8 Tough Burpee Variations To Build Power + Helpful Tips For Beginners

Burpees are a challenging metabolic and strengthening exercise that involves the dynamic and seamless combination of three separate moves—a squat, push-up, and vertical jump. Due to the jump portion, burpees are considered a plyometric exercise as well and can be a fantastic way to build power and explosive speed.

It can take practice to master the proper burpee technique so that you feel like you’re able to do a burpee smoothly in one fluid motion without having to think through every step of the movement. Plus, proper burpee execution requires a certain level of cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength.

For these reasons, burpees aren’t a particularly beginner-friendly exercise. However, there are some ways to modify burpees for beginners with different burpee variations to use the exercise to increase power, strength, and speed at their current fitness level. 

On the other end of the spectrum, advanced athletes can take on challenging burpee variations to build power and speed while challenging different muscle groups.

In this article, we will discuss different types of burpees and modifications and variations of burpees for different fitness levels to help you improve your fitness, increase power, and build explosive strength and speed.

We will look at: 

  • Burpee Variations to Shake Up Your Workout Routine
  • 3 Tips for Doing Burpees for Beginners

Let’s get started!

A person in a plank position.

8 Burpee Variations to Shake Up Your Workout Routine

The standard burpee involves performing a squat, then dropping down and doing a full push-up, and then getting up and doing a vertical jump before beginning the squat again. 

There are also different types of burpees you can try. These burpee variations may be more or less challenging for you, depending on your relative strengths and weaknesses. Adding different types of burpees into your routine is the best way to build more well-rounded strength.

If increasing power and explosive speed are your primary training goals, your focus should be on exploding upward on whatever jump component occurs in the burpee variation. 

Plyometric training is a highly effective way to build power, which is essentially a matter of developing force as rapidly as possible (Power = Force/Time).

Here are a few burpee variations:

A person doing start jump.

#1: Burpees With Weights 

Advanced athletes who barely feel challenged by full burpees can progress the exercise by holding on to hex dumbbells. This will make the jump and squat harder, plus you get a weighted overhead raise, and your push-up can be deeper. 

You can also wear a weighted vest for additional resistance. 

#2: Burpees With a Box Jump

Another option for advanced burpees is to do a box jump up onto a box instead of a vertical jump. 

Position yourself behind a plyometric box, and when you get to the jump portion of the burpee, jump up so that your feet land up on the box.

Then, jump down backward, lowering directly into the squat.

A person doing a box jump.

#3: Star Jump Burpees

In this advanced burpee variation, instead of doing a regular vertical jump with your feet together after the push-up, do a star jump (akin to a jumping jack) by vigorously thrusting your arms and legs up and out to the sides as if forming a giant letter X. 

Then, land back with your feet together and drop down into a push-up. You don’t really need to do the squat. Instead, cycle between explosive star jumps and push-ups, only squatting down as you drop your hands to the floor for the push-up.

This type of burpee requires even more power and explosive strength than the standard vertical jump. 

#4: Oblique Burpees

In this burpee variation, when you jump your feet back into the push-up position, do not jump them straight back behind your body. Rather, jump them back towards one side and then do the push-up. 

On the next rep, jump them to the other side. 

For example, if you normally jump your feet back to the 6:00 position on a clock for a regular push-up, jump them to the 4:00 position and then the 8:00 position. 

People doing tuck jumps in a gym.

#5: Tuck Jump Burpees

With this advanced burpee variation, perform a tuck jump (knees exploding up towards your chest) instead of a basic vertical jump.

#6: Spiderman Burpees

Spiderman push-ups involve bringing one knee up and out towards the shoulder when you drop down into the push-up.

With Spiderman burpees, for each rep, do two Spiderman push-ups, bringing each knee up towards the shoulder on that side one time before hopping up to do the vertical jump.

#7: Mountain Climber Burpees

In this challenging burpee variation, perform the squat and then drop down into a push-up position. Once there, do mountain climbers (driving each knee up under your chest) for 10-15 reps and then jump up and do the jump.

This is a great option for people who struggle with push-ups but want to take on a cardiovascularly challenging burpee.

A person doing a clapping push up.

#8: Burpees With Clapping Push-Ups

As mentioned, plyometric exercises are a great way to build power

A clapping push-up is an upper-body plyometric exercise because you are launching your upper body off the ground and then need to catch your body on the way down.

Therefore, this advanced burpee is a double plyometric exercise—you have the upper-body clapping push-up and the lower-body plyometric exercise with the squat jump portion of the burpee.

As you drop down to do your push-up, press through your palms with as much force as possible to drive your upper body off the ground. Clap your hands together rapidly under your chest before quickly getting your hands back in place to absorb your landing.  

Then jump your feet forward towards your hands, as you normally would, and explode upwards into the vertical jump.

You’ll be feeling this one!

People doing burpee variations in the gym.

3 Tips for Doing Burpees for Beginners

The following are tips for doing burpees:

#1: Start Slow

Even though the ultimate goal is to perform burpees rapidly and at a high intensity, beginners often find that just the coordination alone—trying to do a squat, then push-up, then vertical jump in one fluid motion—is challenging and feels awkward.

Don’t be afraid to slow things down as you are learning until you have mastered the technique. 

You might not get all the same cardiovascular and metabolic benefits if you are moving slowly, but taking the time to learn how to do burpees properly will eventually help you to perform them vigorously and competently.

There’s no “rule” on how fast you need to go; slow down and focus on mastering the technique.

A person in a push up position.

#2: Modify the Burpee

Beginners may find basic burpees to be too challenging.

Modifying the exercise and using burpee variations can help you build up your strength and aerobic fitness to handle doing multiple burpees in a row.

Here are some easier burpee modifications:

Skip the push-up

After the squat, drop your hands to the floor and jump your feet back into a push-up position, but don’t actually perform the push-up. 

Just jump your feet into the push-up position and then jump them immediately forward again. 

You can do this for every rep, or you can alternate skipping the push-up and then doing it out on the next rep.

A person squatting on a field.

Skip the jump

When you finish the push-up, jump your feet forward and stand up, but don’t jump up into the air. As soon as you’re fully standing, just move immediately down into the squat. 

Again, you can do this burpee modification for every rep or throw it in when you need a bit of a breather during your set of burpees.

Skip both the jump and the push-up 

If you need to, you can skip both the push-up and the jump to slow things down.

Step your feet forward and back

When you drop your palms to the ground after the squat, you can step each leg back into the push-up position one at a time rather than trying to jump them back together. 

Similarly, you can step each foot forward as you prepare to stand after the push-up rather than trying to jump them simultaneously into a tuck position. 

These modifications will make the exercise less vigorous.

A person in a push up position.

#3: Try Different Types of Burpees

Just because you are a beginner does not mean you can’t try some of the different burpee variations described above. Certain types of burpees may be easier for you, and adding variety will prevent boredom.

However, skip any advanced burpee variations that use weights or otherwise make the movement even more physically taxing.

To get started, you can take on our 30-Day Burpee Challenge!

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, and contributes to several fitness, health, and running websites and publications. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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