Who invented burpees? The surprising history of this fat-burning exercise

Burpees are one of the most effective and popular exercises used by fitness enthusiasts around the world. Its ability to burn fat and build strength has made it a staple of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) programs and boot camp workouts. The name of this exercise sparks curiosity among fitness enthusiasts, prompting the question: Who invented burpees and what is the history behind this exercise? In this article, we explore the surprising history of burpees and its origin.

The Origin of Burpees

The burpee was invented in the 1930s by a physiologist named Royal H. Burpee. Burpee was a physical education instructor at Columbia University in New York City. He developed the exercise as a part of his PhD thesis, limiting the amount of equipment needed to assess the fitness level of people. Burpee’s original idea was to create a simple and effective exercise that could test a person’s overall fitness level in a short period.

The Burpee Exercise

The burpee is a full-body exercise that involves numerous muscle groups. The exercise begins in a standing position with hands at the sides. The individual then performs a squat with the hands on the floor, followed by a jump back to a plank position. After a push-up, the person jumps the feet toward the hands, stands back up, and jumps in the air. This sequence of movements counts as one rep.

Why is Burpee One of the Most Effective Exercises?

The burpee is a highly effective exercise for burning fat and building strength. Fitness professionals have added this particular workout into their exercise routines due to its versatility and effectiveness. Here are some reasons why burpees are highly effective:

  • Burpees are full-body exercises and work various muscles in the body. Performing burpees regularly can help increase muscle performance and conditioning.
  • Burpees boost metabolism and heart rate, burning calories more efficiently than other exercises.
  • Burpees help develop explosive power, making it a popular choice among athletes.
  • 14 minutes of burpees routine can burn around 240-355 calories.

The Evolution of Burpees

The burpee has undergone some changes over time, from its original form to its current variations. In the 1940s, Royal Burpee modified the original version to include a squat thrust and a jumping jack. The exercise was then adopted by the US Army as a way to measure the recruit’s fitness levels during World War II. The Army developed its variations of burpees, including some that involved pull-ups, which became known as the eight-count body builder.

How Did Burpees become Popular?

Burpees popularity rose in the 2000s when CrossFit programs adopted them as part of their workout routine. CrossFitters believed that burpees had the potential to test and improve one’s overall fitness level. The HIIT programs then began incorporating burpees as an exercise that involved explosive movement coupled with aerobic activity. Since the introduction of burpees in fitness programs, several variations of the exercise have been introduced.

What are the Variations of Burpee?

There are many variations of burpees, depending on skill level, fitness level or personal preference. Here are some commonly associated burpee types:

Burpee Variations Description
Standard Burpee The traditional burpee that involves a jump back to a plank position and jump up.
Chest-to-Floor Burpee The individual performs a chest-to-floor push-up before returning to the standing position.
Jump-over Burpee The individual jumps over an object before returning to the standing position.
Long-jump Burpee The individual performs a standing long jump before returning to the original position.
Tuck-jump Burpee The individual performs a tuck-jump after returning to the standing position.
Single-leg Burpee The individual jumps onto one leg before returning to the original position.
Burpee Box Jump The individual jumps onto a box or platform before returning to the original position.


The burpee is a simple but effective exercise that has a rich and surprising history. Although Royal H. Burpee created this exercise with academic intentions, it has become a staple of gym and fitness routines, providing an array of health benefits. The burpee has undergone many changes over time, from its original form to its most recent variations. The evolution of this exercise has resulted in its popularity among fitness enthusiasts and professionals worldwide.

Common Questions and Answers on the History of Burpees

  • Who created the burpee exercise?
    The burpee exercise was invented by a physiologist named Royal H. Burpee.
  • What’s the original purpose of the burpee?
    The burpee was developed as a part of PhD thesis to test the fitness level of individuals with simple and minimal equipment.
  • How many calories can I burn by doing burpees?
    On average, the burpee exercise can help burn around 10-15 calories per minute. In about 14 minutes, the exercise will burn approximately 240 to 355 calories.
  • What are the benefits of doing burpees?
    Burpees are a full-body exercise that can help increase muscle performance, boost metabolism and heart rate, burn calories more efficiently, develop explosive power, and improve overall performance and conditioning.
  • What are the variations of burpees?
    There are many variations of burpees, depending on the individual’s fitness level or skill. Some of the common burpee types include Standard Burpee, Chest-to-Floor Burpee, Jump-over Burpee, Long-jump Burpee, Tuck-jump Burpee, Single-leg Burpee, and Burpee Box Jump.


  1. “History of Burpees: The Inventor, The Exercise, And Its Evolution.” Fitbod, www.fitbod.me/blog/history-of-burpees-the-inventor-the-exercise-and-its-evolution. Accessed 17 Nov. 2021.
  2. “The Evolution Story of Burpee Exercise.” Cure.fit, www.cure.fit/live/fitness/cult/evolution-story-burpee/RN-J01091025. Accessed 17 Nov. 2021.
  3. “Burpees: How to do and benefits (and if you can hate them less).” CNN, edition.cnn.com/2020/06/02/health/burpees-workout-exercise-benefits-wellness/index.html. Accessed 17 Nov. 2021.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *