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The Cheapest, Hardest, Baddest, Most Manly Exercise Nobody Ever Does

20 August 2008 31 Comments

There are hundreds (no, thousands) of posts and websites talking about how to lose weight and get in shape. They all say the same thing – eat a sensible diet, workout regularly and do these exercises.

For most men, though, it never happens. Not enough time; not enough money; not enough energy; boredom sets in; and then, before you know it, you are working out once a week and your diet has gone to the crapper. The weight is not coming off – matter of fact, the numbers keep growing!

Where things break down with today’s experts is there is a different exercise for every muscle in your body. They want you to “isolate” the muscle for maximum workout. They want you to alternate between muscle groups on different days and workout every single day.

Who has time for that? We need exercises that are going to work muscles and get us tired – at the same time. We need an exercise that is going to work out several, dozens even, of muscles. We need an exercise we can do quick, fast, cheap, and does the job so well we come back wanting more.

We need the burpee!

The burpee is the most perfect exercise known to mankind and let me tell you why – it works out every single aspect of your body; you will be out of breath after only a couple; you don’t need a single piece of equipment to perform it; it can be done in a very confined space; and finally, every elite military force in the world couldn’t be wrong.

From prisoners to prisoners of war to elite fighting forces to elite athletes – ask them about the burpee and they know its secret powers. They know this one exercise, combined with a few others, is all one needs to accomplish your fitness needs.

How to perform a burpee

The excellent folks over at BodyBuilding.com provided this amazing information for us to learn about the burpee. Ross Enamait explains in great detail how to perform a burpee and different variations to make it more challenging (as if it needs it). However, here is a summary of the process:

  1. Begin in a squat position with hands on the floor in front of you
  2. Kick your feet back to a push up position
  3. Immediately return your feet to the squat position
  4. Leap up as high as possible from the squat position
  5. Repeat, moving as fast as possible

You should maintain a fast pace for this exercise. Strive for maximum height with each jump. Most athletes will average between 12 and 15 repetitions per 30 seconds.

Ross’s different variations are not for the faint of heart. I have been doing these exercises for two weeks now and have yet to be able to get past 2 sets of 10. However, I am combining this exercise with a few others which probably makes it harder for me to advance, but the burpee does not require much alteration to be completely effective.

For those who want to display their true burpee manliness, follow Ross’s link to his Ultimate Burpee section. Excellent if you want to blow chunks as part of your workout routine. I am not there yet, but I like the idea of working out so hard, I hurl.

Here is a video that shows the entire motion in sequence.

Other exercises to round out the perfect, fast workout are as follows.

Remember, the criteria to be included in this list is fast, cheap, does the job quickly, works out several muscle groups, and has staying power.

This is the best cardio exercise in the world. Next time you are around someone that’s served our country, ask them about boot camp and getting into shape. Ask them if they did any running while getting in shape. They first will laugh and say, “oh yeah” and then tell you they got in some of the best shape of their lives while doing it. AND, there is nothing that will get you in shape faster.

If running is not your thing, then walking does the trick. I have seen studies where they say walking is actually better for you than running. It might be better on the joints and back, but I am not sure how you could burn more calories.

Push ups
Same deal with running. Ask that soldier if they had to do any push ups. Push ups are the answer to whole upper body workout. If done correctly, they will blow up your arms (biceps and triceps), explode your chest, and work every muscle in your upper body. Many variations help with joint protection, but if you do the push up, and do a lot of them, you get AMAZING results…fast…

Sit ups
That’s right. I said it. Sit ups. Not crunches. Not some wheelie thingie. Not some palates move that isolates. Sit ups. These things have been around for decades and the full sit up (along with variations) work out all kinds of muscles in the abdominal area. When you get to the top of the sit up and work your way back down to the ground, you are using balancing muscles as well as all your abdominal muscles to control the entire movement. Nice.

Bodybuilding.com ranked this is the number one exercise for calisthenics.  This works so many muscles in your legs, you will be shocked to feel how crappy you feel afterwards (crappy in a good way, though). The biggest surprise for me was the amount of pressure these put on my hamstrings. I know they are working out the quads (front of your legs) but the backside as well? These are very good for several muscle groups.  I have heard of guys (pro athletes) doing 1000 squats a day during training camps. Now that is amazing.

There are some other moves and activities that do just as well as the ones mentioned, but they cost more or need some kind of apparatus to perform. Exercises like the pull up, lunge, riding a bike, bench press, dips, and running stairs all fit the mold of working out several muscle groups while wanting to make your hurl in the process.

There is no excuse not to do the exercises laid out above other than laziness or injury. These exercises are natural; their fast; their effective; their ever changing with your ability to run variations off them; and most of all, they are as manly as heck!

If you don’t have time for all of them, then start out with The Cheapest, Hardest, Baddest, Most Manly Exercise Nobody Ever Does – the burpee.

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  • Rasheed said:

    I’ve never heard of that move being referred to as a “Burpee.” I’ve always heard it being called a squat-thrust, probably because it sounds like a more intense excersize move.

    This is only based on personal anecdotal evidence, but I’d say running is the best way to get in shape. I lost a lot of weight by running, although it was fucking hard at first. I could barely make it a block before I needed a walk break.

    Rasheeds last blog post..Bell Canada is Killing Trees

  • Hayden Tompkins said:

    “They want you to “isolate” the muscle for maximum workout. They want you to alternate between muscle groups on different days and workout every single day.”

    So basically, what you are saying is that it is uber efficient. Efficient is the way to go!

  • Kevin (author) said:

    @Rasheed – many names from what I can tell. I used to call it squat thrusts too. Maybe that was because they didn’t like little kids using this slang term. I think the the term came from the military.

    @Hayden – Isolating the muscle groups, at least for me, is very inefficient. I need an exercise that is going to work out multiple muscles at one time. Maybe I am lazy, or have no time, or simply like to multi-task. I like this last one. Maybe it is the world’s best exercise for multi-taskers??? I like it…

  • Virilitas said:

    The “do a thousand sets of a thousand exercises” philosophy causes fatigue and makes me ultra-bored. I like it that you suggest an exercise that is fast, free, and requires no equipment.

    Another great thing about the burpee is that it develops the ability to perform real-life activities (such as jumping) that come in handy more than the ability to stand still and move at one isolated joint.

  • Strong One said:

    ‘Burpees’ were referred to as “Oh What a Feeling” in boot camp (oh so many years ago)
    It mimicked the movement of the Toyota commercial… remember? ‘Oh what a feeling … Toyota’
    Now picture 60 Marine recruits doing that movement.. and screaming at the top of their lung “OH WHAT A FEELING”.
    Yep. Been there. Done that.
    Heh heh.

    Strong Ones last blog post..Random Bloginess

  • Mike Bates said:

    So, um, the burpees I do while I watch a ball game and drink beer don’t count then? I seem to be on the wrong track. Great post!

    Mike Batess last blog post..Big Fish

  • www.laserpics.co.uk said:

    This is definitely the best exercise, something I was shown by a squash professional a number of years ago. Finished of with a jump intensifies it even more.

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  • Mak said:

    Back when I played football (middle school!) we did an exercise like this… we called it an “up down”. I completely forgot about this since then, so thanks!

    I also read on another site that when you do burpees you should do descending sets to increase the total amount you can do. So do 20, 19…,1, take a 30 second rest between each set. Today i tried doing them, i could only do 12 my first set. But did 78 total.

    You can use this formula to quickly figure out how many you did total using descending sets:
    (((Sets + 1)^2)-(Sets – 1)) / 2) – 1
    for example if you start at 20 sets it would be (((20 + 1)^2 – (20 – 1))/2) – 1 = 210 total!
    .-= Mak´s last blog ..Reading is good =-.

  • Mak's practical advice and opinions: Prison workout - strength training without weights said:

    […] calf raises, lungesExercise definitions1. Burpee – Targets upper body, core, and legs…everything! See this site for details on how to do it. 2. Push-ups – everyone knows this3. Dips – reverse push up. Or you can make it more difficult and […]

  • Richard Taylor said:

    Decent post.

    Being a former professional athlete (2 sports), thought I’d correct you a bit.
    But as you might have found out many elite athletes actually participate in Pilates as a way to make the body function in a natural form. By this I mean real Pilates as in Joseph Pilates (ex boxer, gymnast ect). Not some crap at the YMCA or Stott Pilates.
    For those of you who want to really get after, add chin ups, muscle ups, hand stand pushups.

    Also, check DA Bartendaz. That is the real deal people.
    Movement is medicine, health is wealth.

    The revolution of the mind, body and spirit doesn’t limit itself by the confines of what someone else says to do or not to do. Try it yourself!!!

  • dom said:

    Squat thrusts are not the same as burpees.

    A squat thrust involves crouching/squatting with your hands on the floor in front of you & thrusting back & forth with your legs in a crouched position.

    Burpees involve moving from a standing position, squatting into a press up then jumping in the air, all in one motion.

  • spence said:

    I love burpees! I do them in between sets of weight training so that I am still working hard. After a grueling workout, I have probobly done in the range of 80+ burpees. I acctually dont do any running any more, and I feel that I am in better shape now than before.

  • John said:

    Burpees are the best. I generally do them with a pushup at the bottom. You can ramp it up even more by adding a pullup at the top. If you can do 100 burpees with pullups and pushups involved your in killer shape 🙂
    .-= John´s last blog ..6/7 =-.

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  • redrockjjs said:

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  • flex said:

    i like to train like dorian yates

  • Robert said:

    A very good exercise, but don’t ignore the flexibility producing benefits lurking there too. You can do a full squat instead of that sort of stiff looking “bend over and try to get your hands on the floor” version you usually see.
    Maybe not the best exercise for beginners either. Overly tight backs and hamstrings (among other things) will act as brakes that cause trouble at Burpee speed. Also heart and lungs need some time to prepare for an intense exercise like this BUT one of the cool things is that you can vastly modify Burpees for beginners. You can even do it in stages and progress to a full count version. Or (as has already been pointed out) you can make then even more challenging by adding a heavier strength endurance component like a full 6 count Burpee that includes a push up. Also pull ups, jumps, mountain climbers and the like.
    Just shows one of the magnificent ways to get change your body using only your own bodyweight!

  • Robert said:

    As John said above…..add a pullup onto your burpee. That adds a good degree of difficulty to it. Fantastic workout that will have you collapsed on the floor in a quivering heap within a few minutes. Only downside is that you need a pullup bar to go with it…..so it does require some equipment.

  • Cameron said:

    If you want to build strength you should do something like the following, doing 5 sets of 5 reps.

    – Barbell Squats
    – Deadlift
    – Bench press
    – Military press
    – Weighted pullups

  • Brandon Chapman said:

    I did burpees a few hours ago. Have a HIIT on the smartphone and created a custom workout for it.

    30 secs on, 30 secs off


    additional 2:30m break

    repeat x3

    I managed 8 burpees per 30 second period, which gave me 120 total.

    It does take me a full 20 minutes to pump them all out, though.

    When I first started I was gasping super bad after my 46th repetition.

    That was about 6 weeks ago.

    I plan on building up to 10 reps within 30 secs, and slowly cutting out the additional breaks all together. I’d like to be able to nail 100+ burpees in under 10 minutes before energies towards different goals.

    I figure the burpee is one of the best exercises to start off with to get fit again. I’ll be doing more strength training next year, but feel it’s best to slowly build up in order to decrease the chance of getting any injuries as I’m a little older these days (30).

    **I do full burpees with a pushup chest to floor, no knees touching, and end it with a star jump**

  • Darren Benford-brown said:

    Great site!
    For the last 5 weeks I’ve incorporated a burpee challenge of seeing how many I can complete in 20 mins.
    First week was 151..this week I completed 252..my aim is for 300.
    Not too shabby being as I have 43 yr old legs 8)
    Great exercise though for sure
    Oh n another 20 min challenge I do is 5 overhand chins, 5 press ups n 5 squats. In that order none stop for the 20 mins..it’s a killer too!

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