Believe it or not, it is possible to make burpees more manageable. They do not have to be the bane of your bodyweight movement existence, whether they show up as part of a WOD or become your go-to movement when you are traveling sans equipment.
Coach Kelly Starrett of CrossFit San Francisco and Mr. MobilityWOD himself, with the help of his “pocket gymnast” Carl Paoli (Mr. GymnasticsWOD), give us some insight on how to prep properly for a burpee. This breaks down simply into three parts: prepping for hip flexion, hip extension, and overhead extension with the arms. Coach Kelly emphasizes the importance of keeping the burpee as simple as possible and therefore more efficient.
Part I: Getting to the Ground
As Coach Carl demonstrates the first part of the movement by essentially piking from his hips, Coach Kelly points out that “the more that Carl is missing hip flexion here, the more he’s going to have to round, the more he’s going to have to have his knees come forward” — and this makes getting to the ground less effective. (Avoid the broken accordion body!) How do you prep for this? Step into the band, pull it up into your groin area, and walk away from the pole. Bend forward at the hips to “floss,” and then bend the knees a bit to work the hamstrings as well; “keep your back straight” and work on “hingeing at the hip,” advises Coach.
Part II: Getting up from the Ground
To get back up, Carl “has to load his hips because there’s no way he can keep his back straight” throughout the entire movement. The butt still has to be turned on in the bottom position in order to “open up the hip and snap to his feet.” Naturally, prepping for this portion of the burpee means opening up the hip. Step back into the band and pull it up into the groin area — this time facing the pole — and settle into a long lunge (Burgener stretch style) to work on”pure hip extension.” As always, “grind into the corners” and feel free to tie in one arm behind the head to increase extension and open up the abdominals.
Part III: Jumping & Overhead Extension
As you will recall for Open WOD 12.1, the standard for the burpee jump was to reach for a point 6″ above the tip of the fingers. Rather than jump from the “broken banana, sad overextended position,” you want to be able to send your arms overhead easily to prevent any missed reps. In addition to using the foam roller to open up the back, one-armed band stretches for the lats are ideal “so it becomes easy to put your arms overhead.” If getting your arms overhead becomes a struggle, “it gets expensive” because you start to break body position and set up poorly for the next burpee.