Burpees are a great exercise that does not require much space or any equipment. They are a great way to burn off lots of fat in a short period of time, and they can replace your regular, steady state boring cardio.
However, is it a good exercise to help you build lean muscle mass?
On one hand, it may seem that this is a great exercise to pack on muscle mass. It recruits a lot of muscle mass. You’re training your legs, shoulders, triceps, and chest all within one movement.
But in reality, Burpees are not the best choice of your goal is to pack on lots of muscle mass with bodyweight training alone. Sure, burpees, in fact any bodyweight exercise, will help you pack on a little muscle mass.
But if your goal is to pack on 20 lbs of solid muscle, then its best to stay away from Burpees (except for cardio or endurance training). Here’s why:
Why training for muscle mass, you don’t want to choose OK exercises. You want to choose the BEST exercises. The BEST exercise is an exercise that does good job of targeting the chosen muscle group.
Even though with burpee, you’re engaging a lot of muscle mass, you’re still really training your heart. Once your body gets used to the movement, it’s actually very easy to perform a burpee.
Your body gets used to the movement. It starts to figure out ways of performing the movement more efficiently. You start to “cheat” such as holding your elbows closer to your body when performing the pushup portion of the movement or not squatting completely towards the ground when performing the squat portion of the movement.
The burpee is supposed to be done fast. If someone were to do a fast pushup – one that involves the tragic use of momentum that you would not use in a regular pushup – that individual will be doing nothing more than breaking records and training their heart.
This is the reason why “whole-body” movements aren’t necessarily useful for mass gaining. Movements can be categorized in a number of ways:
- Isolation – Targets a particular muscle group along with a few stabilizer muscles. Examples – Close Grip Chinups, Tricep Blasters
- Compound – Targets more than one muscle group along with a few stabilizer muscles. Involves movement in one singular plane. Example – Pushups, Pullups
- Whole-Body – Targets more than one muscle group along with many other stabilizer muscles. Involves movement more than one plane. Example – Burpees, Kipping Pullups
- Hybrid – Combination of two or more movements to form a new movement which targets more than one muscle group along with many other stabilizer muscles. Involves movement in more than one plane. Examples – Burpees + Pullups, Pushups + Roll Forward + Jump
So here’s the biggest mistake people make with bodyweight training – they use primarily compound and isolation movements when trying to burn fat. But then, as they get stronger and learn new movements, they believe that there new whole-body and hybrid movements will help them gain lean muscle mass.
The truth is that if you want to build lean muscle mass with bodyweight exercises, then do what the bodybuilders do – stick to isolation and compound movements.