Whenever I’m strapped for time and equipment and still need a solid workout, I turn to the burpee. Burpees are bodyweight exercises, and thus require no equipment or weights. They are full body movements that engage every muscle group, require only as much space as you need to do a pushup, and can be done anywhere. You can do them slowly and methodically, or quick for a sprint-like workout. If you’re ever outdoors and need to warm up fast, a quick set of 15-20 burpees will get your body temperature up faster than anything. The pros go on and on.
Now, I don’t typically bake burpees into my week-to-week workouts. Instead, I resort to a burpee workout when I’m crunched for time, don’t have access to a gym or nice outdoor experience, or am otherwise not feeling a full-on gym workout but still want to train.
The way I usually do them is to go all out for the first 20. Catch my breath (maybe 10-20 second break). Go all out for another 10. Catch my breath. And repeat in sets of 10 reps, until I reach 100 or 150 or 200. So for me, burpee workouts are very intuitive. Rather than go for predetermined reps or rest periods, I let my body determine that stuff in real time. Give it a try. You’ll like it, or hate it, or both.
Reasons you Might Want an Alternative to the Burpee
While burpees are great for all the reasons I listed above, there are some reasons you might want an alternative movement:
- Burpees are demanding and relatively complex. Many people start making technique mistakes toward the end of a burpee workout because they’re so fatigued and that can lead to injuries. A crisp, clean burpee is beautiful and safe and effective, but if your knees start caving in on the landing or your lower back starts dipping toward the ground and your elbows start flaring out on the pushups, you’re not just selling your own training short — you’re putting yourself at risk.
- Burpees involve three movements people might simply not be able to do. Squats, even bodyweight ones, take a reasonable amount of mobility, flexibility, and coordination. Pushups can be a surprisingly demanding strength exercise when performed with correct form, and many people haven’t jumped in years. Stringing them all together for reps as a conditioning workout is asking a lot.
- Burpees get old. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is another regular-old burpee, but you still like the training effect they offer.
So, here is a series of alternatives to burpees that have similar qualities and produce similar results as the burpee. See if you can try them all. Primal Health Coach Brian demonstrates all of these moves in the video at the bottom of this post.
1. Squat Thrusts
Think burpees without the pushup and the jump. Squat thrusts actually birthed the modern burpee. They involve squatting down to place hands on floor, shooting the legs back to assume the plank position, shooting them forward, then squatting back up. They’re really, really simple and for the first ten or so you’re thinking “These are too easy.” Keep doing them, though, and suddenly you’ll realize you’re getting a great workout.
To do the murpee, or modified burpee: instead of shooting your legs back, dropping into an explosive pushup, leaping to your feet and springing upward, and repeating it as quickly as possible, slow everything down and rely on strength and balance instead of sheer momentum.
- Slowly lower yourself into a squat until you can place your hands flat on the floor in front of you.
- Slowly step back one leg at a time to assume the pushup position.
- Do a pushup (some people omit this step).
- Slowly, deliberately bring one leg forward, touching knee to elbow and holding it there for a moment. Draw the other leg forward. Place your feet flat on the floor until you’re in the bottom squat position. Each rep, alternate which leg you bring forward first.
- Either stand up or jump up. The advantage of doing everything slowly means you can muster more force for the jump and land safely.
- Everything is slow and controlled and deliberate.
3. 180 Degree Burpees
Do a regular burpee with a jump, only instead of jumping in place, turn 180 degrees. Alternate which direction you turn and don’t get sloppy with the landing; the rotational momentum exerts novel forces on your body and requires greater trunk (and really full-body) stability. Beyond that, do these offer a unique training effect over regular burpees? Who knows. These sure are fun, though.
4. Broad Jump Burpees
Again, it’s a regular burpee with a jump, only instead of jumping in place, you’re broad jumping as far forward as you can. Be sure to do these on a comfortable surface with decent traction. Grass? Good. Wet muddy grass? Probably not. And do fewer of these than you would regular burpees. The maximal effort broad jump really takes a lot out of you and increases the degree of risk.
5. Jumping Jacks
You haven’t done these in years, right? Jumping jacks probably remind you of gym class, back when you’d do them half-seriously. Today, try doing them for real. Actually jump. Get your hands up there like you mean it.
6. Russian Lunges
Bodyweight lunges: easy, right? Too easy to approach the conditioning potential of the burpee. But what about jumping lunges? That’s exactly what a Russian lunge is. You lunge with one leg, then spring up and land in a lunge with the other leg forward. Keep doing it, alternating each time. You can even do this while holding a weight plate; just keep it lighter than you’d think would be necessary.
7. Get Up, Stand Ups
I’m not sure if this is the right name, but it sounds good. You start sitting down on the ground, legs straight, knees together, back tall, hands flat on the ground at your sides. Pop up by pushing off the ground with your hands and bringing your feet underneath you to stand up (throw in a vertical jump here to spice things up). Quickly return to the starting sitting position — without using your hands, if possible — and do it all over again.
8. Kettlebell Swings
If you’re looking for a self-contained comprehensive workout that will get you stronger, more explosive, and better conditioned without being a burpee, look no further than the kettlebell swing. Sure, you need a piece of equipment — the kettlebell — but I’d argue that the swing is probably safer to do repeatedly for high reps than the burpee. For every one burpee you’d normally do, do three swings.
9. Sandbag Shouldering
This is another option that requires a single piece of equipment, but it’s one you can make yourself by spending a few bucks at the surplus store and stuffing it with contractor bags filled with sand. Sandbag shouldering is exactly what it sounds like: pick the sandbag up and hoist it up to your shoulder, lower it back to the ground, repeat with the opposite shoulder. Throughout the entire movement, maintain as neutral a spine as possible. It’s essentially a deadlift (picking it up) and power clean (hoisting it up) hybrid exercise that hits almost every muscle in the body. And if you want to throw in some pushing work, you can overhead press the thing once it’s on your shoulder.
No sandbag? Fill a duffel bag with soft weighted objects – emphasis on soft so that you don’t conk yourself in the head.
10. Jump Rope
For pure conditioning’s sake, few activities beat the jump rope. It’s a mainstay in boxing, MMA, kickboxing, wrestling, and even swimming and endurance running training programs for the simple reason that it just works. Of course, jumping rope is a miserable way to improve one’s conditioning, but that’s a common problem with methods that actually work. Another advantage is that jumping rope is self-limiting. It’s really hard to jump rope with poor technique or hurt yourself doing it because you’ll just catch the rope with your foot or slam it into your shins. If you do it wrong, wrong enough to get into trouble, you won’t be able to actually jump rope.
11. Tabata Squats
Think air squats are pointless and way too easy? Okay, guy. Try this out: just squat down and back up as many times as you can in 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat the sequence 7 more times.
12. Mountain Climbers
Sort of like running in place from the pushup position, mountain climbers can destroy you if you’re not careful. Your abs will be sore, your chest will pound, your stamina will increase. If mountain climbers on the ground are too tough, try them on an incline; place your hands on the couch, a coffee table, a bench, or a sturdy chair.
13. Shoulder Tap Planks
Assume the plank position: arms straight, hands flat, body forming a single unbroken line. Then, ever so slowly, tap your left shoulder with your right hand. Slowly place your right hand back on the ground. Now, tap your right shoulder with your left hand. Return it to rest on the ground. Keep alternating shoulder taps. Go slow and feel the tension in your trunk muscles. Tougher than you thought, eh?
Hold two weighted objects at your shoulders. Bend your knees and lower into a squat, and rise back up to standing. Once your knees are straight again, go right into a shoulder press. These get your heart pumping in no time.
15. Sandbag Clean & Press
Start in a squat position with the sandbag at your feet. Bending at the elbows, flip the bag upward to touch your chest. Then squat and raise the sandbag over your head. Finish by dropping the sandbag onto the ground, and repeat.
Now, watch all of the moves in action!
Whether you’re looking to improve mobility, strength, conditioning, or overall fitness, the burpee is a fine choice. But it’s not the only one, or even the best one. If you’re getting tired of burpees, or just want to try something new for a change, give the exercises from today’s post a trial run. I think you’ll like them. Or maybe you’ll hate them, which means they’re probably working.
Let’s hear from you down below. Have you done any of these exercises? How do they compare to burpees? Got any other suggestions for people sick of the burpee?
Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care.
Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.
The post 13 Alternatives to Burpees for When You’re Tired of Doing Burpees appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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As great as back squats are for strength, general fitness, and body composition, sometimes they just don’t work for a person. Maybe they cause knee, shoulder, or wrist pain. Maybe someone’s body proportions aren’t conducive to proper back squatting. Maybe their legs are too long to achieve good depth without compromising position. While there are dozens of articles imploring you to mobilize this or that joint and work out the kinks in this or that muscle so that the back squat will work, and those can be very informative and helpful, some people just don’t want to back squat. For whatever reason, it doesn’t work for them.
Especially now, when gyms are closed and it’s difficult to get your hands on a barbell, you might be looking for alternatives to back squats that will keep your legs just as strong.
Plenty of other knee flexion exercises are worth doing. Let’s take a look at some of the best alternatives.
9 Back Squat Alternatives You Can Do At Home
- Air squats
- Goblet squats
- Front squats
- Band Zercher squats
- Bulgarian split squats
- Resistance band split squats
- Step ups
- Walking lunges and Reverse Lunges
- Tempo squat jumps
1. Air Squats
Don’t underestimate the efficacy of the simple bodyweight air squat. It’s great for mobility and surprisingly metabolically demanding.
To do air squats, start with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend at the knee, and come to a low “seat” in an imaginary chair. Keep a straight line between your tailbone and your head. Don’t think you can work your quads without heavy weights? Do a few high-rep sets of air squats and you’ll feel it. If you’d like an extra challenge, wearing a weighted vest or holding weights at your sides will add some extra oomph.
2. Goblet Squats
Goblet squats are easier on most bodies than back squats for two reasons: less weight is used (because you have to hold it in your hands at chin level) and they promote a more “natural” squatting technique. To perform a goblet squat, you hold a weight (kettlebell, weight plate, dumbbell, small child) at chin level, stay tall, and squat down between your legs while maintaining an upright torso. Many seasoned strength coaches use the goblet squat to teach beginners how to squat because it’s so intuitive.
That said, there are some extra details to keep in mind:
- Tuck your elbows against your body. This creates a more stable “shelf” of support for the weight.
- Keep your chest up.
- Push your knees out.
Since you won’t be pushing heavy weights with the goblet squat, focus on higher reps and more overall volume. If things get dicey, dropping the weight in a goblet squat is way easier than dropping a barbell sitting on your back.
3. Front Squats
To me, front squats have always felt more natural than back squats. There’s less thinking about what your joints are doing and which muscle groups you’re supposed to be activating. You just squat with a weight in the front rack position and the rest follows. It’s hard to mess up and round your lower back because if you lean too far forward during a front squat, you’ll just dump the weight.
According to a 2009 study on front and back squats in trained individuals, front squats exert fewer compressive forces on the knee and “may be advantageous compared with back squats for individuals with knee problems such as meniscus tears, and for long-term joint health.”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22237139‘>2
To target quads, hamstrings, and glutes, use a surface high enough that your knee is at 90° when you step onto it. The higher the box, the more glute and hamstring you’ll hit. Lower boxes will focus more on the quads. Try not to push with the off foot. If you find yourself pushing off despite best efforts, dorsiflex the off foot and touch down only with the heel.
8. Walking Lunges and Reverse Lunges
My go-to exercise when dealing with substandard hotel gyms is a few sets of walking lunges while carrying the heaviest dumbbells they’ve got. There’s something special about the combination of moving through space and lifting that adds a whiff of complexity and increases the training adaptations.
Lunges are relatively easy on the knees for many people who get knee pain during back squats. For others, it’s the opposite (but this post isn’t really intended for them). If you have problems with lunges, play around with the torso angles. Turning the movement into more of a single leg hip hinge by slightly leaning forward (shoulders over knees) can alleviate unpleasant forces to the knee.
To make them easier, forego the weights. To make them more challenging, add hand weights and a weighted vest if you feel like you need to ramp it up.
Walking lunges are awesome, but they require magnificent balance. And if you’re pushing heavy weight, any minor mistake during the initial descent can send you and the weight tumbling. They also require a lot of room. Reverse lunges are generally safer, more stable, and they don’t require much space (because you do them in place).
Instead of taking steps forward, you will step backward into your lunge and return to standing for each rep.
9. Tempo Squat Jumps
Start as you would an air squat, feet shoulder-width apart. Over a count of four, lower into a squat position. Explosively jump up, land soft, and lower your body back into a squat position, taking a full count of four to get there. You can watch Brian demonstrate this and all of the above squat alternative movements in this video.
That’s it for today, everyone. If you feel like you’re missing out on the barbells at the gym, I hope you’ve found at least a couple exercises in today’s post to fill the void — and get you a fantastic workout in the process.
Thanks for reading. What are your favorite alternatives to the back squat?
The post 9 Worthy Alternatives to Back Squats (No Barbell Required) appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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When you ask most people what it takes to be fit, you get some pretty wild answers. Hours on the treadmill or pounding pavement every day. Hours in the weight room. Obsessing over how to turn every moment of the day into an opportunity for some kind of workout move.
I never liked what I heard, and after many decades of overtraining, I decided it was time to come up with a sane alternative—Primal Blueprint Fitness as I’ve called it over the years. It boils down to three logical steps all rooted in ancestral patterns people lived for hundreds of thousands of years:
- Primal Blueprint Law #3: Move Frequently
- Primal Blueprint Law #4: Lift Heavy Things
- Primal Blueprint Law #5: Sprint Once in a While
All told, it’s a handful of hours a week, most of it moving frequently. In addition to those 4-5 hours a week of walking or other light movement, throw in an hour’s worth of strength training and 15 minutes of sprint time. There you go. Do that, and you’ll be in darn good shape.
I’ve written over the years about ideas for moving frequently—walking, hiking, and various ways to keep your walking routines interesting. But it’s not just about walking. Moving frequently can mean a lot of things after all.
Today I’m sharing a whole host of video how-tos and routines that touch on all of those three Primal Fitness Laws—but especially #4 and #5. Sit back, watch the ones that speak to you, and see how they’ll shake up how you’re working out….
First off, let’s review the Primal Essential Movements:
The 4 Primal Essential Movements
For those who have these moves down and want to step up the effort, variations are one tool.
Advanced Variations On Basic Moves
Dead Stop Push-Ups
Now let’s move on to resistance training workouts.
Lifting Heavy Things
My Favorite Way To Lift Heavy Things
That brings us to Primal Law #5: Sprint Once In a While….
My Sprinting Workout
Running Form Primer
Now that you’ve got the basics, let’s move on to quick workouts you can do anywhere.
On the Road Warrior Workout
More About My Personal Routine
How My Routine Has Changed
My Take On “Ab” Workouts
How I Rest: Matters for Ancestral Fitness
My Favorite Way To Play… After All These Years
Thanks for stopping in, everybody. Have thoughts or questions about any of the above moves or routines—or anything fitness related? Shoot me a line below. Have a great week.
The post Video Roundup: The Moves, Routines and Know-How You Need For Ultimate Primal Fitness appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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