Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie and Adding Burpees to My Kettlebell Complex Workout Kicked Ass

Quick Tips


Burpees and I have a love/hate relationship, and I’m sure that most of you probably have similar feelings.  

On one hand, full burpees are as close as it gets to being a complete bodyweight exercise.

Burpees are ridiculously effective for elevating heart rate and recruiting a large amount of muscles.  Large muscular recruitment is a beautiful thing.  Burpees require little to no space, zero equipment and you can perform them anywhere.  Indoors or outdoors it does not matter.  Burpee workouts are a perfect alternative to traditional running or biking.

On the other hand- the hand that despises every aspect of the burpee- burpees are the red headed step child of my workouts.  When I see them on the docket for the day, I cringe.  I cringe because they test me every single time.  I cannot think of a single workout where burpees felt easy.  If there was a workout where burpees were enjoyable like a walk on a white sand beach on a hot Summer day, that would be a major red flag that I didn’t design my workout properly, or I was leaving something in the tank (aka:  Half-assing it).  Burpees are the vegetables of the workout world.  They require very little thought and are quite monotonous when performed for high reps.

But, when weighing the likes and dislikes toward burpees, I know full well that slipping burpees into a workout can crank up the overall impact of the workout.  The training effect if you will.  In other words, I’ve never felt worse (physically or mentally) after performing burpees at the end of a circuit or as a workout by themselves.  

Burpees deliver every single time.  

ImageShakira’s hips don’t lie and neither does my heart rate monitor.

So while I started thinking about different sub-maximal activities that I could integrate into my complex workouts- to keep my heart rate elevated in between rounds- burpees were one of the first exercises that came to mind.  It seemed like slipping them in between rounds could deliver what I was looking for.  Preferably, the filler exercise needed to be ground based and something that kept me in a vertical standing position.

So, here is what the workout evolved into:


Again, the goal here was to add another 5 minutes of elevated heart rate and exertion to my training session.  I know from extensive experience that the kettlebell complex displayed in the snapshot typically takes 12-15 minutes to complete in full, so my goal was to extend the workout to 20 minutes or longer.  The addition of the burpees between complex rounds successfully did just that.

Overall, I enjoyed the addition.  I’ve added timed jump rope intervals to my complexes before, and they worked quite well.  But since I can’t seem to find a jump rope that can live longer than 2-3 months before breaking, I was forced to use burpees.  The key to adding filler exercises to tough workouts is to choose exercises that require low technical know-how.  When you’re sucking wind, trying to gather yourself before the next bout of exertion, this is not the time to be messing around with movements that have high technical difficulty.  

In fact I will just come out and say it… it’s stupid.  The risk doesn’t even come close to matching the reward.  Avoid it and you’ll put yourself in a better position to avoid injury while reaping all of the good that can come from a workout like this.

Closing thoughts…

The majority of my workouts are by design.  I rarely walk into a workout without knowing what’s about to happen, which is why I think I have adhered to this physical lifestyle for so long, and why I will remain committed to moving aggressively and intelligently for years to come.  It’s habit now, fully engrained into my life.

Each workout (or entire program) follows a general training template that I’ve got embedded in my mind.  Early in my strength and conditioning education, I consumed book after book and realized that everyone was using the same general approach to designing effective workouts and long-term programs, so I began adapting and experimenting with slight variations to these time tested principles.  

My personal preference is a system wide, total body approach to exercising, so I know that I like to see all of the major movement patterns represented in each training session (ex: squat, pressing, pulling, hip hinge, etc).  Body part splits are not for me.  I get bored.  Working a squat pattern four different ways on the same day is un-interesting to me.  But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a great option for your fitness endeavors.

I also have a crystal clear distinction between what I classify as a purpose driven workout, and what I classify as a recreational activity.  Playing ice hockey on Wednesday nights is recreational.  Kettlebell complexes are a workout.  My approach doesn’t downplay the positives of recreational activities (because they do matter overall), but I feel that there is a major difference between “the workout” and pick up basketball.  

At the end of the day, movement in any shape or form adds up, and there is no denying this.  Any way that you can engage in it, it’s a bonus.  We can debate the details all day long, but the bottom line is make an effort to sit less and move more.  That’s a recipe worth following.

Here is a great video that diagrams how dramatic even the smallest shift in movement can have on health.  



Cheers to adding burpees to the workout…




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