6 Great Ways to Add Intensity to Burpees

Burpees are a great way to improve your cardio and muscular endurance. They also boost strength, burn a good amount of calories, and can even help you become more coordinated. While some people find burpees intense enough, if you want to increase their intensity even more, these six moves can help.

1

Squat Thrust

Squat Thrust
Paige Waehner

Squat thrusts, a version of burpees, are an exercise many of us may remember vividly from high school gym class. This is because it works the entire body and gets the heart rate up in a very short period of time.

The squat thrust is simple but very challenging on the heart, lungs, and body. It's a great move to add to your regular cardio workouts to increase intensity and to work on your power, agility, and endurance.

  1. Stand with feet about hip-width apart and squat to the floor, placing your hands on the floor in front of you.
  2. In an explosive movement, jump the feet out behind you so that you're in a pushup position on the hands and toes with the body in a straight line.
  3. Immediately jump the feet back to start.
  4. Continue jumping the feet out and in as quickly as you can for about 30–60 seconds, completing 1–3 sets.
  5. To add intensity, stand up each time you jump the feet in and add a jump, turning this move into a burpee.

You can add these to your usual workout for a high-intensity burst or put them together with other cardio moves for a short, intense workout.

2

Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers Annotated

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Squat thrusts are great for building power, strength, and endurance, but there are more ways to add intensity to the movement (as if they really need it). In this version, you'll add mountain climbers, which will get your heart rate up and help you work on agility and stamina.

  1. Squat and place your hands on the floor, keeping the abs engaged.
  2. In an explosive movement, jump the feet back into a pushup position.
  3. Bring the right foot in (knee towards the chest) and touch the toe to the floor.
  4. Quickly switch feet in the air, bringing the left foot forward and the right foot back.
  5. Jump the left foot back so you're in a pushup position.
  6. Jump both feet in between the hands and (optional) stand up, adding a jump at the end for even more intensity if desired.
  7. Complete for 10–20 reps or for 30–60 seconds.
3

Burpee With a BOSU Balance Trainer

Woman doing burpees with BOSU

Paige Waehner

One way to add challenge and variation to a traditional burpee is to do them with different types of equipment. In this version, you'll use a BOSU Balance Trainer with the dome side down, which adds an element of instability.

At the end of the movement, you can pick up the BOSU and take it over the head to add even more challenge and involve the arms and shoulders.

Lifting the BOSU is very advanced, as it weighs about 14 pounds, so only try this if you're an experienced exerciser, have no back problems, and can lift the BOSU with good form (knees bent, abs braced, and back straight).

  1. Stand in front of the BOSU with the dome side down.
  2. Squat and place your hands on both sides of the BOSU, keeping the abs engaged.
  3. In an explosive movement, jump the feet back so you're in a pushup position.
  4. Jump the feet back to starting position, keeping the abs tight and the hips back.
  5. Add intensity by staying in the squat position and lifting the BOSU, pressing it overhead as you stand up. (Only try this if you're an advanced exerciser.)
  6. Lift with good form, initiating the movement from the legs rather than the back.
  7. Repeat for 10–20 reps or for 30–60 seconds.
4

Burpees With a Medicine Ball

A woman squats while holding a medicine ball

Artem Varnitsin / EyeEm / Getty Images

Using a medicine ball during a burpee adds an element of instability and challenge as you toss the ball overhead at the end of the movement. Take care with this exercise and step the feet back rather than jumping if you feel too wobbly.

You'll need solid upper-body strength and core stability to do this move, so only try this if you're an advanced exerciser.

  1. Hold onto a medicine ball and squat, taking the ball to the floor while keeping the abs engaged.
  2. Make sure your hands are directly under the shoulders to enhance your stability as you jump the feet back into a pushup position. As a variation, step the feet back one at a time to practice the move before jumping.
  3. Jump the feet back to start, stand up, and toss the medicine ball overhead or to a partner.
  4. Repeat for 10–20 reps or for 30–60 seconds.
5

Kettlebell Burpees

Kettlebell On Carpet At Gym
Kittiphan Teerawattanakul / EyeEm / Getty Images

Another way to ramp up the intensity of burpees is to use a kettlebell. The idea is to do the move while holding onto the bottom (bell) part of the kettlebell instead of the handle.

Take care with this move. If your wrists and arms aren't balanced and straight, or if the kettlebell isn't flat and stable, it's easy for the kettlebell to tip over or twist, which can cause injury.

Try the kettlebell burpee first by stepping the legs back one at a time instead of jumping to get a feel for your stability. If you feel comfortable, add the jump once you've mastered the exercise.

  1. Stand with a heavy kettlebell on the floor in front of you.
  2. Squat and place your hands on both sides of the bell, under the handles.
  3. Make sure you're balanced over the weight, wrists straight and strong so that it doesn't tip over.
  4. Step the legs back one at a time into a plank position or, if you're advanced, jump the feet back into a plank position.
  5. Step or jump the feet back to start and stand up. You can add intensity by holding the kettlebell (by the handle) while standing up.
  6. Repeat for 10–20 reps or 30–60 seconds.
6

Squat Thrust With Gliding Discs

Squat Thrust with Gliders
Paige Waehner

Adding gliding discs to a traditional squat thrust creates a different level of intensity that you'll really feel in your core and lower body. Sliding the legs in and out, rather than jumping,​ takes away the impact but engages the quads as well as the abs and back to stabilize your body.

You can also use paper plates or, if you have hardwood floors, towels if you don't have gliding discs.

  1. Begin on the hands and knees with the balls of the feet resting on the discs.
  2. Slide both legs out until you're in a plank position with the body in a straight line. The hands should be under the shoulders, head in alignment, and the core braced.
  3. Slide both feet in, bringing the knees to the chest.
  4. Push the legs back out to plank position.
  5. Continue sliding the feet in and out as quickly as you can while keeping good form.
  6. Repeat for 30–60 seconds, rest, and repeat for 1–3 sets.
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