Are you R.H. Burpee Fit?

by Jeff Godin,  Ph.D., CSCS

All great Spartans include Burpees as part of their regular exercise routine.  Ever wonder who was the sadistic person that invented it?  (I thought it was my elementary PE teacher, Mr. Woodcock .)

After some digging I was able to find a dissertation written by Royal Huddleston Burpee titled “ Seven quickly administered tests of physical capacity”.  He attempted to narrow down 300 tests of physical capacity to a short list of tests that can be easily administered to large groups, administered in minimal time, and administered with little equipment. One test that rose to the top was the Front Leaning Rest, from the standing position (FLR).  Some our nation’s finest know the FLR as the push-up position.

RH Burpee modified the FLR to accommodate his discerning criteria for a physical capacity test. The correct way to do a Burpee according the source is:

1)     Bend your knees, and place your hands flat on the floor in front of you

2)     Jump your legs straight out to the rear, and leave them there

3)     Jump your legs back

4)     Stand up

To perform the assessment:

1)     Measure resting heart rate lying down

2)     Measure resting heart rate standing up

3)     Perform  four Burpees as fast as possible, record the time

4)     Measure post exercise heart rate immediately upon stopping (palpate the wrist and count the number of pulses in 15 seconds and multiply by 4 to get beats per minute).

5)     Measure heart rate every 15 seconds until heart rate has returned to normal. Record the time it takes to return to normal

These are the standards according to Burpee’s research:



Questionable Reaction

Standing Pulse

68 – 96 bpm

100 bpm or more

Postural pulse rate change

0 – 12 bpm

16 bpm or more

Increase in pulse rate change

44 bpm or less

48 bpm or more

Time to return to normal

105s or less

120 s or more


Not breathless

Breathless (elevation of chest wall – forced expiration)

Limited motor movement

Not limited

Limited (cannot excute standard exercise)

Time to perform exercise

11.5 s or less

11.6 s or more


Test yourself, how do you measure up to Burpee’s standards developed in 1940?

Learn more about Spartan training and coaching at


Brupee, R.H. (1940). Seven quickly administered tests of physical capacity and their use in detecting physical incapacity fro motor activity in men and boys. Teachers College, Columbia University, Contributions to Education, No. 818.


One Response

  1. avatar

    I’m 50 yrs old, would like to master Burpee, how do I get started, or how many?

Leave a Comment

* = Required Fields