Pick of the Week: 50 Reps

Thanksgiving is over, and whether they traveled (inadvisably) to a big family dinner or did the responsible thing and stuffed their faces at home, many Americans are feeling even more over-fed than usual now. In normal years, this is when gyms start to fill up with newly enthusiastic exercisers. With a huge second wave of COVID-19 now sweeping the country, though, what are we to do?

I previously recommended a great video game that can dish out a steady supply of vigorous workouts, but that requires a $400 console and at least some comfort with the basic concepts of gaming. There’s a much simpler solution, requiring nothing but motivation and a clear space in any normal room: burpees.

A burpee is a deceptively simple set of movements that works nearly every major muscle group, and stringing them together creates a serious aerobic workout. To perform a basic burpee, begin standing, do a squat, put your hands on the floor and thrust your legs out into a raised push-up position, then pull your legs back in and jump to the standing position again. The animation in the link above shows a modified version, which includes a full push-up at the bottom of the cycle. That’s the technique I prefer, but beginners may want to skip the push-up.

There are numerous workouts that incorporate burpees, and they appear commonly in exercise videos, but I’ve found that combining them with concepts from interval training is the best use of time. My usual burpee workout consists of nine sets, with increasing and then decreasing reps: 2 push-up burpees, then 4, 6, 8, 10, 8, 6, 4, and finally 2. I take a one-minute break after each set. The entire workout takes less than 20 minutes. If that sounds easy, try it, and be sure to time those one-minute breaks so you don’t slack off. Consider yourself challenged.