Do you ever wonder why some of your favorite (or least favorite) exercises are named what they are, or who came up with them? Did you have a set of burpees in your last workout that you’d like to yell at someone for? Are you looking for someone to blame when kicking butt in your Tabata circuit? Whose bright idea was all of this craziness?! We’ve got your answers, and what you do with them, we are not responsible for! As much as you’d like to yell at Mr. Burpee or Mr. Tabata next time you’re working out, consider how great of a calorie and fat burn you’re getting breaking that sweat! Give these fitness folks a round of applause for helping you get in the best shape ever!


Burpees started as part of a fitness test designed by Royal H. Burpee. Royal’s version of the burpee was a slightly modified move than what we do today, but the theory behind it was the same – the 4 repetition burpee test assessed the heart’s efficiency at pumping blood throughout the body. The original burpee did not utilize the vertical jump, but rather you would perform a squat to begin the four part move. Burpees were also designed to be performed in low repetitions, though nowadays we perform this move in such high repetitions that it could be slightly dangerous to our bodies. Performing this high intensity move too many times in a row can be damaging to your knees and back. If you plan to do extra burpees (props to you!) then be sure to strengthen your core with plenty of planks and side planks in order to take some of the load off of your lower back. Though we’re not sure who was responsible for adapting this move to make it more challenging, our abs are certainly thankful that the move was created (once we catch our breath, that is!).


What in the world is fartlek training? Who came up with this goofy name? Designed for Swedish cross country teams, Coach Gosta Holmer developed fartleks to increase speed. Fartlek means “speed play” in Swedish and allows runners to build speed by alternating between anaerobic sprints and aerobic recovery jogs or walks. This type of workout, typically done for 45 minute sessions, keeps the body guessing and helps runners increase their speed in longer duration runs.

To perform a fartlek workout, warm up for 5-10 minutes. Then, run a long interval (try a mile) as fast as possible. Recover with a slow jog or fast paced walk for 5 minutes, followed by repetitions of slow jogs and short, fast sprints (think, 200 feet). Repeat these speed bursts and recovery sessions until your body is moderately tired, and then shorten them by picking up the pace for only 4 quick steps. Next, run full speed ahead up an incline for about ¼ of a mile. Finish your fartlek workout with a quick pace on a flat surface for 1 minute. Once you’ve reached the end of your 45 minute session, take an easy stroll for a few minutes to allow your heart rate to come down and body recover. Whew, thanks Coach!


Tabata is a form of high intensity interval training designed by Izumi Tabata. By working with as much effort as possible for 20 seconds, then recovering for 10 seconds, and repeating this pattern for a total of four minutes. Don’t be fooled by the short duration, when performed correctly, Tabata protocol will have you burning fat at the highest rate and gasping for air! Izumi Tabata’s format allows you to perform nearly any exercise you’d like, or you can combine 2 and alternate between them to get a total body workout. Try 20 seconds of jump squats, rest for 10 seconds, and then perform 20 seconds of push-ups. 4 minutes later, you’re scorching fat like crazy and looking toned from head to toe!

There you have it, your fit history – the lowdown on the fitness gurus that have designed some of the greatest and most challenging workouts! Now, which one of these intense, fat burning and body sculpting workouts are you going to knock out today?!

Manon McGovern

Manon McGovern, creator of The Traveling Trainer, is a fitness and weight management specialist who loves sharing her passion for a healthy lifestyle. She studied Exercise Science at The Ohio State University and started personal training and teaching group exercise classes to introduce herself into the fitness world. She enjoys personal training and teaching Yoga, Spinning, KickBoxing, and strength classes. Now working... Read More

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