3 Reasons Burpee Penalties Damage Your Gym

May 9, 2017

Burpee penalties are a common occurrence in CrossFit Affiliates worldwide. Late to class? Burpees. Left equipment out? One like = one burpee.

But are they really the best way to create positive behaviour change in your members? After all, that’s all you’re trying to do – use punishment to remove an unwanted behaviour.

Here are three reasons burpee penalties might not be the best option.

  1. To the human psyche, a penalty makes it ok to break the rules. You do the crime, you do the time. After your burpee penalty, you’re now back on ‘even standings’, and there are no lingering negative emotions that will act to prevent you breaking the rules again. The knowledge of knowing you’ve let someone down is a much more powerful dissuader for repeat offence than a few burpees.
  2. People should respect the guidelines set down for them because they care about the environment and culture. They should have a sense of ownership. So many people refer to their Affiliate as their ‘second home’. They should follow the rules because of this sense of ownership, not because they’re trying to avoid a penalty. If this respect and ownership isn’t there, it’s the culture that needs addressing, not the punishment.
  3. Using exercise as a punishment positions exercise as something that should be avoided – particularly with kids. Surely a lot of the dislike that CrossFitters have for burpess comes from the fact that they’ve been used as a punishment to be avoided. We should be fostering a love of exercise and positioning it as a reward, not a punishment.

So what’s the alternative? Communication. If members have respect for the owner of their Affiliate, a quick chat explaining the importance of sticking to the rules should suffice. Let them know that it’s important to you that the guidelines are followed, and explain why they should be followed, and how it will improve the overall experience for them and their peers.

Culture is everything. Create the right one and you wont need burpee penalties.

Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.

Our Most Recent Articles: