The humble burpee is a fantastic all-round bodyweight exercise that helps build functional strength and burn calories…
But what happens if you’ve got bad wrists… bad knees… don’t like jumping… or simply just don’t like burpees?
Well, you’re in luck, because we’ve got 7 burpee alternatives to try that are ideal substitutes, whatever your reason for wanting to avoid this dreaded exercise (whether you want something more challenging, or you’re looking for an exercise that is low impact on joints).
At a Glance – Best Alternatives for Burpees
- Deck Squats – Best for Core Strength
- Jumping Jacks – Best for Bad Wrists
- Plank Push Ups – Best for Bad Knees or Ankles
- Jump Rope – Best for Cardio
- Mountain Climbers – Best “No Jumping” Alternative for Apartments
- Devil Press – Best Advanced Alternative
- Kettlebell Swings – Best Alternative with Extra Weight
What We’ve Looked for in Substitutes and Alternatives to Burpees
We haven’t just selected 7 random exercises here… each exercise has been carefully considered and thought through.
Burpees work the glutes, legs, chest and core… with a lesser degree, also working the arms and shoulders. It’s an exercise that delivers an effective cardio workout too.
It terms of movements, it can be seen as a mash-up of a plank, push-up, squat and jump.
Consequently, the 7 exercises we’ve picked, try and replicate these benefits too… with some providing additional benefits, or excluding certain muscle groups if that’s what’s holding you back.
So, if your favourite fitness app has told you to do some burpees, fear not, just replace them with one of these exercises.
7 Burpee Alternatives
Deck Squats – Best for Core Strength
Decks squats are a tough bodyweight exercise that somewhat resemble burpees.
The exercise involves a squat followed by rolling onto your back, before getting back into a squat.
This ability to roll onto your back and then launch into a squat again requires a lot of core strength and stability. If you want to test your lower body strength, core strength and total body balance… deck squats are definitely worth trying.
You could also add a jump into the movement too, making it even more similar to burpees… or just keep it as a bodyweight squat.
Similarly, if you want to increase the difficulty (although it’s already quite a different exercise), you could include one leg squats, which require even more strength and balance.
Jumping Jacks – Best for Bad Wrists
Jumping jacks offer a simple way to get getting the heart pumping and blood flowing. If you just want to burn some extra calories during a workout, jumping jacks are great.
Compared to regular burpees, jumping jacks remove the need for your wrists to support your bodyweight during the push-up phase… so jumping jacks are an effective alternative for those with bad wrists or even shoulder pain.
If you enjoy jumping jacks but want to increase the difficulty, you could try wearing a weighted vest during the exercise too.
Seal Jacks are also very similar to jumping jacks and could create more variety in your workouts if you enjoy this sort of movement.
Plank Push Ups – Best for Bad Knees or Ankles
If you’ve got bad knees or ankles, the jumping aspect of burpees is always going to be challenging. Similarly, even just a regular squat might be too much of a push.
If so, you can try a substitute that doesn’t require the lower body to be activated as much during the exercise… cue, the plank push-up.
There are actually quite a few ways of doing plank push-ups, but the most popular way is by holding a plank position for say 10 seconds, before doing a push-up and then holding a plank position again… and repeating this for sets or time.
It’s also worth trying hand-release push ups if you’re looking to increase difficulty too. This involves lifting your hands off the floor after each repetition, which encourages the full range of motion.
Jump Rope – Best for Cardio
The jump rope may seem like a overly simple piece of exercise equipment but truth be told, it’s incredibly effective.
Not only will it deliver a powerful cardio workout, but it also helps improve other fitness attributes like balance and coordination.
Weighted jump rope workouts are also a great way to add a strength element to using a jump rope. These weighted versions mean your back, shoulders and arms have to work harder during the workout.
Jump rope workouts feature quite a lot in our beginner’s guide to CrossFit workouts and exercises too.
Using a jump rope, however, still involves lots of jumping, so if you’re looking for an alternative that is gentle on joints, this probably isn’t the one for you.
Mountain Climbers – Best “No Jumping” Alternative for Apartments
If you’re working out at home, one common issue that you may experience is that low ceilings get in the way during any sort of jumping or overhead movement.
Similarly, if you’re exercising in an apartment, lots of jumping may make you quite unpopular with your neighbours downstairs!
But fear not, mountain climbers have you covered.
Mountain climbers involve adopting a plank position and bringing your knees towards your chest. To make the move more efficient, try bringing your knee to the opposing side (i.e., your left knee towards your right pectoral) to activate the obliques more too.
It’s also really simple to increase difficulty with mountain climbers. For example, you could use ankle weights to increase resistance… or superset the exercise with push-ups. You can also change the intensity or duration.
Devil Press – Best Advanced Alternative
The devil press is a gruelling exercise, reserved for advanced athletes who want a single exercise to deliver a powerful workout.
The devil press is basically a burpees, sumo deadlift and snatch all rolled into one, that involves holding a dumbbell in each hand.
The extra weight from the dumbbells means that as well as the cardio element, this will also really test your overall strength.
The inclusion of a dumbbell deadlift into snatch will also activate the back and shoulders a lot more than with burpees.
Very few exercises can truly say that they touch on most muscle groups… but the devil press is one of those exceptions that really is a true full body exercise.
The movement is quite technical, so start off with lighter weights and only increase the weight once you feel confident in your technique.
Kettlebell Swings – Best Alternative with Extra Weight
Similar to the devil press, the kettlebell swing is another weighted exercise that offers a near-full body workout by itself.
Kettlebell swings also make it easy to increase the weight, making your workouts more strength-based, as opposed to cardio. Ultimately, if you want to build muscle, this is always going to be more efficient than doing bodyweight movements like burpees.
The key thing to remember with kettlebell swings is to really drive up from your legs and glutes… you shouldn’t be trying to generate power from your lower back as this will lead to injury.
If you don’t like burpees… or let’s face it, if you completely hate burpees, try one of these 7 alternatives in your next workout as an appropriate substitute.
If, however, you’re still keen on perfecting the burpee… try and just break the exercise down into the 4 separate components (the plank, push-up, squat and jump). Practice each of these movements separately and once you feel confident, try and do them together to complete a full burpee.
The other thing to remember, is to just go at your own pace. Many times people complain that they can’t do burpees, when in fact, it’s because they’re following a high-intensity workout that requires a high level of cardio fitness. Instead, just go through each step very slowly at your own pace.
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