Plyometric pushups amp up the intensity of the classic move.

Pushups Vs. Burpees

by Andrea Boldt

Pushups and burpees are exercises you love to hate. These intense moves make your muscles burn, your brow sweat and your voice groan. Both challenge most of the major muscle groups of the body, but pushups tend to focus on strength while burpees are more cardiovascular in nature. As a busy mom, including either or both exercises in your routine enables you to burn calories, build muscle and improve your stamina. The one that is best for you really depends on your goals.


Pushups are a classic exercise because they are effective, challenging and infinitely modifiable. Don't shy away from this exercise that targets your chest muscles; you need a strong chest to push things like a stroller or grocery cart and to move furniture. A strong chest also helps improve your posture and your throwing skills -- whether you are a champion softball player or simply pitching to your kids. Along with the chest, the muscles at the front of your shoulders, your arms, the tops of your thighs, your front and side abdominals, and along your spine all stabilize your body as you lower your torso up and down. By acting as supporters, these muscles also become stronger. If a full pushup is too hard, do them against a wall or with your knees touching the floor.


Burpees are often performed in boot camp classes. You start the move from a standing position, squat down and place your hands on the floor to jump back swiftly into a plank position. Jump back to your hands and stand up to complete one repetition. Burpees target the muscles of your chest, arms, thighs and abs. Use them primarily for force production and stabilization, rather than strength building. Execute burpees quickly to make your heart rate skyrocket and burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time.


If your goal is to build muscle and upper-body strength, pushups are your best bet. Set a goal of three sets of eight to 12 repetitions. When that gets too easy, perform them on decline or with your hands on a balancing disc or stability ball. Include pushups in total-body workout plan that also features back, shoulder, arm, leg, hip and abdominal exercises. When your workout intention is to increase your heart rate, opt for burpees. You can even add a jump at the top of the movement to make them harder. Burpees, when paired with other calisthenic-type cardio such as jumping jacks, jumping rope and jumping lunges, make for an intense, calorie-scorching session.


Instead of choosing between burpees and pushups, incorporate both in your routines. Do a set of pushups immediately followed by a minute of burpees, for example. You can even combine the moves to get more bang for your fitness buck. When you jump back into the plank position of your burpee, do a pushup before you come back up. This way you'll combine strength and cardio in one move, which saves you precious time without cheating you of results.

About the Author

Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.

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