Beyond Burpees – 3 Ground-Engagement Bodyweight Workouts

The burpee is a great rudimentary conditioning exercise that I’ve taught and recommended for years. Even though it’s a classic way to get conditioning benefits from a basic ground-engagement movement, I still consider the burpee a beginner level drill. There are dozens of more advanced ways to engage the ground for conditioning purposes, and did I mention that most of them are infinitely more fun, too? That’s right – infinitely.

Below, you will find a video that teaches you four mini-circuits at four different levels of difficulty. The first level (beginner level) is a modified version of the burpee exercise. Levels 2, 3, and 4 all involve more sophisticated movements than the basic burpee, and can be classified as intermediate to advanced level conditioning exercises. There are also three complete workouts provided below that use the movements taught in the video. These workouts would be best used in a program that is designed for fat loss, but it will also help you develop general conditioning and build functional “go muscle.”

Note: Not too long ago, I posted a survey asking my readers what kind of information they were looking for on this site. Overwhelmingly, the topic of bodyweight training and workouts topped the list. In fact, a whopping 66% of you wanted more info on bodyweight training, and 54% of you asked specifically for workouts and programs, too. With such an overwhelming response, I’ve considered creating an entire bodyweight training product, and with continued interest, I may pursue that route. For now though, here is a complete bodyweight workout that requires zero equipment and can be done anytime, and anywhere you have a little floor space.

So, let’s take a look at the movements you’ll need to know before we get into the actual workouts.

Beyond Burpee’s – 3 Ground-Engagement Bodyweight Workouts

Difficulty Levels

Beginner (level 1):

Squat down, place hands down, kip feet back, perform one pushup, kip feet forward into rock-bottom squat position, perform one basic spinal rock, rock back up to rock-bottom squat position, squat back up.

Intermediate (level 2):

Squat down, lean forward onto ball of foot, place hands down, perform one quad press, press back up into rock-bottom squat position, perform one spinal rock with butterfly hip extension, rock back up to rock-bottom squat position, kip feet backwards and press into upward dog position, kip feet forwards into rock-bottom squat position, squat back up.

Advanced (level 3):

Squat down, lean forward onto ball of foot, place hands down, perform one quad hop, press back up into rock-bottom squat position, perform a half spinal rock with hip extension and roll over one shoulder, reaching feet backwards until rolled onto belly, press hands into the ground and kip the feet forward into rock-bottom squat position, squat back up.

Mastery (level 4):

Squat down, bounce from rock-bottom squat position into quad hop position and hop back up into rock-bottom squat position, perform a half spinal rock with full hip extension and roll over one shoulder, continue to extend the hips as you roll over your shoulder and down your ribcage, keep extending the hips until they come in contact with the ground, then and only then, press your hands into the ground and kip your legs forward into rock-bottom squat position, squat back up.

3 Complete Workouts

Warning: do not attempt if you are injured, unfit, or otherwise wimpy. Only attempt with clearance from your doctor and if you’ve read the medical disclaimer.

Warmup (use the same warmup for all 3 sessions)

Neck circles – 1 minute (30 seconds each direction)
Shoulder shrug circles – 1 minute (30 seconds each direction)
Thoracic spine expansion and compression – 1 minute
Hip circles – 1 minute (30 seconds each direction)
Lumbar spine circles – 1 minute (30 seconds each direction)

Note: this is a general warmup meant to increase your core temperature, raise your heart rate, and prime the main joint complexes and movement patterns you will be using in the following workouts. However, this is not necessarily an exhaustive warmup because it does not take your individual needs into account. Feel free to supplement this warmup with additional items, or substitute some of the exercises with others that may be more appropriate for your individual needs.

Workout Sessions

Work Session Option 1 – Complete 100 repetitions in as few sets as possible.

Density Training Protocol: Select a level from the list below that challenges you and work your way up the chain until you can perform 1 continuous set of 100 repetitions. You should be able to maintain near-perfect technique, with minimal discomfort.

  • 20 sets of 5 in 20 minutes
  • 18 sets of 6 in 18 minutes
  • 16 sets of 7 in 16 minutes
  • 14 sets of 8 in 14 minutes
  • 12 sets of 9 in 12 minutes
  • 10 sets of 10 in 10 minutes
  • 9 sets of 11 reps in 9 minutes
  • 8 sets of 12 reps in 8 minutes
  • 7 sets of 14 reps in 7 minutes
  • 6 sets of 16 reps in 6 minutes
  • 5 sets of 20 in 5 minutes
  • 1 set of 100

Notes: Select a level that allows you to maintain a technique rating of 8+ (out of 10, 10 being perfect technique), a discomfort rating of 3 or lower (10 being the worst pain you’ve ever felt), and an exertion level at or below 6 out of 10 (ie 60% of your max).

Work Session Option 2: Each minute, on the minute, for 15-20 minutes, perform the required repetitions, resting only after they have been completed.

Beginner: 2 reps per minute
Intermediate: 4 reps per minute
Advanced: 6 reps per minute

Notes: Perform the repetitions as quickly as possible with good technique to give yourself as much rest time as possible. If you finish your required reps in 40 seconds, that gives you 20 seconds to rest before the next round. Use that time to catch your breath, shake out your limbs and torso, and lower your heart rate.

Work Session Option 3: Complete as many repetitions as possible in the allotted time.

Beginner: 10 minutes
Intermediate: 15 minutes
Advanced: 20 minutes

Note: Focus on your technique at the expense of all other variables – even if you must go much slower.

Cooldown (use the same cooldown for all 3 sessions)

Various full-body vibration drills – 1-3 minutes
Standing backward bend – 1-3 minutes
Table pose – 1-3 minutes
Shoulder bridge – 1-3 minutes
Basic standing king dancer pose – 1-3 minutes
Standing forward bend/fold – 1-3 minutes

Note: Your personal needs may warrant making some changes to the above cooldown. Feel free to add or substitute some of the exercises above to meet your needs.

Wrap-Up

There you have it. Three complete bodyweight workouts using a slew of unconventional exercises that take you far beyond the basic burpee exercise. Have fun!

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CST Coach, CST-KS
Health-First Fitness Coach

10 Responses

  1. John,
    Excellent! BTW..dig the indoor ‘gym’ ya have. That would be sweet to have! Having huskies I understand the hair too. Again, very good flow and demo.

  2. John,
    Thanks again for the informative video. I appreciate the time and energy you expend making these free resources for us.
    I have one question about the squat. If I go as deep as you into the squat, my heels lift off the ground. Should I only squat as deep as I can go without the heels leaving the ground? I know that over time, my squat will naturally go deeper.

    Thanks again.

  3. John,

    Great video. I’m going to try this out today. Congratulations on the Coach certificate. Keep up the good work. I always get new ideas from your site.

    Thanks,
    Mark

  4. Thanks for the link to achieving greater squat depth. It looks like my feet were too close together. Now, I can go much deeper and my feet stay flat. Go figure.

    • Haha, that’s good news, though :-)

      Speaking of which, I still haven’t done a bodyweight squat instructional video. I’ll add that one to my list – a lot of people struggle to get their squat form correct.

  5. Doug Emerson

    John,

    Like everyone else said, thanks for these videos! I really enjoy them. I can’t squat as deep as you. I had ACL reconstruction about 25 years ago. They used part of my patella tendon to reconctruct my acl. On top of that, I don’t have much meniscus left in my knee. Which means, I have good days and bad days. Mostly good days :) My question is, is it a big deal that I don’t have the full range of motion as long as I am pain free? I try, but I just can’t bend my knee like I can on my good leg. The ROM is simply not there. I feel that some movement is better than none.

    Do you have any thoughts?

    Cheers,

    Doug

    • Hey Doug,

      Sorry for the delay – don’t know how I missed this one. If you can do so without pain, then squatting as deeply as you can is perfectly fine for the above circuits. Training shouldn’t be about hitting arbitrary standards, but about meeting yourself where you need to in order to make forward progress.

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