If you have ever been to a gym or done group fitness training, you’ll have almost certainly performed a burpee ( in some form!). They are used in nearly all conditioning methodologies … and feared by many!
But how excatly did they come about?
Most bodyweight movements that we know of today came to fruition through the 1940’s. This was an era when human fitness in the basic sense became a marker of vitality. The world was going through an evolution as such after enduring an economic depression, living through World War 2 and survived the global pandemic of the Spanish Flu. A result of this was people began to value their health ( albeit a more basic version of what we know today) … ironically some 80years later the world is now; once again, beginning to prioritise our collective human health (think work/life balance, sedentary living etc…).
Back then however, fitness technology was crude at best … you didn’t have the luxury of Step Trackers or a Whoop strap to detail your daily health markers. Instead, they had movement sequences which they scored based off one’s ability to perform . They valued movement (or lack of!) and treated it as the basic requirement of health.
Enter … physiologist Royal Huddleston Burpee. Yep, you read that correctly, ‘Burpee’ was actually in his name(!), and as a result the movement which he offered as a marker for health became known as ‘The Burpee!
Now, there have been some evolutions to the movement since “Mr.Burpee” brought it to the attention of the world. The original move consisted of 4 elements:
- The Squat
- The Plank
- The Jump-Back
- The Stand Up
It was said that 1x full revolution of the drill offered insight into the leg, core, back, shoulder and hip strength of the individual, and he actually advised that it was an unsafe movement to perform for people with weak core strength. ( FYI -This still stands to be true to this day).
As the years passed, it was soon selected as a ‘fitness drill’ by the US Army whereby recruits would peform the movement for 20seconds, this later became 60seconds as human health improved, and as such this was the beginning of ‘Burpee’s for time’ as we all have experienced in todays fitness landscape.
So there you have it!
Maybe next time you’re asked to perform burpee’s in your workout you can offer thanks to Mr. Royal Huddleston Burpee, I’m sure he never knew just how much hurt he would inflict on millions of fitness enthusiasts decades later!