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Freakin’ Burpees: Understanding the Physiology Behind the Torture

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Let’s talk about one of Crossfit’s favorite calisthenics exercise: the dreaded burpees. Seriously. I dislike them. With Passion. And every time I’m late for class, which is almost always my coach makes me do several burpees for every minute I’m late. You would think I would learn…

I come to class last week, and find this on the WOD board:

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100 burpees for time. Are you serious?! I was ready to boycott this WOD, but I pushed through and was able to finish it in a little over 15 minutes. It wasn’t pretty, but at least I finished!

And then if that wasn’t worse enough a WOD, the crossfit games started 2 days later, and lo and behold our WOD 2 days later:

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MORE BURPEES!?!! and add Snatches to that?! Yikes. I had no idea where I found the strength to push through this insane WOD, but I did it. It was painful. But it was over.

And it got me thinking…Burpees suck. I have yet to meet anyone who truly loves burpees. Yet they’re part of our workout at least once a week. I had to find a way to appreciate burpees despite how much I despised them. So I did a little research and was surprised to learn some cool facts about this powerhouse exercise that really works your entire body: your arms, core, legs, and even challenges you mentally. I mean something that sucks so royally and leaves you so exhausted even after 5 reps has to have some rewards at the end right?!

Nifty video on the History of Burpees


5 cool facts about Burpees

  1. It was founded in 1930’s by American physiologist Royal H. Burpee who created the burpee test for a Ph.D thesis to test for fitness
  2. The actual burpee consists of a combination of jumping jacks, squats, and pushups
  3. They burn a lot of calories. Because of the high intensity of the exercise, researchers say that if done properly, burpees can burn 50% more fat than moderate exercise like walking and jogging. (instead of spending hours on the elliptical, do 100 burpees instead!)
  4. No equipment necessary! It’s all about using your own body’s resistance and going at your own pace. You can do burpees anywhere. It’s what makes it such a versatile little exercise!
  5. 1,840: The Guinness World Record for most burpees performed in an hour. This was done by Paddy Doyle in the United Kingdom on Feb. 4, 1994

Performing a Burpee (

Physiology behind the Burpee

Step 1: From Standing to Squat position:

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Muscles Used:

  • Quadriceps, Hamstrings, and Gluteus Maximus: contracting and lengthening at the same time (eccentrically)
  • Squatting causes knees and hips to flex and ankles are moving to dorsi flexion position.
  • Using your muscles in the back to maintain an upright position
  • Using core to prevent excessive forward bending

Step 2: From Squat to Push up or Chest to the ground position:

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Muscles Used:

  • Biceps/Triceps of arms to support upper body and elbow as you push your legs back to start the pushup
  • Quadriceps allows you to move your knee forward
  • Hamstrings and Glutes allow you to move your hips back.
  • Upper chest muscles: pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and rotator cuff all contract to keep your body off the ground.
  • Shoulder muscles: trapezius, rhomboids, serratus anterior and pectoralis minor all contract to stabilize shoulder/scapula area.
  • Rectus abdominis contract to keep core stabilized

Step 3: The actual Pushup:

Muscle Used:

  • Pectoralis major and anterior deltoid muscles contract to stabilize shoulders while performing the actual push up. 
  • Tricpes contracts allowing elbow flexion
  • Rectus abdominis stabilizes core and keeps them contracted

Step 4: From Push up to Squat Position:

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Muscles Used:

  • This is one of the worst part of the burpees. 
  • Gastrocnemius (calves) contracts allowing feet to be lifted and knees/hips rapidly flex to the squat position
  • Rectus femoris (part of your quadriceps) and hamstrings contract as well as lower part of the core to maintain upright position

Step 5: The Jump

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Muscles Used:

  • Gastrocnemius, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes all used to forcefully jump before landing on your feet and repeating the motion again and again. 
  • Back muscles and core used to stabilize the core and the back.

So when all is said and done, Burpees suck. But they suck for a reason: They really work out the whole body. Not only physically but mentally as well. It takes dedication and perseverance to really finish all 100 burpees.  Do it long enough, and you’ll definitely see some radical changes. I appreciate burpees for their potential, but I’ll still complain and curse each time I do one.







Feliz Día de San Valentín

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Happy Valentines day, Friend! I can’t wait for tomorrow when all the chocolates go on sale. Dove dark chocolate, I’ve got my eye on you!

It’s also my one-month anniversary of doing Crossfit! Not going to lie, Crossfit is kicking my butt, yet I keep going back. I just can’t say no.  I really can’t believe I’ve been enduring this torture for a month already. But honestly, as much as I complain about the difficulty of the WOD’s, I truly love it! Sure, I’m in a semi-permanent state of being sore all the time, but I really look forward to my 4pm. I’ve met some really cool people, and we have some awesome coaches. That’s what makes me love crossfit so much. You build a community where everyone encourages and pushes each other to do better.  And the best part: I’ve definitely noticed some great changes. I can tell I’m getting physically stronger, and I have definitely improved a lot on my times and reps. I even have some baby muscles in my twig like arms! 😀 I’m still working on my perfecting my form rather than adding more weights. But baby steps…

What doesn't kill you, really does make you stronger!

What doesn’t kill you, really does make you stronger!

Until tomorrow…Hope you have a great Valentines day!

Week’s Worth of Workouts

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I meant to post this last night, but I ended up heading to bed early instead. It has been a busy several days. Momma and I have been shopping trying to get everything ready for my upcoming India trip in a month and half. But in all this chaos, I still have found time to fit in a workout every day. I usually workout Monday-Friday, and take the weekends off. So here’s a recap of what my exercising week has looked like this past week:

killer workout week.

killer workout week.

I forgot to take a picture of my workout of the day on Thursday, but here is what we did:

2.7.13-Workout of the Day

Back Squat Est. 1Rep max

Annie was on the Shuttle
Double Unders (Double the rep count for Single Unders)

(basically, 50 jump ropes, (I had to do a 100x because I’m not a proficient jump roper, yet), and 50 sit ups, 80 jump ropes, 40 sit ups, etc…)

Mostly a lot of crossfit. It was a lot of arm work this week. And unfortunately my scrawny arms and shoulder definitely paid the price. I do need to work on my upper body strength, so I guess I’m doing something right if I’m in this much pain, right? I’ve also tried to incorporate some of the yoga poses I learned from my Bikram yoga class on my own in the mornings. My muscles are so stiff and sore from all this crosffit, and doing yoga and stretching helps. Finally, I’ve resorted to using this nifty heating/cooling pad my momma found at Bed Bath & Beyond to help with the aching muscles. It definitely helps with the shoulder stiffness.

heat therapy for my aching muscles.

heat therapy for my aching muscles. (Earth Theraputics Anti-Stress Microwaveable Comfort Wrap)

Need some inspiring videos to get you motivated on your workout? Check out this video below. Exercise really is a mental activity as much as it’s a physical activity. It’s about determination. It’s easy to say, “Oh I’ll do it tomorrow. And I don’t feel like it.” But you’ll be amazed how good you feel when finish that workout. (

Stay safe, and take care Friends. See you soon!

Pros and Cons of Crossfit

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My friend dragged me to a week long trial of Crossfit at the beginning of January, and let me tell you…I’ve done Insanity. Crossfit? It’s on a whole another level. I thought Insanity was…well…Insane, but crossfit: it is intense. It is hard and at times, you curse, and want to cry, and give up. But the satisfaction and the endorphin rush at the end of the short workout is so worth the agonizing pain. It’s been three weeks since I’ve started, and I can honestly say that as much as I dread walking into class, I love every single minute of the torture. But I can see why this type of workout is not for everybody.

What is crossfit? It is primarily a short, high intensity strength training fitness program. Most workouts usually last no more than 20 minutes; but those 20 minutes are hell. Most workout sessions consist of a combination of plyometric training in combination with some olympic style weight lifting usually for time or for as many reps completed within a certain time.

A gym? More like a torture chamber!

A gym? More like a torture chamber!


  • Workouts are short. And you get a great workout overall. Most workout of the days(WODs) utilize strength, endurance, and flexibility and you push yourself as much as you want.
  • The trainers are Awesome. I had very limited knowledge of doing anything with weight lifting and the bar work (dead lifts, push press, etc) The trainers help you with your posture, and give invaluable tips to getting better.
  • I love the people I workout with. Usually I workout in the morning, to get it out of the way; but I choose to come in later to the 4pm crossfit class, because I love the people who I workout with. They are encouraging, and super supportive. When I am on my last round, and I feel like I cannot possibly finish the WOD, my team members will give out encouraging comments, or even do another extra round, to get me to complete the workout. I love them.
  • It really works.You definitely get stronger, and more fit, and you feel better overall. I started doing crossfit, three weeks ago, and I could barely lift the 35lb barbell. After 3 weeks, I feel stronger, and I can definitely lift the barbell,and even add 10lb weights to do dead lifts. Not only does crossfit make you stronger physically, but you are also mentally stronger as well. I am more focused, and determined to finish the workout each day.
Workouts can appear deceiving.

A sample workout of the day (WOD). Trust me, workouts can appear deceiving.


  • High risk of injury. Honestly, if you don’t utilize the proper technique, you can easily break your bone, and hurt yourself. Listen to your body and know your limits. You know your body better than your trainer. If you are a beginner, and have never lifted, don’t start lifting 90lb+ because you want to show off to your sexy trainer. She’s probably going to come over and tell you to get lighter weight and focus on your technique. It’s all about maintaining the proper form while you finish the workout. 
  • Everyone does the same workout as you do. Luckily my trainers are awesome, and they will scale it down for beginners like me (usually fewer reps, and lighter weights), but it does not matter if you are male, female, an Olympic athlete  or a 60 year old woman; everyone has to finish the same workout.


Even though it is a bit pricey, I love crossfit. But here’s my fitness story: I swam for 7 years, and pretty competitively for 4 years. Most of college, I tried to go to the gym regularly and I run occasionally, and do yoga; I love Bikram Yoga. I tried crossfit because I needed to focus on my strength. (I am a hypochondriac, and I am convinced I am going to get osteoporosis before I turn 50. It doesn’t help that I am asian, and I have a family history of osteoporosis). Crossfit definitely helps in the strength training and conditioning department. I will occasionally supplement it with yoga, and a run here and there, but I look forward to my daily 4pm crossfit class. Even if you are a beginner, definitely try it. It is challenging and physically demanding; but it is worth it…especially to see yourself progress and grow stronger both physically and mentally week by week.

Addicted to endorphins. I have a problem.

Addicted to endorphins. I have a problem.

Until next time friends. Take care!