Burpees Mass: Is It Possible?


Burpees are one of the cornerstones of bodyweight training. Taking little space and no equipment, they can be performed just about anywhere and can be modified so that they provide an appropriate challenge for beginner, intermediates and advanced exercisers alike. There is no doubting their effectiveness but are they suitable for building muscle mass? Good question! Before we get into that discussion, let’s revisit the burpee so that everyone knows how to do one properly…

Proper Burpee Performance

  1. Stand with your feet together and your hands by your sides
  2. Squat down and place your hands flat on the floor either side of your feet. Make sure you drop your hips down below shoulder-height
  3. Jump your legs back and into the push-up position. Your feet, knees, hips and shoulders should form a perfectly straight line
  4. Bend your arms and lower your chest to lightly touch the floor
  5. Extend your arms and push back up
  6. Jump your feet back up to your hands. Keep your hips down and try not to round your lower back too much
  7. Leap up and into the air
  8. Land on slightly bent knees and repeat

You can make burpees less demanding by omitting the push-up and/or jump. With practice, you should be able to merge some of the phases together i.e. lower yourself down into the push-up while simultaneously jumping your legs to the rear.

Burpee Variations Include...

  • Travelling burpees – jump for distance instead of height
  • Double push-up burpees – two push-ups instead of one
  • Lateral jump burpees – jump sideways over a low hurdle
  • 180 degree burpees – do a half turn jump
  • Single-limb burpees – do a single arm push-up or squat

Burpee Benefits and Drawbacks

Burpees work virtually every muscle in your body, which means they are a very efficient way to get your workout. Your body has to work in a coordinated way, which make burpees a very athletic movement. The inclusion of a jump means that your legs get a great workout and may improve your general jumping ability and working so many muscles simultaneously means that your heart and breathing rate will rocket, delivering a terrific cardiovascular workouts while burning a lots of calories.

But, do all of these benefits add up to a great muscle building exercise? Sadly, they do not. While burpees will improve your muscular endurance, help you burn fat and develop a high level of fitness, they are not a good way to develop serious muscle mass – a process properly called hypertrophy.

There are a couple of reasons why burpees are not effective muscle builders…

  • Too Little Overload – there is no denying that burpees are hard but their demand comes from the cumulative volume of movement rather than the direct overload placed on your muscles. To make your muscles bigger, they need to be exposed to a significant overload – usually in the form of a heavy weight. Insufficient overload means to stimulus for muscle growth.
  • No Sustained Muscle Tension – when you do burpees, your muscles are only under load for a very short time – even if you do a lot of reps. Each push-up is punctuated with a period where the legs are doing all the work and each squat and squat jump is punctuated with a period where the upper body is more dominant. Sustained tension is an essential part of building muscle and most experts agree that muscles need to be under tension for 40 to 60 seconds for best hypertrophy results.


Let me reiterate; burpees are brilliant but they are a conditioning exercise rather than a serious mass builder. If you want to build mass using bodyweight exercises, there are better choices than burpees. In fact, there is a complete, done-for-you muscle building routine called The Muscle Experiment which you need to grab if you're serious about bodyweight muscle building:

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The Muscle Experiment is a bodyweight-only muscle building program developed by Mike Thiga. Yes, you read right. MUSCLE BUILDING. We all know how to drop fat with bodyweight exercises, but muscle building is a whole different game plan.

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