Mastering Bodyweight Exercise

Humans Becoming Better

The Five Minute Burpee Challenge

Five Minute Burpee Challenge Cover Banner


The Five Minute Burpee Challenge is one of the single greatest ways you can improve your cardiovascular fitness while also – for some people – increasing muscular strength and endurance.

Although sprinting and numerous other exercises can do some of the things the burpee challenge can do for you, the burpee challenge simply does many of them better and faster.

I’m not going to lie – many people tell me the challenge is a bit grueling, and some balk at its length.

But you’ll feel great after you do it, and, hey, it’s over pretty quickly.

I promise that if you devote yourself to completing it just once or twice a week, you’ll see some serious gains in your cardio performance.

These gains will be indicated both by the ever-increasing amount of burpees you can do in five minutes, and also the surprising amount of resilience you feel during each session.

Although this challenge scales with you and keeps getting harder as you improve your rep count, you’ll be surprised when, after 10 sessions or so, you find yourself feeling like doing a continuous stint of burpees for five minutes is entirely reasonable.

My girlfriend and I have been doing the Five Minute Burpee Challenge since January of 2014, and I’ll tell you about how it’s improved our fitness later on.

What The Burpee Challenge Looks Like:

If you want to see what a burpee challenge looks like, check out this video. Alternatively, you can skip it and read about the directions and technique below.



Here’s How It Works:

CountdownClockSet a countdown timer or stopwatch for 5 minutes. If you have one that can be set to beep at one-minute intervals, that’s a bonus, as it will help you pace yourself.

When the you start the timer you’ll start doing burpees, and you’ll keep doing them to the best of your ability until the time runs out.

Make sure you concentrate on your rep count, as it’s easy to forget in the middle. You’ll definitely want to write your total reps down in a workout journal or online spreadsheet like Google Drive so you can keep track of your gains.

Burpee Challenge Requirements:

Although you can stick to strict burpee form if you like, since our main goal is increasing our ability to exert ourselves at an ever-increasing maximum capacity for an extended period of time, I practice a looser level of form for the challenge.

There are only three requirements:

One: When you jump back or step back to the ground, your chest must touch it. 

Five Minute Burpee Challenge Wrong Form


When you jump into the air, your hips must reach full extension. If you’re bent over, as I’m demonstrating in this picture, you’re not meeting requirement number two.

Five Minute Burpee Challenge Right Form


When you jump into the air and reach full hip extension, you must clap your hands six inches above your head.


The Benefits Of The Five Minute Burpee Challenge


What the burpee challenge does for you is in part dependent on your current level of fitness and strength.

Several people have told me that they feel quite sore after one of the challenges (particularly in the abs and triceps), a sure sign that it’s pushing them muscularly. This is great, as they’re going to get stronger.

For me, though, the challenge has never left me sore. Although I finish each one with my limbs feeling like lead, I’m past the point where any of the movement components will make me stronger.

My main gains are in my ability to exert myself at maximum capacity for an extended period of time. This is demonstrated by the number of burpees I can do.

In the chart above, I show how my girlfriend and I have improved between Jan. 3 and March 24 of 2014, after doing the challenge just 15 times.

I went from 62 to 86 burpees, a 38.7% improvement. Brittany, my girlfriend, went from 53 to 74 burpees, a 39.6% improvement.

This improvement definely caries over into other areas of fitness. For instance, I don’t train as an endurance athelete anymore, but I’ve noticed that on the occasions that I do go for runs, I’m able to run significantly faster for a longer period of time after starting the burpee challenge.

Brittany and Andrew's Burpee Improvement Chart

Burpee Challenge Strategy

As you go along, you’ll learn a few tricks to help make your movements more efficient while still meeting the three requirements listed above. For me, there are two things I started doing that made a big difference.

First, I throw myself from the beginning standing position into the bottom of the push up with my chest hitting the ground. I engage my arms to stop me from crashing hard into the ground, but I don’t do a negative push up, as this would waste time. I’m bracing my chest and my arms bent a 90 degree angles to catch most of my weight before impact.

Second, when getting back to my feet after throwing myself to the ground, I lock out my core and explode my feet toward my hands.

Both of these techniques combined shave several seconds off each burpee, which will make a huge difference over the course of the 5 minutes.

The Competition Element

You’ll be much more likely to stick with the challenge if you’ve got people to keep you motivated.

I’ve been practicing with my girlfriend since the start, and we both acknowledge that, particularly in the beginning, having each other to train with helped us stay motivated, although now the gains make the benefits self evident, and it’s easier to push ourselves to do a challenge.

But since then we’ve recruited close to a dozen friends, and all of us – in many different parts of the world – log into our shared google drive spreadsheet and update it each with with our new scores.

It’s actually really motivating to see someone outperforming you, and you’re driven to do another challenge so you can improve too.

Once a week I post an update to my facebook page showing a performance graph of everyone’s improvements, which really gets people excited. A few days ago one of my really fit friends, Katy Craine, managed to get 100 burpees in 5 minutes, which is an incredible feat.

Want More?

Looking for some exercises that will emphasize strength more and cardio? Check out the bodyweight exercises section.

Want some learn some cool feats of strength? Check out the ones I’ve got listed here.

Facebook Comments

Mastering Bodyweight Exercise © 2014