Hate Burpees? 10 Exercises That Work Just as Well

Burpees are pretty much the ultimate total-body workout. With one exercise, you burn calories, build upper-body strength, and increase power. But with so many gains, there is obviously a catch. To put it bluntly, burpees are extremely unpleasant. 

So how can you have your cake and eat it too? Well, there are a few different moves you can use when you want to skip the burpees but still see the results. (Not to say these moves are necessarily easier, but they will give you similar results.) We broke down some of the best full-body exercises that you can take to the gym and add to your arsenal of workouts.

1. Walking push-ups

Walking push-ups are a great substitute for burpees

Walking push-ups are a great substitute for burpees. | iStock.com

Push-ups on their own are a great full body exercise. According to Livestrong.com, “Push-ups will elevate your metabolic rate while you are doing them and as you recover afterward, all of which can help contribute to weight loss.” By adding this “walking technique” to push-ups, they also become a great substitute for burpees.

Start in a plank position with your shoulders stacked over your hands, and complete one push-up. Next, while keeping your core engaged, walk your left hand and foot over to your left side. Have your right hand and foot immediately follow to get you back to the stacked plank position, and perform another push-up. Then walk your hands and feet back in the other direction, starting with your right hand and foot. Not sure how many repetitions to do? Start by aiming for 10 repetitions, then work your way up to 15.

2. Speed-skater lunges

Woman doing lunges in a gym

This lunge variation is great for strengthening muscles and boosting your heart rate. | iStock.com

Don’t be misguided in thinking that skater-style exercises are strictly lower-body workouts. These moves are also great at working your core, and this speed-skater workout is no exception. For these reasons, mindbodygreen taps it as a great substitute to the burpee.

For the beginner’s version of this exercise, start in a speed skater-position with one leg bent at the knee with the upper leg parallel to the ground, and the other leg extended out to the side. Hinge your upper body at the waist and bring your chest as parallel as possible to the floor (think of how speed skaters look as they jet down the ice). The objective is to jump and switch the positioning of your legs, engaging your core as you make the swap.

There is also an equally-effective version of this exercise where you modify the lunge by crossing one leg behind the other.

3. Total-body extension

As Workout Finishers explains in their how-to video for this exercise, the total-body extension is a great replacement for the burpee’s equally evil cousin, the box jump. If you want to work up a sweat as if you were doing burpees and box jumps, but also want to save your knees, this is the workout for you.

Start in a demi-squat position with your weight centered through your feet. Engage your core and swing your arms over your head, lifting straight up onto your toes as you do so. Descend back to your starting position in a slow, controlled manner before exploding upward again. Like with pike jumps (which we break down for you later) maintaining speed will help boost the cardiovascular properties of this exercise. Start with 10 to 12, then build off of that.

4. Mountain climbers

woman practicing yoga

Mountain climbers and burpees are like cousins. | iStock.com/fizkes

Although mountain climbers appear to be an easier workout, this exercise works muscles all over your body. And, as Chron.com points out, this exercise also helps with joint mobility and coordination, making mountain climbers a welcome alternative to those pesky burpees.

As 30 Day Fitness Challenges demonstrates, this exercise has you start in a push-up position. Then, while maintaining the composure of your upper body, run in place as if you are — you guessed it — climbing up a mountain. Feeling extra mighty? Increase the difficulty of the exercise by doing it on an incline, as demonstrated by Get Healthy U.

5. Renegade rows

man using dumbbells to perform a plank exercise

Try this row variation. | iStock.com

This exercise is about as savage as it sounds, making it the perfect alternative to doing burpees. STACK praises renegade rows because they “demand core stability but also involve unilateral rows for back strength and dumbbell supported push-ups for the chest.”

For this exercise, start in an upright plank position, your feet planted slightly outside your shoulders and your arms, balancing on dumbbells, positioned just a bit inside your shoulders. Engaging your core and keeping a straight back, inhale and lift your right elbow upward and bring the dumbbell up into your armpit. Exhale as you lower your arm and bring the dumbbell back to the starting position. Check out YouTube’s Strength Camp eCoach for a creative how-to on renegade rows that will help ensure you maintain proper form.

6. Pike jumps

Despite the similar name, this full-body exercise is a far cry from the jumps the cheerleading team did in high school. This burpee substitute keeps you closer to the ground, while engaging your abdominal muscles and quadriceps.

Start this exercise in a downward-facing dog position. Using your core to stabilize your movements, move your feet in towards your hands, and then back out again for one rep. Muscles & Fitness has a great video tutorial that helps show proper form. Maintaining speed while you jump back and forth activates the cardio aspect of this exercise and aids in burning calories. Ready to up the ante? Maintaining the same speed, move your jumps from side to side.

7. Murpees

That’s right — the modified burpee is a great alternative to its original form. As demonstrated by Angelo Dela Cruz of VitaMoves, this less-explosive version of the burpee relies on endurance and control. The exercisee still starts in a plank position, but instead of jumping your feet towards your hands and then jettisoning into the air, you walk your feet into lunge positions at your hands, and rise up to a standing position. The key then is to stay controlled as you slowly return to the plank position, then repeat the sequence over.

The change in the movement and speed still offers the strengthening benefits of the burpee, and still gets your heart rate up. Trust that doing murpees in a continuous movement is a deceptively intense workout that may be just as much of a challenge as burpees. 

8. Squat jumps

squats

Squat jumps will work your body like no other. | iStock.com

Squat jumps are basically the burpee without the push-up. Livestrong.com says, “Squatting is another important part of the burpee, working the large muscles in your legs like the glutes, quads and hamstrings.” By adding an extra jump at the end, you can make the variation even harder and work on your explosion. 

In order to complete a successful squat jump, keep your feet shoulder-width apart, bring your hands down as you squat (making sure you get below parallel), and then as you jump up, thrust your hands up over your head so that you can jump as high as possible.

9. Med ball slams/med ball push-ups

medicine ball, gym

There are many great alternatives to burpees. | iStock.com

All you need to complete the medicine ball slam into push-up combo is a med ball. The weight of the ball can change depending on how hard or easy you want to make the exercise, or based on your overall goals. According to Men’s Fitness, med ball slams are a key exercise to sculpt a strong midsection. By adding in a push-up, you are getting an extra upper body push, and balancing on the ball works your entire core.

Take the med ball over your head with arms extended, and slam the ball down. Then placing your hands on the ball, facing the floor, complete a push-up while balancing on the ball. If you do not want to make the exercise into a combo, you can complete your med ball slam reps followed by your push-up reps. Aim for 15 repetitions.

10. Kettlebell swings

Kettlebell swings will get your heart pumping. | iStock.com

While the kettlebell takes time to master — so you don’t injure yourself — the benefits are numerous. Standard kettlebell swings are a full-body feat that burn fat, build muscle, and the move even counts as cardio. Sound like a great substitute for burpees, doesn’t it?

Kettlebell Workouts gives a brilliant breakdown of the kettlebell swing’s many benefits, and how to do the two-handed swing with proper form so you can avoid injury.

Additional reporting by Chelena Goldman