I’m so excited! I’m going to do a 30-day, 1,000-burpee challenge! Be sure to get daily updates to see how it goes!
OK, so I’m really not going to do that. Ever.
I’m also not going to drone on and on about how over-burpee’d I feel right now with the endless tweets, status updates and blog posts about them. No, that would just be too snarky and wrong. I’m tempted, believe me. Really, really tempted. But it would be a little intellectually dishonest to do so.
The burpee is a great exercise. Compound movements, explosiveness, and a sweet cardio benefit to boot. If you incorporate burpees into your exercise plan, there is a good chance you’re getting something out of it.
But I do want to add a little bit to this trend of people doing burpee challenges: As you’re pounding out those burpees, don’t forget to pay some attention to your backside.
Nope, I’m not just talking about your butt (which will get some work doing burpees). I’m talking about your whole posterior, from your upper back right down to the calves.
People in general work the front sides of their bodies more than their back. Call it “mirror syndrome” if you want. This has a tendency to create an imbalance which pulls your shoulders forward, leading to joint problems. Similarly, overly developed quads and underdeveloped hamstrings lead to all kinds of fun injuries and chronic maladies that stunt athletic performance or sideline you altogether.
So let’s break down the burpee. A push-up, squat thrust, a jump, to a squat, and back to the push-up position. Primary muscles being used are the front-side delts, pecs, triceps, quads and glutes, with additional work hitting the hamstrings during the squat and squat-thrust and calves during the jump. But most of the work is being done on the anterior muscles, whereas the posterior chain – traps, delts, rhomboids, lats and hamstrings (as a primary muscles group) get short-changed.
I can’t begin to tell you how important that posterior chain of muscles is. Most people’s low-back problems, shoulder issues, and, in more extreme cases, hips, knees and ankle soreness, come from posterior chain weakness.
Overemphasis on exercises which reinforce this imbalance will actually do more harm than good over the long haul.
So what does this mean? For your general fitness program, be sure to have one to two exercises that focus on the posterior chain for every one anterior chain exercise. This will help open up your chest, balance your shoulders and improve your posture – a severely undervalued aspect of building an athletic, fit frame. And that balance will lead to growth and performance gains in those anterior muscle groups. Time considerations get in the way at times, but at a minimum, I do 12 sets of upper body back exercises to 9 sets of chest. Preferably, I’d like that ratio to be 2-to-1.
And what about that burpee challenge? Go ahead and do it. Knock yourself out. But while you’re at it, throw some pull-ups, lat pulls and lunges into the mix.
You’ll be a stronger, fitter and healthier person for it.
On Twitter @RMHigh7088