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Old 02-12-2014, 06:27 PM   #1
Joe Spinelli
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Why are burpees so hard for me?

Hello all - I've been CF'ing for almost 2 years now and I'm generally happy with my overall progress. I've made great improvement in strength and quickness and overall fitness. I RX most WOD's. However, burpees are still the death of me.

The other day we did Filthy 50. I did great until I got to the burpees. For some reason, that 50 burpees nearly kills me every time. It is really sad because I get to the burpees in about 25 minutes and have a goal of finishing around 34 minutes. However, the 50 burpees and DU'ers took me almost 15 minutes!! In the end all I could muster was 1-2 at a time and my buddies at the box said they couldn't believe I didn't quit based on the look on my face.

Now since my overall fitness level is pretty good, I think this must be a breathing problem. I think I need to focus on breathing more during burpees - but is there a specific strategy? I don't really find myself taking deep breaths during burpees and I hope this might be my downfall.

So my question is, do you think about your breathing during burpees? Is this where I'm going wrong, or do I just need to do more burpees since this is pointing out an obvious weakness in my training.

Thanks!
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Old 02-12-2014, 07:27 PM   #2
David Meverden
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Re: Why are burpees so hard for me?

Sounds like it's just your lungs. Yes, breathing more or differently might help, but I've got another strategy (2 part) that will help:

1) Do each burpee quickly. Assuming you have decent strength endurance (can you bang out >30 pushups when you're fresh?) and mobility a fast burpee will take less oxygen than a slow burpee where your muscles are under tension longer. It's also harder to breath mid burpee.

and

2) Slow down the PACE of your burpees. But how do you slow down the pace of your burpees when I just told you to do each burpee quickly? Answer: pause between EVERY BURPEE. Down-up, intentional pause, down-up, intentional pause. This was key for me during the Open burpee workouts. In 2012 I beat most people at my box despite not being very well built for burpees because I just steadily worked through the time doing burpee-pause-burpee-pause. Much better than doing 5-10 straight then gasping for breath.

So, next time you do filthy fifty (or another workout with burpees, do you have any other burpee workout benchmarks?) set yourself a pace, say, 10 burpees a minute; one every 6 seconds. Program a timer or phone to beep every 6 seconds (or, watch the clock if you can do multiples of six while tired ). When it beeps do one quick burpee (make it snappy), then stand and wait for the beep again. It might actually feel slow (it is pretty slow, but you'll be tired), but it will get you done in 5 minutes if you can keep it up, which will be a big improvement. And even if you periodically need to pause longer, you'll still have a lower time.

For a shorter workout than Filthy Fifty you might get away with a 12 or 15 burpee a minute pace, but pick your pace ahead of time to start learning how fast works well for you.

Let me know how it goes.
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Old 02-12-2014, 07:31 PM   #3
Clint Harris
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Re: Why are burpees so hard for me?

Is it just Filthy Fifty or other workouts? FF is all about the Wall Ball - Burpee combo. Nothing else. All that prior nonsense is just preparation IMHO. And very much a mental game.

I do think about my breathing. In some respects it is a cadence to doing the movement. No different than KBS, WB, Thrusters, C&J, BJ etc. Sometimes, when having to do a burpee slog. I'll ensure I keep a pace. i.e. Do 10, walk 10 paces. Do 10, walk 10 paces. Always moving and keeping some time. Don't stop and be stationary with hands on knees wondering when you can start again.
Body can also play a part. I'm 6'2" 255#. I have a lot to move and move it a long way to move it. Just a different animal once I get past 20. Just have to stay mentally strong and have a plan to get through it.

If all other cardio seems good, and just burpees suck. Do more burpees and learn technique. Also be mentally prepared and strong. Push through the suck.
If it's just FF. Widen your gaze a little - and be mentally strong/prepared. You can always grab another rep.

Last edited by Clint Harris : 02-12-2014 at 07:33 PM.
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Old 02-12-2014, 11:28 PM   #4
Joe Spinelli
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Re: Why are burpees so hard for me?

Thanks for the advice guys! It is very much appreciated.

I'm also 6'2" but I'm 205. I get that burpees are going to be harder for bigger guys but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I will try both of your suggestions this week. I have never thought about how fast I can do a burpee, but I'll try and push it and find out. There are actually 2 guys who do burpees super fast at my box. I mean they can do 5 in the time I can do 3. I always attributed it to them being about 5'7" but maybe not.

Going in to the burpees in the FF, I try and embrace the suck. I try and go for rounds of 6, but I don't get very far. I just seem to be gasping for air and everything is on fire. Shoulders, legs, hip flexors, everything.

Ill do some experimenting and report back. Thanks!
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Old 02-13-2014, 12:48 AM   #5
Alex Burden
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Re: Why are burpees so hard for me?

I am 6ft, 225lbs, 44yrs old i can do loads of burpees after a WOD.

What i have come to realize is that i will take the pace slower but keep on moving. Now it seems as if i am taking it really easy but in fact most of the time i catch up with those who have blasted ahead because they have reached their limit and their body is shutting them down.

Keep moving that is the key... nice and steady

This is what Dan Bailey hates about Rich Froning (with a smile on his face) he says he justs keeps moving and never stops.
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Old 02-13-2014, 07:53 AM   #6
Brendan McNamar
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Re: Why are burpees so hard for me?

I learned to breathe continuously during burpees. Took a little practice but I breathe the same way during burpees as I do during an 800m run.
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Old 02-13-2014, 09:37 AM   #7
Miles Roberts
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Re: Why are burpees so hard for me?

I have to echo David's post. The only time I've done filthy fifty, my times were almost identical to yours. I got to the burpees at like the 25 minute mark, and ended up finishing in about 34 minutes. I was trying to do 10 each minute, busting out quick sets, and it was destroying me. I was later told that coaches didn't want to alter my strategy because I was hating life so much.

Not long after, we did Donnie. 21-15-9-9-15-21 deadlifts/burpees. I went unbroken pretty easily on the 21-15-9, but on the way back up, I was struggling. The best way I've found is to do one, take a deep breath, do another, and just keep going. That's just about my threshold. When it gets REALLY bad, take two deep breaths between reps, but keep MOVING.

I'm like you though - there isn't much that leaves me in a pile of misery and hate like a ton of burpees.
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Old 02-13-2014, 10:21 AM   #8
Steven Wingo
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Re: Why are burpees so hard for me?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Burden View Post
I am 6ft, 225lbs, 44yrs old i can do loads of burpees after a WOD.

What i have come to realize is that i will take the pace slower but keep on moving. Now it seems as if i am taking it really easy but in fact most of the time i catch up with those who have blasted ahead because they have reached their limit and their body is shutting them down.

Keep moving that is the key... nice and steady

This is what Dan Bailey hates about Rich Froning (with a smile on his face) he says he justs keeps moving and never stops.
I like the advice Alex has given you above. Find a pace you can sustain. Keep breathing and keep moving. Stay out of the "red zone" until you are within striking distance from the finish and can afford to go anaerobic because you are about done.
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Old 02-13-2014, 11:04 AM   #9
Joe Spinelli
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Re: Why are burpees so hard for me?

Thanks to all for the replies. It is good to know that I am not the only one that turns to a pile of mush after a bunch of burpees.

I will try these techniques and report back.
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Old 02-13-2014, 11:44 AM   #10
Josh Groves
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Re: Why are burpees so hard for me?

If you're over 6 ft, burpees are going to suck no matter what. You're going to really want to work on efficiency and maintaining a pace. For high reps, don't try to stick with a strict push up style burpee. Also, keeping the feet in close and using the kip (like Paoli advocates) will help a lot. Use more momentum and less tension and then find a rhythm. If your breathing gets away from you, you're not getting it back, so let that regulate the pace.
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