Burpees are hard. Really hard. And as effective as they can be at sending your heart rate through the roof, they aren’t ideal for 100% of exercisers 100% of the time.
After all, even the strongest of athletes can unknowingly botch a burpee, trading speed and rep count for form or simply not keeping a tight enough focus on control.
While this dramatically increases your risk of injury, like putting strain on the low back or the wrists as you drop into your push-ups, it also robs you of results, says Cody Braun, CPT, assistant manager of fitness at Beachbody.
Related: How to Do the Total-Body Burpee
What Is a Modified Burpee?
A modified burpee is a good substitute for the full expression of a burpee.
Slow things down, go easy on the jumping and generally tune in to maintaining total-body tension during every phase of the exercise, and you’ll not only jack up your heart rate, but you’ll also effectively engage all of your muscles from head-to-toe.
“By moving in a more controlled fashion, you’ll get more work done without aimlessly flopping your body around for the sake of cardio,” Braun explains.
Want to learn how to do a burpee with a modified form?
Here are four easy ways to modify a burpee into your best burpee ever.
2. Add Incline
Placing your hands on an elevated surface like a sturdy bench, box, or step is a simple way to lighten the load of the push-up portion of a burpee.
2. Step Out
Rather than jumping your feet back to the plank (or push-up) position at the bottom of each rep, try stepping one foot back, then the other foot, behind you.
This low-impact burpee will help avoid putting stress on the low back and ankles.
3. Delete the Push-Up
Don’t have the strongest push-ups? After you step (or jump) your feet back to a plank position, simply hold the plank for a second before stepping (or jumping) your feet forward to your hands.
If you really want to do something at the bottom of your reps, you can always perform a couple of mountain climbers.
4. Stay Grounded
Instead of trying to catch air at the top of each burpee, simply rise out of your squat — or hold an isometric squat — before lowering back down to the plank.
Nixing the plyo will save impact on your joints and help you stay in better control of the exercise.
Benefits of a Modified Burpee
If you’ve already performed an intense workout and are doing burpees as a metabolic finisher to “empty the tank” before your cooldown, modified burpees will let you go harder, longer, without sacrificing form or simply hating life, says Chicago-based trainer Jumha Aburezeq, CPT.
He notes that the misery-vs-enjoyment factor is more important than you might think.
There are too many ways to do burpees to do the version you hate, and if you associate your workouts with dread or agony, you’re going to create a pretty toxic relationship with exercise.
“It’s important to make sure that the exercises you’re doing are suited to your individual needs,” Aburezeq says.
And that’s where modified burpees shine.
Learning how to modify a burpee allows you to vary whatever element of a burpee gives you trouble, turning a so-so exercise into one that’s perfect for you for a far superior burpee workout.