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The Death By Burpees Workout Is More Beginner-Friendly Than It Sounds

Group doing burpees
(Image credit: Getty Images / Cavan Images)

Before throwing in the towel on your next workout, give this intense, but mercifully short, full-body HIIT finisher a shot. The crux of the “death by” format is to perform an ever-increasing number of reps in a set timeframe until the clock beats you. In this case, do one burpee in the first 30 seconds, then two in the next 30, then three, and so on. 

Why burpees, you ask? Well, loathe them or loathe them, burpees are a fantastic functional test of full-body mobility, coordination, strength and endurance. You’re better off getting familiar with them, rather than swerving them completely and fortunately, this routine will force you to get good at them.

Ideally, the drill should be tagged on to the end of a workout once your muscles are warm and joints lubricated. Just make sure you have enough energy left to perform each burpee with good technique. It can be used as a standalone workout too; just make sure you’re fully warmed up before you start (this dynamic warm-up is a solid start).

To improve the way you perform the move, take a deep breath when standing at the top of the move, then exhale as you rise to stand or jump to complete each rep. Cycling air in and out like this should help keep your heart rate from rocketing, so you can keep going as the reps mount up.

How To Do This Death By Burpees Workout 

To cater for all standards, we’ve provided three burpee variations below, starting with a low-impact beginner-friendly version. Before you start, practise your burpee of choice a few times until you’re confident of the technique. 

When ready, start a stopwatch and perform one full rep, then rest for the remainder of the first 30 seconds. In the next 30 seconds, perform two full reps, then rest. Then do three reps in the next 30, then four, then five and so on. Keep going until you can’t fit the required reps into that 30-second interval. Note down the round you checked out and aim to beat that score next time.

For simplicity, the first 10 rounds (55 reps in total) run like this.

  • 0sec – 1 rep
  • 30sec – 2 reps
  • 1min – 3 reps
  • 1min 30sec – 4 reps
  • 2min – 5 reps
  • 2min 30sec – 6 reps
  • 3min – 7 reps
  • 3min 30sec – 8 reps
  • 4min – 9 reps
  • 4min 30sec – 10 reps

Burpee Variations

Man performs a burpee

(Image credit: Getty Images / Kong Ding Chek)

Beginner Burpee Variation: Walking Burpee 

From standing, bend over to place your palms on the floor. You can either hinge at your hips or squat down – whichever is more comfortable. Step back with one leg, then the other until you’re in the top of a press-up position. Step your feet back to your hands one at a time, then stand up. 

Intermediate Burpee Variation: Strict Burpee 

This is the gold-standard version. From standing, hinge at your hips to place your palms on the floor. Jump your feet back together so you’re in the top of a press-up position. Jump your feet back to your hands, then push through your heels to drive up and use your momentum to jump straight up and clap your hands behind your head to ensure full extension. Land with soft knees and continue into the next rep.

Expert Burpee Variation: Chest-To-Floor Burpee 

For an added challenge, this version includes a press-up with each rep. Sorry (not sorry). From standing, hinge at your hips to put your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart. Jump your feet back, then drop into a press-up so your chest is just off the floor. Press back up, jump your feet to your hands and drive into a jump, clapping your hands behind your head. Repeat.

Sam Rider
Sam Rider

Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix (opens in new tab). Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.