There may be no greater single exercise than the burpee. It is, perhaps, the only exercise equally adept at preparing you for the physical challenges of life, as it is at preparing you for the mental and emotional battles you will inevitably face.
The burpee is a full body, multi-dimensional exercise that is complex in its simplicity. To do one, you need only to stand in one position, fall to the ground until you are flat prone. From there, jump up to your feet and into the air with hands above your head. Extend your hips, knees and spine. Although simple, they are the hardest damn things you may ever do in your life. Especially when strung together several dozen at a time.
When done correctly, the burpee works nearly all of the muscles in your body at once - in every rep. It does so in ways that your body naturally moves. This makes the burpee nearly perfect for functional use and transferability into daily life.
While taxing most of the major muscle groups it also taxes multiple energy systems. This means you gain strength, stamina and cardiovascular prowess while doing burpees. When done for the purpose of optimal health, you also gain max efficiency and effectiveness from workouts that include them.
Physical improvement isn't the only thing burpees have to offer. The symbolism of performing burpees and overcoming the challenges they present has never been lost on me. It is one of the reasons I like them so much and consistently program them into your workouts.
Learning to like burpees did not come easily. It was pounded into me by one of my HS football coaches. Coach Barrus loved burpees. Back then we called them "up-downs." He made us do thousands of them and he had a real knack for making them extra painful. He'd have us doing up-downs in the sweltering, summer midday sun as readily as in the "nut numbing" cold. We'd do them in the mud, on gravel, on black top, etc. Once he threatened to make us do them over in the sticker weeds next to the football field just to toughen us up and make us move faster. The guy was a master of pure misery and while he was making us pound out burpee after miserable burpee he'd teach us lessons of life AT FULL VOLUME! One thing I'll never forget him saying was:
"NOTHING hurts more than this...if you are tough enough to get up and do more of these, you'll be tough enough to get up and shake it off when it counts."
I think coach's words hold more truth today than they did back then. And so, for this reason plus all the reasons above, I LOVE burpees. I believe they are as effective, well-rounded, and meaningful as they are painful. Therefore, in MY book, they remain: King of All Exercises.