The History Of The Burpee

I love burpees!
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The Burpee has to be the king of bodyweight exercises; you either love them – like me! Or you hate them with a passion! Either way it’s a full body exercise ideal for testing and improving strength, conditioning, stamina and if you plan on doing quite a lot; then endurance too!

Just today, one of my clients commented “who could invent such a sick exercise?” …well I decided to find out!

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term Burpee originated in the 1930s: “Named after Royal H. Burpee, an American psychologist. The original usage was Burpee test, in which a series of burpees are executed in rapid succession, designed to measure agility and coordination.”

Royal Huddleston Burpee, a WW 1 veteran was studying for a PhD in Applied Physiology at Columbia University in the 1930’s where he developed the Burpee test as part of his PhD thesis as a quick and simple way to assess fitness for the US military. The New York Times published an article in 1959 stating that the Burpee became a popular exercise and fitness test by the US Navy and the US Army as a way to assess and improve the fitness levels of recruits when the US entered WW 2 – you just knew there would be a military background to it didn’t you!!

The Burpee is also included in his book, “Seven Quickly Administered Tests of Physical Activity”

How to perform a burpee

I came across this short video, developed for the Reebok Cross-fit Games on the History of the Burpee, I’m not sure how much of this is actually true but it’s worth a watch anyway!!

And Finally….

If you didn’t think Burpee’s were bad enough, then what about these extremes?

  • The 100 Day Burpee Challenge – you start on day one by doing one burpee, then on day two you complete two burpees. Not too bad at first, but each day you add on an extra burpee so by day 100 yes that’s right – you complete 100 burpees! Miss a day? Then you make up those reps the following day!
  • The Burpee Mile – You perform one burpee, however when you jump after completing the burpee you jump forwards rather than straight up! The idea is to cover 1 mile this way!! According to the internet it takes around 700 burpees and well over an hour to complete the challenge!
  • The World Record – currently stands at 1,840 burpees performed in one hour by the UK’s Paddy Doyle in 1994 – fancy giving that a go??

Enjoy those burpees !



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Marti Whitaker, EzineArticles Basic Author