If you've worked out at PUMP you have surely done a burpee (or at least a modification of one) at least once...and you LOVED it (as much as you love sarcasm)! A burpee is an exercise combining a squat with a plank (or push-up) and a jump. Put that together, and you have an overall strength builder guaranteed to leave you out of breath in seconds. When I was a kid in gym class we did this torturous exercise, but they were called squat thrusts. So why, in the world of training, are they called burpees?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term originated in the 1930s: “Named after Royal H. Burpee, American psychologist. The original usage was Burpee test, in which a series of burpees are executed in rapid succession, designed to measure agility and coordination.” But there’s a bit more to the story than that.
Burpee (1898-1987) was a physical education advocate who worked for the Greater New York YMCA for more than 50 years. It was in that context that he developed his test, which was used by the Navy and Army, according to a New York Times article from 1959.
“He was a physical fitness nut. Not only did he do them, my father also did them as part of an exercise routine daily,” says Royal H. Burpee III, a 57-year-old plastics salesman in Easton, Pa., who does not do them. But he had to in high school gym class. When his teacher wouldn’t believe that Burpee’s grandfather was responsible for the exercise, young Roy brought in a copy of his book “Seven Quickly Administered Tests of Physical Activity.”