Can a Burpee Be Functional?

Your perception of functional movement may be that it is for the more mature (older), injured populations, or just for those people who don’t want to work out very hard. This simply is not the case.

Functional movement as it pertains to exercise is preparing the body to function/move properly in everyday life. As a rugby player, my movements are going to be quite different than a golfer. As a personal trainer, my movements are going to be different than a desk jockey who sits for up to 15 hours per day. Even within the same sport, functional diversity exists. For example, a baseball pitcher should definitely be training differently than an outfielder. A basketball point guard should train differently than a power forward or center.

A core plank is an example of a functional movement that translates throughout all populations, regardless of activity or fitness level. A properly executed plank demonstrates adequate spinal stability and deep core strength. This is essential no matter who you are, or what you like to do for exercise.

So, can a burpee be considered a functional movement?

In a contact sport, where play is not discontinued after a tackle is made, a rugby player will frequently need to quickly get up off the ground to potentially make another play. For an American football player, typically once you’re down on the ground, the play is usually over. Therefore, a burpee is specific and functional to a rugby player, but not when compared to an American football player.

This pertains to Olympic lifts as well. Especially when considering exercise selection in a program such as CrossFit. Unless you’re a professional mover or just a really good friend who likes to help everyone else move, a barbell snatch may not be the best choice for you. The risk far outweighs the reward in my opinion, especially after 20 repetitions. It is highly improbable that in the last 3 minutes of metabolic conditioning (met con) your posture and muscular control will be able to make the subtle corrections that make up the difference between increased fitness levels/athletic performance and those that will get you seriously injured.

Every training program should have a purpose. Every movement within that training program should have a purpose as well. We all need to ask ourselves: why am I doing this exercise? What are the alternatives? How long am I resting in between sets, and why? This is where a qualified personal trainer or strength coach comes into play. These professionals are trained to assess and prescribe training programs based on your goals.


EricEric Wilson is a corrective exercise specialist and owner/creator of Movement Sciences located in Copley Square. He earned his BS in exercise physiology, and currently holds four nationally recognized certifications. He plays rugby for one of the premier clubs in the United States, and coaches as well. Movement Sciences offers individual and small group personal training sessions. Eric works with an extremely diverse population ranging from children to more “mature” individuals with differing abilities.  His philosophy on exercise remains the same regardless of the group: movement first before anything else. You can reach Eric at: for a complementary fitness/movement assessment.