Do Burpees Build Muscle?

Burpees are a full-body exercise praised for their ability to work numerous muscle groups and boost endurance. But do they build muscle? The answer isn't so straightforward.

While burpees can help beginners develop some muscle and enhance overall fitness, they may not be the most effective for significant muscle growth due to the exercise's nature and intensity.

If muscle building is your ultimate goal, you might need more than burpees. But don't fret!

This article will delve into the nitty-gritty of burpees and muscle growth, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of how this all works. Keep reading for a more detailed explanation.

Understanding the Anatomy of a Burpee

You've probably heard the phrase, “Feel the burn,” and if there's one exercise that epitomizes this saying, it's the burpee.

Renowned for its challenging nature, the burpee is a full-body exercise that gives you a lot of bang for your workout buck.

But what exactly happens when you do a burpee? Let's unravel the anatomy of this popular fitness staple.

Full-body Exercise

A burpee is a dynamic, compound exercise that involves a sequence of movements engaging multiple joints and muscles at once.

A typical burpee exercise sequence includes a squat, a push-up, a jump, and a brief moment of standing or jumping.

First, you'll start in a standing position, then squat down and place your hands on the ground.

From here, you'll kick your feet back, coming into a push-up position.

After completing the push-up, you'll bring your feet back in, return to the squat, and finally, jump straight up, extending your body.

This sequence hits nearly every major muscle group in your body, offering a comprehensive workout in one, swift movement.

Muscles Engaged During a Burpee

Given its complex nature, a burpee doesn't leave many muscles untouched.

Here's a rundown of the primary muscles that get to work during a burpee:

  1. Legs: The squat and jump phases engage your quadriceps (front of your thighs), while the push-up phase engages your hamstrings (back of your thighs).
  2. Glutes: The squatting and jumping movements are great for targeting your glutes (buttocks muscles).
  3. Core: The entire movement of a burpee requires core stabilization, working your abs and lower back.
  4. Upper Body: The push-up phase of the burpee hits your pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulders), and triceps (back of your arms).

Correct Way of Performing a Burpee

  1. Stand Tall: Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Squat Down: Bend at the hips and knees to lower your body into a squat. Make sure to keep your chest up and back straight.
  3. Kick Back: Place your hands on the ground in front of you, then quickly kick your feet back so you are in a plank position. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels.
  4. Perform a Push-Up (Optional): Some variations of the burpee involve a push-up at this point. To do this, lower your body until your chest nearly touches the ground, then push back up to the plank position. If a push-up is too challenging, feel free to skip this step.
  5. Jump Feet Forward: Quickly hop your feet forward so they land just outside of your hands.
  6. Stand and Jump: Explode up and jump as high as you can, reaching your arms overhead.
  7. Repeat: After you land, immediately squat down and start the next repetition.

The Potential Benefits of Burpees

Don't let the challenging nature of burpees scare you off.

Despite the sweat and sometimes tears, the benefits they offer can be a game-changer for your fitness journey.

So, what makes burpees such an all-star exercise? Let's dive into the potential benefits, from blasting calories to boosting your core strength.

Calorie and Fat Burning

One of the standout attributes of burpees is their calorie-burning power.

Since burpees are a high-intensity, full-body exercise, they demand a lot of energy.

This means you burn more calories doing burpees than many other exercises.

Studies suggest that high-intensity exercises like burpees can burn up to 50% more fat than moderate exercising.

Moreover, burpees can kickstart your metabolism, keeping the calorie-burning process going long after your workout has ended, a phenomenon known as the afterburn effect or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC).

Core Strengthening

Have you ever dreamt of a well-sculpted core? Well, burpees might just be your ally in this pursuit.

The complex movement of a burpee calls for core engagement throughout the exercise.

When you kick back into the push-up position, maintain a plank, or jump up from the squat, you are relying on your core muscles for stability.

This constant engagement works not just your abs, but also muscles in your lower back, obliques, and even your glutes, leading to a stronger, more toned core.

Improvements in Mobility, Posture, and Balance

If you're looking to improve your mobility, posture, and balance, burpees have got you covered.

By nature, burpees are a functional exercise.

This means they train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work, or in sports.

In addition, burpees require a certain level of balance and coordination, which can improve over time as you regularly perform the exercise.

Not only that, but the full-body nature of burpees promotes better posture by strengthening various muscles throughout the body, helping to keep you upright and reducing the risk of back issues.

How Burpees Influence Muscle Growth

Burpees: they're intense, challenging, and quite frankly, a love-hate relationship for many fitness enthusiasts.

We've already established the numerous benefits of burpees, but how do they influence muscle growth?

To answer this, we'll first explore the key mechanisms of muscle growth and then discuss how burpees fit into this picture.

Key Mechanisms of Muscle Growth

Muscle growth, also known as hypertrophy, involves an increase in the size of muscle cells.

It usually happens in response to physical activities that challenge the muscles, leading them to adapt and grow stronger.

Two main factors contribute to muscle growth:

  1. Mechanical Tension: This refers to the force exerted on a muscle by a weight or resistance. When a muscle is subjected to heavy weight or high resistance, it undergoes mechanical tension, leading to muscle growth.
  2. Muscle Damage: Ever felt sore a day or two after a workout? That's muscle damage, leading to inflammation and triggering the body to repair and rebuild the muscles, which can result in muscle growth.
  3. Metabolic Stress: When you perform an exercise to the point of fatigue or failure, it results in a buildup of metabolites (like lactate), creating a “burning” sensation. This metabolic stress can stimulate muscle growth.

The Limitations of Burpees for Building Muscle

While burpees engage multiple muscle groups and offer an intense workout, they may fall short in building significant muscle mass due to a couple of reasons:

  1. Insufficient Load: The main challenge of a burpee comes from the cardiovascular demand and your body weight. However, for significant muscle growth, higher external loads (like those provided by weights in strength training) are typically necessary. The resistance provided by body weight alone in a burpee may not be sufficient for optimal muscle growth.
  2. Too Much Endurance, Not Enough Tension: Burpees are largely an endurance exercise. The repeated high-intensity movement tends to fatigue the cardiovascular system before it exhausts the muscles. This means the mechanical tension on muscles is relatively low compared to strength training exercises, which limits their potential for muscle growth.

The Role of Burpees in a Beginner's Fitness Journey

If you're a newcomer to the fitness world, the role of burpees in your exercise routine may be different than for a seasoned gym-goer.

Let's explore how beginners can reap benefits from this all-encompassing exercise, from initial muscle building to transitioning into more advanced strength training.

Initial Muscle Building

While burpees may not be the go-to for hardcore bodybuilders, they can offer initial muscle-building benefits for fitness beginners.

As a beginner, you're in a prime position to experience what fitness professionals often refer to as “newbie gains.”

When individuals start an exercise regimen, they often see relatively quick and noticeable improvements in muscle size, strength, and endurance.

This happens because the body is not used to the stress of exercise and responds robustly to adapt to the new demand. This is where burpees come in.

As a full-body exercise, burpees work a variety of muscles that might not be accustomed to regular exercise.

Even though they're not as targeted as weightlifting, they can lead to muscle growth in the beginning stages of your fitness journey.

Transition from Endurance to Strength Training

Burpees, with their heart-pounding, sweat-inducing nature, are primarily an endurance exercise.

They can help improve your cardiovascular health, boost your stamina, and yes, as discussed, help beginners build some muscle.

However, as you progress and adapt, you may start to see diminishing returns in muscle growth.

That's when it's time to level up. As you get fitter and stronger with burpees, it's recommended to gradually transition into strength training.

Strength training exercises, like weight lifting or resistance training, apply greater stress to your muscles, stimulating more significant muscle growth over time.

This doesn't mean you need to ditch burpees entirely; they can still serve as a great warm-up exercise or cardio workout to supplement your strength training.

Boosting Your Fitness Regime Beyond Burpees

You've mastered the burpee and are ready to take your fitness journey a step further.

Now, let's talk about how to boost your fitness regimen beyond burpees.

Specifically, we'll discuss the incorporation of strength training exercises and how to develop a balanced workout routine for optimal muscle growth.

Incorporating Strength Training Exercises

While burpees are a fantastic full-body exercise, if muscle growth is your primary goal, you'll want to add some strength training to your regimen.

Strength training involves exercises that make your muscles work against a weight or force.

This can include free weights (like dumbbells and barbells), resistance bands, or your own body weight. Here are some exercises to consider:

  1. Squats and Deadlifts: These compound exercises work multiple muscle groups simultaneously and are great for building strength and muscle mass.
  2. Bench Presses and Overhead Presses: These exercises target the chest and shoulders and are key to any strength training regimen.
  3. Pull-ups and Rows: These exercises focus on your back muscles, enhancing your overall upper body strength.

Remember, start with weights you're comfortable with, and gradually increase as your strength improves.

It's always best to prioritize good form over heavy weights to avoid injuries.

Balanced Workout Routines for Muscle Growth

Developing a balanced workout routine is vital to promoting muscle growth and preventing injuries.

This should involve:

  1. A Mix of Exercises: Incorporate both compound (working multiple muscle groups) and isolation (targeting a single muscle group) exercises into your routine for a well-rounded workout.
  2. Rest Days: Muscles grow during rest periods, not when you're working out. Make sure to incorporate rest days in your workout schedule to give your muscles time to repair and grow.
  3. Nutrition: Proper nutrition goes hand in hand with your workout routine. Include enough protein in your diet to provide the necessary building blocks for muscle growth.
  4. Cardio: While your focus might be on strength training, don't neglect cardio. It helps to improve your endurance and heart health and can be an effective tool for fat loss.


In a nutshell, while burpees are a phenomenal full-body exercise that boosts your cardiovascular health and overall endurance, they aren't a one-stop solution for muscle growth.

They do play a vital part, especially for beginners embarking on a fitness journey, but as you progress, incorporating strength training exercises becomes crucial to promote significant muscle growth.

Remember, fitness is not a destination, but a journey of continuous learning, adapting, and pushing your boundaries.

Now that you've got the lowdown on burpees and muscle building, it's time to get out there and make your fitness goals a reality!