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The Skill Transfer of the Burpee by Carl Paoli - CrossFit Journal

In Coaching, Gymnastics/Tumbling, HD Videos

August 20, 2012

Video Article

One of CrossFit’s most-loathed movements, the burpee also represents a skill that can be transferred to other exercises, says gymnastics and movement guru Carl Paoli of San Francisco CrossFit.

“I go from flexion to extension to neutral to extension to flexion to neutral,” he explains. “It’s hard. And it goes back and forth, and it has so many moving pieces. That’s why the burpee is so hard.”

Athletes must move correctly with the knees out and the butt and stomach tight, Paoli says. From the ground, they snap in the feet for more efficient movement.

“That snap happens to be the same thing we see on kipping pull-ups, muscle-ups and even rope climb,” he says. “This is 90 percent of artistic gymnastics—being able to bow back and forth, snap down, turn things around fast.”

There is skill transfer in everything, Paoli notes.

“I need you guys to starting seeing skill on the rings, skill on burpees, skill on handstand push-ups, skill on rope climb—it’s the same,” he says. “And how you take this and you apply it to Olympic weightlifting, if you can’t do that, something’s wrong with the program.”

Video by Again Faster.

9min 28sec

HD file size: 260 MB
SD wmv file size: 113 MB
SD mov file size: 49 MB

Please note: These files are larger than normal Journal videos. For smoother viewing, please download the entire file to your hard drive before watching it (right-click and choose Save Link As...).

Additional reading: CrossFit Radio Episode 191 by Justin Judkins, published Sept. 28, 2011.

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22 Comments on “The Skill Transfer of the Burpee”


wrote …

Brilliant. Thanks, Carl!


wrote …

I saw Carl Paoli teaching the rope climb technique he demonstrates in the second half of this video to one of the male competitors before Annie T used it so effectively in the 2011 games. I'm glad he's taken the time to explain it more fully.
The principles he's based this on are interesting and that he's able to demonstrate them using burpees as well as rope climbs and muscle-up progressions adds weight to their universal applicability. He's put some thought into this and I'm impressed.

Very interesting.


wrote …

Anyone looking for a skill transfer should look hockey, getting up and back on your skates....


wrote …

The man is a genious!


wrote …

Great job. I'm impressed with how much care he obviously put into working on and with this technique. Surely this helps both new, crossfitters, like myself, and advanced CF athletes like Annie T. to take it to the next level. Thanks for taking the time to share.


wrote …

Loved it!!! Really loved the simple -> complex -> simple diagram on the whiteboard. Its something that is very important for new crossfitters to understand. Our simple baseline movements provide the framework for the more technical/high skill movements. Therefore anytime you do a squat, deadlift, burpee, or ghd situp, you are actually segmentally preparing your body to accomplish olympic lifting and gymnastics. This understanding shows a premium for focus on simple movements so that they can be transferred to complex movements. In other words, don't just do the work, make it count for something in the future regarding your progression as a fit human. On the same note, don't get frustrated with a lack in capability with high skill movements. If you are doing your fundamental movements well and understand the transition potential of those movements, high skill things are just around the corner.

Great job, Carl!


wrote …

"everybody knows.. that the world is full of stupid people.."

"banditos" by The Refreshments


wrote …

Carl - you really are incredible!! You explain it so well - it not only makes sense but it sinks in too. Thank you.


Hector Hernandez wrote …

Wow, thanks Carl... i think i will do a "strict burpee" skill transfer session once in a while in my box. Loved the video, really insightful for me. :)

We hope to see you in Cancun soon.


wrote …

I think the burpee is an excellent form of exercise, but there is no real skill transfer to anything. The science of motor learning has only served to reinforce the principle of exercise specificity especially relative to the nervous system. For instance, swinging a badminton racket and a tennis racket are at face value very similar movements, but there is virtually no skill transfer from one to the next.

A burpee for sporting purposes would be used for something to build general conditioning. In terms of skill, if you want to be skilled at something you do that exact something.


wrote …

Well Chris I think Carl's "sport" is the Sport of Fitness as it relates to Crossfit. While you're correct in your view that there is possibly very little transfer between things like racket swings, the skill transfer between global flexion and extension on the rings, in a burpee, in kipping pullups, or even via olympic lifting (from a hip/knee/ankle perspective) is actually more than you'd think.

It appears Carl is saying that there are skill transfers between several exercises that shouldn't be ignored, not that doing burpees will make you better at doing muscle ups. But if you can utilize the flexion/extension as shown in the burpee you should have a decent amount of skill transfer to the flexion/extension of a kipping pullup or muscle up. It won't give you a muscle up, but it will possibly enable you not to need to completely relearn both on each new exercise.


wrote …

Wow! I never saw it like that. That skill movement does in fact transfer through all of those exercises. I need to work to develop that.


wrote …

GREAT GREAT GREAT video... once again Carl shows how mulitple movements although they appear to be totally different, can use similar positioning and movement patterns to link and gain benefits from each other and applicability. Universal patterns applied to different specific movements. GREAT stuff Carl... keapp it coming. I use a different foot pattern on my rope climbs, but I think I'm going to try your wrap and get that technique down for higher rep rope climbs, so my hands are better and my grip isn't a factor.. slow and steady rather than faster but tire out fater as well.
I love the idea of getting the hips more involved in the burpees and getting that SNAP.. I'm going to play around with that. I find that the tighter I am in the burpee, the faster i move and I don't waste energy with those bowed movements.. I'm like popping off the ground and popping up and into the air... I also find that I try to take a mini breath and relax a bit in the air... for higher rep Burpees. like when you do 50 or 100, etc.
thanks again Carl for a fantastic video.


wrote …

None of the links are working for me. says video not available on this url?


wrote …

This was possibly the biggest "A-HA" moment for me in all my years of Crossfit. Such an awesome explanation and demonstration of efficiency and effectiveness. A total paradigm shift for me when it comes to movement. Thanks for the video Carl...outstanding!


wrote …

No files download :(
please help


wrote …

The best Sensei!!! =)


wrote …

This was just so awesome! Carl, you have saved many Crossfitters some energy, aches, and pains with this skill transfer stuff. Eres un crack tio!


wrote …

Awesome coaching Mr. Paoli!


wrote …

That was awesome. I'm new to all this and I actually understand how to do a burpee now! Great teacher.


wrote …

Amazing vid. I have always said burpees are god!


wrote …

Simply fantastic! Thank you Carl!

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