Who Invented the Burpee?

Learn about the origin and brief history of the Burpee, an exercise we love to hate while admitting its benefits.

The Burpee is one of those exercises we love to hate, but we cannot deny its crazy heart-pumping benefits. CrossFit imposes a Burpee penalty for arriving late to class and for other infractions. Thirty Burpees in a row is punishment for not completing an obstacle at a Spartan Race. The complete motion—dropping to the ground from a standing position, kicking your feet out behind you, doing a Push-Up, pulling your legs back in and then jumping as high as possible—builds muscle and cardiovascular endurance.

The exercise is one of the foundations of old-fashioned calisthenics—dynamic exercises or movements designed to increase strength and agility using only body weight for resistance.

RELATED: 4 Alternatives to Burpees

But where did the Burpee come from?

The Burpee is named for a physiologist named Royal Huddleston Burpee. For his Ph.D. thesis at Columbia University in 1940, he invented the exercise as a way to assess the fitness of non-active adults. Burpee made participants perform only four Burpees at a time, and he actually specified that the movement should not be performed for a high number of repetitions. He was testing people who were generally unfit, and he warned that Burpees could be harmful to the knees and back and detrimental to those without proper core strength.

Originally, the exercise was called a "Squat Thrust," and it had four parts—the Squat, the Plank, the jump back and the return to standing. The Push-Up and the Jump were added later.

During World War II, the U.S. military picked up the exercise as part of its required fitness test. Those entering the armed forces had to do Burpees for 20 seconds. A few years later, they upped the requirement to 60 seconds. 

Thus began the tradition of Burpees as pure and grueling punishment. And however many variations have been added since then, it remains one of the best exercises for a full-body workout.

Here are a few examples of Burpee variations:

Source: Huffington Post


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: CROSSFIT | WORKOUTS | MILITARY | SPARTAN RACE | FITNESS | BURPEE | EXERCISE | ENDURANCE | HEART | JUMPING | CARDIOVASCULAR | ARMED FORCES | COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY | FITNESS TEST