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The high-intensity phenomenon dominating fitness right now says “less is more.” Less time working out, but way more intensity.
As a lady of the ‘90s, I furrow my Brooke Shields eyebrows. I’d rather do aerobics for an hour and a half than spend 15 minutes doing high intensity “all-out” work. But current research is strong, supporting that the latter blows the former out of the water when it comes to boosting your metabolism.
Burpees are do-anywhere exercises that can hit that high-intensity target without any equipment. (I’ll show you exactly how to do one further down.) I recently noticed other trainers raving on social media about a burpees-by-the-minute challenge they were tasking themselves—and their clients—to try.
The battle is you against the clock, so it stood to reason that the workout would suit most fitness levels—the time would just get longer as a person gets fitter. The competitor in me itched to try it. I decided to attempt what I’m calling the “Death by Burpees” challenge every day for two weeks straight.
HERE’S THE CHALLENGE:
“Death by Burpees” is a by-the-minute interval challenge. In the first minute, you complete one burpee. In the second minute, you do two. Third minute, three… until you cannot complete the required burpee amount in a minute. (Visual learner? See below). To be counted, the burpee must touch your chest to the ground, and the leap in the air must clear at least 6 inches. When you have met your highest potential, the workout is over.
TIME DO THIS MANY BURPEES
From 0-1:00 1
From 1:00-2:00 2
From 2:00-3:00 3
From 3:00-4:00 4
Continue until you’ve met your max of burpees you can complete within a minute.
HOW TO DO A BURPEE:
1. Stand upright.
2. Tuck down by planting your hands on the ground in push-up position and jumping your feet in behind them.
3. Jump your feet out behind you into a push-up or plank position.
4. Lower down into a push-up.
5. Come back up into your tucked position.
6. Spring into the air, then land in starting position.
To make it easier: Although the official “Death by Burpee” challenge requires that the chest touch the ground in Step 4 and the feet jump at least 6 inches off the ground in Step 6, you can modify and create your own challenge with these burpee alternatives that are easier on the wrists and knees.
With the basics down, it was time to challenge my body. Here’s what I learned from doing this challenge—and why you should try it, too.
LESSON 1: IT’S “SNEAKY” HARD.
The workout is sneaky, because it starts out extremely easy, then gets extremely hard.
It would be more manageable towards the end if you told yourself “ah, good enough” before you actually met your max, but who wants to go down like that? Not me and I don’t think you, either. That is why your last 2-3 minutes feel like you’re knocking on death’s door.
Those last minutes will be double-digit numbers of burpees for almost everybody: greater than 9, less than 20. See “Lesson 5” for specifics. It’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment when it’s over, but you really have to get in the right headspace to even get started.
LESSON 2: PLAN ON MULTI-TASKING.
Even if you’re brand new to doing burpees, the first five minutes of your daily challenge will have a lot of dead time. For the first two days on this challenge, I filled that dead time with squats. (Overachiever, I know.) That came back to bite me in the butt when my legs were too fatigued to finish my final minute. Going forward, I filled the dead time with folding laundry. It felt efficient to knock out a workout and domestic duties, too.
LESSON 3: IT’S A LOT OF PUSHING.
Fitness trainers often speak of exercises in terms of “pushing, pulling, abduction or adduction.”
Burpees are pushing exercises. From the push-up to the leap, you push-push. All that pushing every day for two full weeks was pretty brutal. As an exercise physiologist, I believe this program would be much more balanced if every other day was replaced with a pulling workout, such as rowing. If I did this challenge again, I’d try to even things out.
LESSON 4: IT’S CONVENIENT.
Over the course of two weeks, I did this thing in the driveway, about every room in my house, at a park and in a hotel room. What I never did was go out of my way to get somewhere. As long as I had a mat (I liked laying down a mat to cushion my hands), I had all I needed to get this done. Knowing that I could stop in my tracks just about anywhere and get this workout done in approximately fifteen minutes was freeing.
LESSON 5: IT WORKED.
If you can make yourself do this thing (regularly), and put your utmost into it, you’ll get a lot out of it. Like I said in Lesson 3, I don’t believe it’s necessary to do this every single day, but I did realise some changes by sticking it out. For instance, there was a little less “cushion” covering my upper abs and a few centimeters off my waist. (Full disclosure: I had a baby 5 months ago, so may have more rapid results at this time).
As a fitness professional, this was my experience: 15 minutes was somewhat hard, 16 was very hard, 17 was almost impossible in the early days, and 18 was my all-out max by the end. The average woman will feel those sensations a bit sooner, likely between 12-15 minutes. Don’t get too caught up with a particular number. Just aim to reach your highest potential.
By adhering to the program and committing to give it my 100% every time, I saw some results in only two weeks. I do believe, though, you could reap measurable changes from this by only doing it twice a week, in conjunction with other strength, cardio and power workouts.
This article originally appeared on Prevention and Women’s Health US.
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