The Dumbbell Burpee: ‘Cause Burpees Didn’t Already Suck Enough!

By Matt Walter
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Learn how to perform the dumbbell burpee

Looking for a killer exercise that will leave you breathless? Look no further than the dumbbell burpee! This exercise is a combination of two exercises – the burpee and the dumbbell deadlift. It is an incredibly effective way to work your entire body and can be modified to fit any fitness level. In this blog post, we will show you how to perform the dumbbell burpee safely and effectively. Let’s get started!

By the end of this article, you will understand how to perform the dumbbell burpee, what the most common errors with this movement are, what muscles it works, its benefits, and how to add it to your workout program.

I will cover:

  • how to perform the dumbbell burpee
  • the most common errors with the dumbbell burpee
  • how to modify the dumbbell burpee to fit your fitness level
  • how to program the dumbbell burpee
  • 5 great dumbbell burpee variations

Heads up: this page includes affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products or equipment I have personally vetted.

Video: Dumbbell Burpee Tutorial

How to Perform the Dumbbell Burpee

for this exercise, you will need a pair of dumbbells.

The Setup

Dumbbell Burpee Setup

Step 1: Place two dumbbells on the ground, about shoulder-width apart and with the handles facing each other.

Coach’s Tip: Start with a weight you feel very comfortable with. The deadlift portion of the movement will likely feel light for the first few reps, but the burpees will elevate your heart rate quickly. You want to be able to maintain excellent form to protect your back, and the weight is going to start feeling heavy once your breathing is up.

Step 2: Stand between the dumbbells with a hip-width stance. Line the toe box of your shoes up with the rear-most dumbbell heads.

Step 3: Squat down and grasp the dumbbells by the handles. Keep your back as flat as possible, your chest up, and your head neutral (in line with your back).

Form Tip: Your hips should be in line with or slightly above your knees. You should be in position for a standard dumbbell deadlift.

Execution – the Burpee

Step 4: Using your hands to brace your body, jump your feet back into a push-up position. Your arms extended, holding the dumbbells, your chest directly above your hands.

Dumbbell Burpee Plank

Step 5: Lower your entire body so that your thighs and chest touch the ground. Your hands should still be holding the dumbbells.

Dumbbell Burpee Pre Push-Up

Step 6: Push your chest off the ground, followed by your thighs, so that you are back into a push-up position.

Step 7: Jump your feet back towards your hands, landing with the toe box of your shoes directly in line with the rearmost head of the dumbbells (right back to where you started).

Execution – the Deadlift

Step 8: Deadlift the dumbbells off the ground to a fully standing position with the dumbbells hanging outside of your thighs. Keep your back straight, chest up, and head in line with your back.

Coach’s Tip: The movement is finished when you are standing tall, your joints stacked one on top of the other (shoulders over hips, hips over knees, knees over ankles)

Step 9: Squat down to lower the dumbbells back to the ground. Repeat.

What is the Dumbbell Burpee

The dumbbell burpee is a full-body exercise that combines cardio with strength training. You throw yourself to the ground, perform a dumbbell push-up, explode back to a deep squat, and then complete a dumbbell deadlift.

You get the benefits of metabolic conditioning combined with the strength, power, and muscle-building benefits of the dumbbell deadlift. It’s brilliant! Conditioning your muscles while you work on strength.

And because there’s no jumping involved with this burpee version, it can be a great modifier if you’re dealing with knee or ankle concerns.

Dumbbell Burpee Tips and Notes

Dumbbell Burpee Tips

Use hex-style dumbbells if possible. Round dumbbells will be difficult to control and increase the risk for injury.

Start light. If you’ve done burpees you know that they get tiring quickly. You will need to use less weight than you can with a traditional dumbbell deadlift because you are adding this aerobic work to a traditionally strength-trained exercise. Always remember that form is far more important than how much weight you can lift.

Form is key. Burpees can get sloppy pretty quickly. Don’t let that happen with these. Keep your core strong throughout the entire movement, and your back flat during all phases of the deadlift.

Engage your core. This will help you to protect your lower back and keep good form during the dumbbell deadlift.

Tuck your chin. Think of holding an egg between your chin and neck. This will help keep your head in line with your back throughout all phases of the movement.

Pace it out. Start slow and controlled, find a rhythm, and increase your pace to maximize your cardiovascular fitness when you’ve perfected the movement.

Breathe. Breathe regularly throughout the movement, but keep it under control. Normally we hold our breath during the eccentric portion of the movement, and breath out when we lift. This movement has a lot of pieces though! Think of taking your breath when you’re about to move into the next phase of the exercise.

Breathe before you jump to your plank. Breathe while you jump. Breathe while you drop into the burpee or push-up. Breathe out while you push up. Breath before you jump back to your dumbbells. Breathe when you jump. Breath before you deadlift. Breathe after you finish the deadlift.

When in doubt, take a second to breath!

Common Errors With the Dumbbell Burpee

The dumbbell burpee is pretty straightforward and easy to learn. But pay attention to these couple of common faults to make sure you get the most out of the movement in the safest way possible.

Rounding Your Back

Rounding you back is always a no-no when deadlifting. But it’s very common with burpees, especially when you get tired. The chances that you’re going to hurt your back during a traditional burpee are pretty low. If you have the conditioning, strength, and mobility to complete a series of reasonably fast-paced burpees, you’ve probably earned the strength in your back to no worry about injury.

Dumbbell Burpee Rounded Back

But the dumbbell burpee adds weight to the equation. The burpees are going to tire you out. Letting your form fall apart and routing your back can lead to injury when you try and lift the dumbbells.

If you find your form breaking down, lighten the weight or take a breather. Trust me…injuring your back is definitely not worth it!

Feet Landing Outside the Dumbbells

The standard dumbbell burpee has a dumbbell deadlift as a component. This isn’t a Devil’s Press. With a Devil’s Press, you snatch the weight off the ground to directly overhead. In order to do that, you need to have the weights between your legs so that you can use your hips to explosively elevate the dumbbells overhead.

The standard dumbbell burpee calls for the dumbbells to be outside of the legs. Master this version between trying to switch things up by landing with your legs outside of your dumbbells and performing more of a dumbbell sumo deadlift.

Modifying the Dumbbell Burpee

Modifying the Dumbbell Burpee

Ultimately you want to be able to jump your feet back on the descent of the burpee into a full plank in one smooth motion. And then jump your feet back to a position between your dumbbells so that you are perfectly lined up to perform your dumbbell deadlift.

This is harder than it looks, especially when you get tired.

Here are several ways that you can complete the burpee phase to match your current level of conditioning.

Lunge Forward Back

If you aren’t ready to support your entire body weight with your arms and jump both feet back or forward, try stepping back with one leg.

Drop into a squat with your hand on your dumbbells. Extend one leg behind you, to your desired plank position. Now extend the other leg to gather your feet together.

You can reverse this motion to get finish your burpee. While supporting your weight with your arms, bring one leg forward and land in line with your dumbbells. Then bring the other leg up to meet it.

Step Forward or Back

This is a great modification if you don’t yet have the mobility to stretch your legs all the way from a plank position to your dumbbells.

Squat down and grasp your dumbbells. Take a step backward with both feet, and then either jump back to your plank position or step back as described above.

Reverse this exact motion if necessary. Jump as close to the dumbbells as you can, or step forward as close as you can. Then take an additional step forward to line your feet up to complete your dumbbell deadlift.

Muscles Worked by the Dumbbell Burpee

Dumbbell burpees aren’t a truly full-body exercise, but they’re really close. They target your quadriceps, hamstrings, obliques, abs, core, deltoids, pecs, triceps, and erector spinae.

Benefits of the Dumbbell Burpee

Benefits of the Dumbbell Burpee

Here are some of the benefits and reasons why you should consider trying the dumbbell burpee.

Dumbbell burpees are a great way to get in a total body workout in a short amount of time. Burpees are fantastic for elevating your heart rate and improving your cardiovascular fitness. Adding the dumbbell deadlift will strengthen your legs and low back at the same time. If you’re short on time, you can get a great cardio strength training session in ith these in about 10 minutes.

They can help you build strength, coordination, and balance. These will translate to improved athletic performance and overall quality of life.

They are a full-body workout. They target muscle groups throughout your upper and lower body, including your chest, triceps, deltoids, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and core.

They are great for fat loss. In order to lose weight, and fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit. You accomplish this by eating fewer calories than burn, or burning more calories than you eat. The burpee will burn calories while the dumbbell deadlift will stimulate muscle growth and keep you burning calories after your workout is over.

Programming the Dumbbell Burpee

Burpees suck! Or…they’re amazing!

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with burpees. They’re a great conditioning piece, but they’re brutal.

Some fitness coaches and trainers think burpees are the perfect exercise. Others wouldn’t dream of programming them for their clients.

I love ’em! I think they’re great for athletes and overall fitness or lifestyle goals.

For Beginners

The ability to move your body from lying on the ground to a fully standing position is crucial to your freedom and quality of life. If you can’t stand up out of a chair, roll yourself out of bed, or get up if you fall down, chances are you’re not going to be living by yourself.

And there aren’t a lot of standards to the burpee! Doesn’t matter how you get to the ground, or how you stand up. Which makes it a move most people can perform. The dumbbell burpee is a full-body exercise that combines cardio with strength training. You throw yourself to the ground, perform a dumbbell push-up, explode back to a deep squat, and then complete a dumbbell deadlift.

You get the benefits of metabolic conditioning combined with the strength, power, and muscle-building benefits of the dumbbell deadlift. It’s brilliant! Conditioning your muscles to work on your strength.

And because there’s no jumping involved with this burpee version, it can be a great modifier if you’re dealing with knee or ankle concerns.

Start with 2 sets of 10 reps as a stand-alone moment, not part of a larger circuit. Take your time and perfect your form. Use any of the modifications I discussed and work your way to performing the standard dumbbell burpee over time.

For Athletes and General Fitness

Pick your poison. Do you want to make this more of a cardio training piece or a strength training move?

If you’re looking to maximize the cardio-fitness aspect of this movement, keep the weight lower and go for higher reps. AMReps (As many reps as possible) are great for this purpose! Roll 2 dice and add them together. That number is your time domain. Now complete as many reps as you can in that amount of time. Pace accordingly.

Or perform a target number of reps For Time. Go for 50 or 100 as fast as you can depending on your current level of conditioning.

For more of a strenth-biased approach with the dumbbell burpee, choose heavier dumbbells and fewer reps. I don’t recommend going as low as 6 reps with this exercise, but 8-15 reps with heavy dumbbells will definitely work.

No, you won’t be able to go as heavy as if you were doing a dumbbell deadlift by itself, but you get the benefit of quickness, explosiveness, and coordination with this version.

Go as heavy as you can for 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps with 45-75 seconds of rest. And most explosively! FAST to your plank. FAST to your deep squat. And Deadlift with authority.

Dumbbell Burpee Variations

Variations of the Dumbbell Burpee

Here are 5 dumbbell burpee variations to shake things up a bit and keep you chasing those gains. Each variation maintains the movement standard of the dumbbell burpee. I have not included Dumbbell Burpee Man Makers and Dumbbell Burpee Devil Presses, because both the Man Maker and the Devil Press already involve a burpee. So those are redundant.

Fast forward to 2:55 on the Tutorial video above to see each of these demonstrated.

Dumbbell Burpee Squat Jump

Perform the setup and burpee exactly as you would a standard dumbbell burpee. Instead of performing a dumbbell deadlift, explosively jump as high as you can while holding onto the dumbbells. Basically, you’re turning the dumbbell deadlift into a suitcase squat jump.

Dumbbell Burpee Step-Up

Perform the entire burpee and dumbbell deadlift like normal. Once you are standing with your dumbbells hanging at your sides, perform a dumbbell box step-up. You have two options with this version:

Step up only on one leg, return to the ground for another dumbbell burpee, and then perform a step-up on the other leg.

Step up onto your box with both legs before returning for your second repetition of the burpee.

You can substitute the step-up for a burpee box jump, but that’s a much more advanced skill.

Dumbbell Burpee Renegade Row

Dumbbell Burpee Renegade Ros

In this variation, you complete a renegade row between the push-up and deadlift phase of the exercise.

Squat and grab your dumbbells. Jump back to a plank and drop your chest and thighs to the ground. Push back up to a plank and then complete a dumbbell row with your right arm, followed by your left. Gather your feet back to your dumbbells and complete your deadlift to finish the repetition.

Dumbbell Burpee to Lunge

Dumbbell Burpee Lunge

This is very similar to the dumbbell burpee step-up. Instead of finishing your deadlift and performing a step-up, do a lunge while holding onto your dumbbells.

You can lunge forward or backward depending on your preference. I prefer the backward lunge. I find it’s easier on my knees, and so do almost all of my clients. You can perform a lunge on one leg, do a second rep of the dumbbell burpee, and then lunge on the other leg, or lunge with both legs before returning to your burpee.

Strict Dumbbell Burpee

Technically, a burpee is a no-rep if your thighs and chest don’t touch the ground. In this version, however, you’re going to keep your thighs off the ground. Drop back into your plank position and perform a strict dumbbell push-up. Keep your core tight, butt down, and drop your chest as close to the ground as you can. Touch your chest to the ground if possible. Finish your push-up and then complete the rest of your burpee and deadlift.

You can also trade out your dumbbells for kettlebells, get an even deeper stretch in your pecs, and challenge your core to a whole new level.

If you’re weightlifting or training for hypertrophy, save up and get a set. You’ll want a variety of weights to follow your progressive overload pattern. If you’re into functional fitness or just want to get in shape, pick up a pair of 35s or 50s.

Titan Fitness Hex DBs – these are inexpensive as far as dumbbells go, but they’re good quality. I have a pair of 50s and they’ve lasted.

Rogue Hex DBs (singles or sets) – I love the contour of the handles on these. And they’re indestructible. I drop mine a lot!

Conclusion: The Dumbbell Burpee

The dumbbell burpee is a great way to add variety to your workout and achieve new gains. By changing the movement standards, you can target different muscles and keep your routine fresh. These five variations are just a taste of what’s possible with this exercise. Be sure to experiment to find what works best for you. As always, start light and work your way up in weight as you get stronger.

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AUTHOR

Matt has been a personal trainer for more than 18 years. He is also a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, has a master's degree in teaching, and is a former competitive powerlifter and CrossFit athlete. His passion is helping others get in shape from mid-life and beyond.

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