Burpees are a fantastic exercise. A burpee is a dynamic, vigorous, total-body exercise that checks off both the cardiovascular and strengthening boxes.
For this reason, burpees are among the most efficient and effective moves and truly hit the mark in terms of being a total-body exercise.
However, as much as the rigor and challenge of burpees are what makes them such a heavy-hitting beneficial move to add to your routine, it also makes burpees unworkable or at least unappealing to many people.
Whether you’re a beginner who is new to fitness, returning from an injury or dealing with pain, or have concerns about the impact on your joints, burpees might not be the safest choice.
Fortunately, there are burpee alternatives you can do that provide some or all of the different benefits of burpees without the same degree of intensity, joint impact, or strength requirements.
In this article, we will share alternatives to burpees that you can perform when you need a burpee substitute for the workout you are doing.
We will cover:
- What Are Burpees?
- What Exercise Can I Do Instead of Burpees?
- 13 Burpee Alternatives To Dial Up Your Next Workout
Let’s jump in.
What Are Burpees?
Burpees are a bodyweight exercise that combines a squat, push-up, and vertical jump cycled together as rapidly as possible.
Burpees are metabolically demanding and burn a lot of calories.
If you’re completing an average of 16-20 burpees per minute, your heart rate will elevate while, at the same time, strengthening your entire body.
What Exercise Can I Do Instead of Burpees?
There are any number of exercises you can do instead of burpees.
Ultimately, there’s no “right” or “wrong” burpee substitute, and in most cases, you will find that one burpee alternative works better than another for a particular workout, but then the converse is true for another workout.
Depending on your fitness level, injury risk or current pain presentation, and workout goals, you can pick a burpee alternative that feels more comfortable and safe and that works as an alternative to burpees in whatever workout routine you are following.
In general, there are two primary things to consider when trying to pick the best alternative to burpees for your workout:
- The reason you need a burpee alternative (why you can’t or don’t want to do burpees).
- The main attribute of burpees you’re looking to replicate in your burpee alternative exercise—strength or cardio.
In terms of the first factor, it’s important to consider the reason you are seeking an alternative exercise to burpees.
- Do you have pain or an injury that makes performing burpees unsafe or painful?
- Are you not strong enough to perform the push-up portion of a burpee?
- Does the jump portion hurt your knees?
- Is the squat uncomfortable?
- Are you not fit enough from a cardiovascular standpoint to do more than a couple of burpees without becoming totally winded?
- Do you just hate burpees, and you’d like to stick with exercises that keep you motivated, so you don’t quit your workout?
Choosing the most appropriate burpee alternative for your situation will depend on how you answer these questions or other similar questions.
For example, if you struggle to stay motivated with your workouts and know that if you have exercises on the lineup that you just detest, you are more likely to throw in the towel, then it makes sense to swap out burpees for any exercise that you find engaging and at least somewhat enjoyable.
If you have a knee injury that makes squatting or jumping painful, you will be best served with a low-impact burpee alternative like marching in place or something that focuses on the upper body, such as push-ups or clapping push-ups.
Or, you might be able to get away with just skipping the jump portion, depending on your injury.
If you are not yet fit or strong enough to perform burpees as is, there are ways to modify them.
For instance, you can step your legs back into the push-up rather than jump them, you can skip the push-up altogether and just do a high plank position for a second, or you can do the push-up on your knees.
In short, your physical limitations provide guidance for choosing how to pick the best burpee alternative or burpee modification so that you feel safe yet challenged.
In terms of the second factor to consider when selecting the best alternative to burpees, if you do need to swap burpees for a different exercise, you’ll want to make your choice based on your primary fitness goal.
As we initially established, one of the unique qualities of burpees is that they so beautifully strike an impressive balance of being a super effective strengthening move as well as a cardio exercise that gets your heart rate through the roof.
Not all burpee alternatives are going to come close to ticking both of these boxes in equal measure.
There are more cardio-based burpee alternatives, such as jumping jacks or high knees sprinting in place, but these exercises will not be as strength-focused, so they won’t help you build muscle in your arms, legs, core, chest, and back as much as burpees will.
On the other hand, burpee alternatives such as regular bodyweight squats or push-ups in isolation can help you build muscle but won’t provide the cardiovascular intensity you get with burpees.
When you are trying to pick an alternative exercise to burpees in a particular workout, think about which of the two goals is most important to you, and then choose your burpee substitute exercise accordingly.
13 Burpee Alternatives To Dial Up Your Next Workout
1: Kettlebell Swings
If you have access to exercise equipment, kettlebell swings are one of the best alternatives to burpees.
There is absolutely zero jumping involved, so this exercise is non-impact, making it a great burpee substitute for those with knee pain, hip pain, or stress injuries.
At the same time, the kettlebell swing is still a total-body exercise, so you will get the cardiovascular and metabolic boost of doing burpees plus the strengthening benefits as well.
In this way, this is one of the few alternative exercises to burpees that actually hits both the cardio and strength criteria of the original exercise.
Kettlebell swings might look like they only involve the upper body, but the real power comes from snapping your hips forward with each swing to drive the bell upward.
If you use proper form, kettlebell swings will strengthen your glutes, quads, hamstrings, abs, upper and lower back, chest, shoulders, and arms.
Because the movement is so dynamic and involves all your major muscle groups, kettlebell swings will increase your heart rate and help you burn calories.
#2: Inchworm Push-Ups
This exercise is great for anyone who needs a burpee substitute that is low-impact and avoids using the legs to an appreciable degree.
It’s also less intense, so if you’re trying to build your arm strength so that you actually do burpees, try this exercise in your training.
#3: Jump Squats
Burpees essentially combine a jump squat with a push-up.
If you aren’t ready to do the push-up component or you can’t get up and down off the ground, performing regular jump squats is a great burpee alternative.
You can still do the vertical jump part, reaching your hands as high as possible.
#4: Medicine Ball Slams
You’ll get to expunge some aggression in this fun move, and it’s a good burpee substitute because it increases your heart rate and strengthens most of your muscles.
Be sure to use a medicine ball that does not bounce, or be prepared to catch it (and protect your face!) if you use one that does.
#5: Plank Jacks
This is a good burpee substitute for those with knee pain. You’ll work your core, back, chest, shoulders, and arms and boost your heart rate.
#6: Battle Ropes
If you have access to heavy battle ropes, they are a great way to get an amazing upper-body and core workout while increasing your heart rate.
If you hold a squat position as you do them, you’ll also work your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
#7: Jumping Jacks
Jumping jacks can be an easier exercise if you are a beginner and just want to focus on the cardio benefits of burpees.
Since most people already know how to do jumping jacks, you can just focus on going as hard and fast as possible rather than worrying that speeding through a burpee with poor technique will cause injury.
#8: Jumping Rope
This is a good cardio burpee substitute if you can handle high-impact exercise.
You’ll certainly get your heart rate up.
#9: Slalom Jumps
Slalom jumps involve rapidly jumping side to side over a line (real or imaginary) with your two feet together.
It’s a cardio burpee substitute.
Keep your core tight and glutes engaged, focusing on speed rather than height with each jump.
#10: Alternating Jumping Lunges
If you can safely jump, jumping lunges provide nearly all of the same benefits as burpees, excluding any significant upper-body engagement.
You’ll still get your heart pounding and your legs burning (in a good way!).
#11: High Knees Sprinting In Place
This is a great cardio exercise alternative for burpees.
Drive your knees up as high as possible using your core, arms, and hip flexors.
#12: Mountain Climbers
This exercise drives your heart rate up while working the core, upper body, and legs.
#13: Modified Burpees
As you build up your fitness and get stronger, you can perform modified burpees to make them a little easier. The following are suggestions to try to simplify things:
- Skip the push-up.
- Skip the jump.
- Skip both the jump and the push-up.
- Step your feet forward and back one at a time rather than jumping them back together, and after the push-up, you can step each foot forward as you prepare to stand rather.
Though they are effective, burpees aren’t the “be-all-end-all” exercise you must do.
There are plenty of great alternatives to burpees for those times when you just aren’t up for the rigors of a traditional burpee.
If you do want to learn how to do burpees with the correct form, try out our 30-day Burpee Challenge, and we’ll help you get there.