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reverse burpee

Classic burpees are one exercise that everyone loves to hate, yet the full-body benefits of this strenuous movement are hard to deny. The high-intensity combination of squats, pushups, and jumps is an effective way to boost cardio and build full-body strength — assuming each piece is done with great form.

But for many people, the pushup is a limiting factor. While taking out the pushup and jumping in and out of a plank is one way to pregress the move, the modification doesn’t always eliminate sloppiness and the risk of injury.

Enter the reverse burpee: Instead of pairing a squat with a pushup/plank, this variation pairs a squat with a spinal rock, or backward roll.

It isn’t easier than the original, per se. The squat-to-spinal-rock combo is a no-joke way to raise your heart rate and build lower-body and ab strength.

But by removing the pushup/plank, this version can offer relief to folks struggling with painful pressure on their wrists, elbows, shoulders, or lower back. This makes it possible to move more efficiently and get more out of the exercise.

In addition to its strength and ­conditioning benefits, the reverse ­burpee boasts the added rewards of rocking on your back: boosted proprioception in the back-body, improved sense of balance, and increased awareness of how tension and relaxation work together to safely generate power. Plus, it’s fun!

Common reverse-burpee pitfalls include improper squat form (allowing your knees to cave inward and shifting your weight onto your toes) and improper rolling form (rolling with a flat back and not drawing your knees in toward the chest). Before flowing the two moves and adding the jump at the top, practice body-weight squats and spinal rocks on their own.

Another stumbling block is the repeated transition from a neutral spine while squatting to a curved spine while rolling. This skill will come with practice — and don’t be afraid to use your hands for support, as needed.

Ready to squat, drop, and roll? Follow these tips to get started.


  1. Stand with your feet about hip width apart and reach your arms overhead. Brace your core and squat down as low as you comfortably can.
  2. Lower your bottom all the way to the floor, draw your knees in toward your chest, and roll back with a softly rounded spine.
  3. Roll forward to return to a seated position. Plant your heels and press through your feet to transition back into a squat.
  4. Continue to press into your feet as you straighten your knees and rise back to standing.
  5. Jump into the air with hands overhead as soon as you’re standing. Perform two or three sets of five to 10 reps.
Photography by: Colin Simmons; Styling: Pam Brand; Model: Desyree Starr
Maggie Fazeli Fard

Maggie Fazeli Fard, RKC, is an Experience Life senior editor.

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