Push ups vs burpees: Which exercise is best?

They’re both known for their core-strengthening abilities, but when push (see what we did there?) comes to shove, is one actually more worthwhile than the other?

Photo: iStock

We all know the (very real) struggle of getting through a workout, but if you can only fit in one (mentally, physically, time-wise, whatever) should you opt for a round of breathless burpee or vein-popping push-ups?

Both movements work your arms, core and chest, build muscle and endurance, and – let’s face it – elicit a great deal of groaning.

They also require no equipment, meaning if you’re committed enough, you can do them pretty much anywhere.

But according to Lauren Hannaford, a former Australian elite gymnast and personal trainer, your personal fitness goals will determine which will be more worthwhile for you.

“Burpees can potentially burn more calories, are known to jump-start the cardiovascular system and get help you reach your fitness goals in a shorter amount of time, while push-ups will tone and tighten your arms and abs, while boosting muscular strength.”

“With a burpee you pass through the push-up position, but it’s not as slow and controlled as it would be if you were doing a push-up on its own.

“You are also getting more of a whole body workout with burpees because you are jumping up and down, so are therefore working your legs and glutes as well as your upper body and core. Burpees also always manage to really get your heart rate going, which means you are improving your cardio fitness at the same time.”

Yes, they can be excruciating, but this is one instance where the ‘no pain, no gain adage’ rings true.

“However, if you’re fatigues, you can lose your form through burpees, and the exercise can result in becoming more about momentum through movement, rather than technical strength and control,” explains Hannahford.

“Push-ups, given they are done steadily tend to use more core control which more specifically creates a stabilised strength.

“Either way if you are doing burpees or push-ups you are doing a good thing for yourself – so I say, why not do both!”

fitness | body+soul

Skip to toolbar