Why Doing Push-Ups as Part of a Burpee is Stupid

A few months back, I had a young visitor to one of my classes, and one of the exercises we were doing was the burpee. Each time his hands hit the floor, he did a half-push-up with a low hip dip, which slowed him down enough that he was getting about two-thirds the reps of athletes in their fifties. I showed him how we like to do burpees, and he said “Oh, I forgot you guys do the easy kind.”

The burpee is a conditioning exercise. It’s not a measure of your manhood. It’s not a competition. And it’s not a good time to do push-ups. There are any number of variations to the burpee, from adding a push-up, to jumping up to a pull-up bar to add a pull-up, to holding a medicine ball, to wearing a weight vest. We are well aware of the existence of these variations, and we don’t do them. It’s not by ignorance that we came to this choice.

I won’t argue that adding a push-up to the burpee doesn’t make it harder. It does. And so would holding your breath, or putting vaseline all over your hands, or wearing swimming flippers. I will argue, though, that it’s likely that your push-ups already suck and you don’t need to do a bunch of jumping around to make them worse. On the same token, the push-up always is the weak link in the burpee, which takes a great conditioning exercise, and makes it more a test of your upper body pressing endurance.

If you think the burpee is too easy as it is, simply jump higher, move faster, and stop every fifty reps and do fifty push-ups while you rest your bad ass.

Adding more to a good thing is not always a gooder thing…unless you eat at Taco Town.

It’s Not You, It’s The Plan

by Charlie Manganiello

Ok, bear with me here. Let’s pretend your workout plan is a person you’re in a relationship with and you sense a break-up coming. This person is thinking it has been good for a little while, we’ll say it’s been great for two months, but the honeymoon phase is over. They are beginning to have doubts. Not normal doubts, but the “I’m in over my head” type of doubts. The person they originally liked and wanted to date just isn’t that person anymore or maybe never was. They are thinking “Wow, we just aren’t compatible.”

You see where I’m going with this…

If your workout plan or gym routine could talk, it might sound something like this. “I’ve really enjoyed our time together. The first couple of months you were knocking this New Year’s resolution out of the park! Seriously, you were killing it! We’ve had a blast, but you just aren’t the person I thought you were. You’re coming to the gym less, you’re cutting corners, I barely see you anymore. It’s not you, it’s me. We just aren’t a good match and I’m breaking up with you. I wish you the best. I know this really great workout you should try.”

Painful, right?

Now, you can take this one of two ways. People are usually pretty hard on themselves both when they fail at relationships or workouts. The inner dialogue goes right to the negative. You tell yourself you suck, you’re a terrible person, and you’re just a big heaping pile of shit that can’t be successful at anything. I know it’s harsh, but we’ve all been there.

Another way to look at said relationship, the more logical (but often overlooked) way, is to look at why it failed. Did I pick the best plan for me? Was I realistic in my approach? Did I bite off more than I could chew or put on more plates than I could deadlift?

Listen, if you are starting a new plan and try to go from zero to one of those sculpted dudes in the movie Magic Mike XXL, you’re most likely going to fail. People try the same approach with the Powerball all the time. Friends will say, “No way you can win!” And they’re probably right. However, someone has to win at some point and they do, but the odds are NOT in their favor. Let’s put the odds in your favor.

I’m not saying don’t try a hard workout, but let’s look at how you can pick up a sustainable workout that leads to those mega workouts you see your friends doing.

For example, I live in a very small rural western town. I live four blocks from my gym. I work at that gym. I’m single. I rent a small apartment. I don’t have any kids. I don’t have many reasons or distractions to keep me from working out. However, it is still hard for me to get my workouts in, life happens, willpower and motivation can wane. I’ve skipped or pushed workouts to other days and I LIVE FOUR BLOCKS FROM THE GYM. FOUR BLOCKS PEOPLE! I should have no excuses! For the most part I keep to my plan, but remember I am an outlier, I’m on one end of the extreme where most people don’t reside. Most people don’t work at a gym and live within skipping distance. Seriously, I could even moonwalk to the gym, that’s how close I live.

Let’s take my brother for example, and I imagine this goes for most people. Yes, I’m making a generalization here. I know your situation is different. You’re special, but let’s take a deep breath now.

He has to commute 45 mins each way to work. That’s only if the roads are clear and there’s no traffic. He has to wear a suit every day and travels a lot for work during the week. In those three sentences I’ve told you he has, best case scenario, 3-4 hours less than I do just by getting ready for work, traveling, and commuting. Now add on an 8 hour work day on top of that, eating, sleeping, and just existing. It’s super hard for him to get a workout in. Not to mention a commute to the gym.

If I gave him this kick ass workout plan I knew worked, but involved two-a-days and lots of time at the gym he would fail before he even started. I’m not saying he couldn’t get there with some serious habit changes or maybe even lifestyle changes, but that takes much more time and he chooses to have a job that far away from his house and chose that lifestyle. Remember, we are starting small. We can think bigger once we kick the crap out of the smaller plan.

Instead of telling him he has to have more willpower and motivation I told him this: “We must pick a workout plan that works for you. Let’s get really simple.” No need to schedule 2-hour mega workout sessions. My brother used to be a competitive runner, but he’s been out of the game for a while. I told him, and this is very important, “Don’t base past success and past fitness on how you feel today. You’re just not there and that’s OK. We can get there, but it will take time.” Here’s the workout I gave him. (This workout is from strength coach, Dan John.)

5 Rounds (No Rest)

15 kettlebell swing

5 squats

3 push-ups

Don’t be fooled on how easy it looks. It covers all the major movement patterns and packs a serious punch. I said once you feel good at 5 rounds gradually work up to 20 rounds. Add a round or rounds when it makes sense. Once you hit 20, start over with a heavier bell. The original program also mentions you can increase the number of push-ups to make it harder, but first make sure everything else is being executed with perfect form. Here’s a link to the workout I’m referring to.

He was skeptical at first, but I told him to try this for 30 days and if he didn’t see results or feel more fit he could fire me. As I write this article we are just about a month into our plan. He’s up to 10 rounds with a 45lbs kettlebell and is feeling stronger. He’s even excited about it! He bought his own kettlebell and gets the work done in 30 to 45 mins. He is now working a plan that he really can’t fail at. He doesn’t have to drag his ass to the gym after a long day. All he has to do is stretch, warm-up a bit, and knock this thing out in his living room and he’s done with it. He does it most days with a rest day here and there. He’s working at a load that isn’t trashing him for days after the workout. He is continually progressing, slowly of course, but he’s moving forward. Remember, a body in motion…you know the rest.

Stop trying to follow a ridiculous training plan you found on curlsgetthegirls.com and simplify your workout. Pick a plan that works best for you. The plan I suggest in this article is a great start. Your plan may even be just to walk 20 minutes every day for 30 days.

You can’t just get more willpower or motivation like you can just ask for extra guacamole on a burrito. It comes with habit change and takes time. It doesn’t just happen. Even with simple plans you’ll lose sight from time to time. It is very important to not be so hard on yourself, block out that negative inner dialogue, and attack the next day.

To quote, dare I say a book I’ve read more than once, The Hunger Games, “May the odds ever be in your favor.”

Choose strength!