Updated: Dec 27, 2022
Today would be Royal Burpee's 122nd birthday.
The workout move he invented may be the best exercise of all time - unless you do it wrong.
Did you know... The burpee was invented by the exercise physiologist Royal Burpee in the late 1930s while he was getting his PHD at Columbia University. Burpee created his multipart move as physical fitness test little did Burpee know at the time, his rapid-fire test would become a timeless global phenomenon.
Here is Burpee's official, original test, as it appeared in his book "Seven Tests of Physical Capacity":
I want you to do a little exercise to get your heart working, so please do exactly as I say. Bend your knees, and place your hands flat on the floor in front of you. (Subject performs movement)
Jump your legs straight out to the rear, and leave them there. (Subject performs movement)
Jump your legs back. (Subject performs movement)
Stand up. (Subject performs movement)
You'll notice that the original burpee fitness test didn't include a jump up at the end, which is often part of workouts today. Instead, people simply completed the squat-plank-stand sequence as quickly as possible. Burpee's test asked participants to do the move just four times in order to assess their physical ability.
The Burpee was created as a fitness test, not a workout
For his research in the 1930s, Burpee administered his test to score men and boys at the YMCA from "excellent condition" to "good" and "not good" using their pulse rates, ability to perform the exercise, quickness, and breathlessness afterward.
It's really hard on the knees. It's really hard on the back. And unless you have good core strength and good fitness to start out with, you're not going to be able to do it correctly. That's exactly why it makes such a good fitness assessment test, which is what it really is.
In the 1946 edition of his book, "Seven Quickly Administered Tests of Physical Capacity," Burpee described a WWII military-level version of his test, in which burpee-doers would be asked to complete the move as many times as possible in 20 seconds and then in one minute, but he said that test is only "suitable for men who have had a previous medical examination and are known to be free from cardiovascular disturbance."
It's a good reminder that burpees are no joke, even eight decades after the fitness test was invented.
Happy ‘Burpee’ Burpee! 😊