related discrepancies.




Bingley, S., Witchalls, J., McKune, A., & Humberstone, C. (2019). The Burpee Enigma: Literature Review. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 22, S78.

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