I ran into trouble last year when I increased the number of burpees I was doing to 50 per day. As the reps increased I started using my upper body strength to make up for core weakness. This poor form led to injury, which led to me not doing burpees for a couple of months. Not what I was hoping for.
This year I started doing burpees again, but with a focus on technique. I also kept my total to 10 max for a few months. Embarrassingly low number of burpees, but the long view is to keep doing them every day for life and not repeat the issues I had last fall. But even at 10 per day I started getting shoulder pain again. I made a point of looking straight ahead at the wall in front of me so I wasn’t using my shoulders to bear the weight, and that helped. I started doing shoulder warm-up exercises to get the blood flowing, and that helped too. But that familiar shoulder pain was creeping back in anyway.
Two weeks ago I made a minor adjustment to the push-up part of the burpee; pointing my fingers towards each other and forming a diamond shape. This angled my elbows outward and combined with the rest of my focus on good form relieved the stress on my shoulders. Will this hold up over time as the solution? We’ll see, but that minor tweak in form has been a huge relief in doing burpees. I’ve increased the number of reps slightly and will see how it goes. I’d like to get back to 50 per day if possible, as there’s no better travel exercise than burpees.
Good form is essential in burpees, as it is in everything that we do where long term results are the objective. Burpees are portable – I’ve done them on the lawn on the Cape and in hotel rooms and gyms around the world. That means that I’ve done burpees at sea level and 15 stories up in a Manhattan hotel. My goal in hotel rooms is stealth – I don’t want to be the guy shaking the entire floor while I do these things. I land softly, usually barefoot in a hotel room and wearing running shoes everywhere else. Focusing on a soft landing offers another benefit (aside from being a good neighbor) in that it keeps my knees from absorbing unnecessary shock.
I figure my burpee ninja exercises have increased my overall strength, nullified some bad travel food and prompted me to make better nutritional choices along the way. And one good thing leads to another. I don’t just do burpees, but they’re the gateway to other exercise that I do based on where I am. Walking, climbing stairs, rowing, swimming…. whatever. But always with burpees. Hit the minimum and check the box. Good form and good habits offer sustainability and a foundation on which to build something bigger. And that’s why I’m focus on getting it right from the beginning.