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The Positive Side of Scaling

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Have you ever found yourself excited for a benchmark WOD, only to have to face the fact that you don’t quite have the required movements down for prescribed? You’re excited to go in and show that workout whose boss, and although you ‘feel’ as if you can do the set repetitions or weight, its just too much. Let’s take DT for example:


Five rounds for time of:

155lb deadlift, 12 reps

155lb hang power clean, 9 reps

155lb push jerk, 6 reps

Even top-level athletes would be hard pressed to complete all five rounds with the prescribed weight. The stimulus of this WOD is to be able to choose a weight you can do one full complete round unbroken, following a moderate load – not too heavy, not too light. Also, time upon completion should be around 20 minutes or less. Most athlete would need to scale this WOD accordingly to their abilities. This doesn’t mean your intensity should reduce, rather, scaling allows you to maintain the correct intensity without reducing the necessary stimulus.

How to Scale

There are a multitude of ways to scale. When assessing how to scale, understanding appropriate scaling will allow you to increase your work capacity more efficiently than trying to complete the WOD as prescribed. In the previous example, lowering your weight and trying to achieve a faster time will ultimately yield more work being done and better progression. Another example is rope climbs. Sure, we all want to be able to touch the gym ceiling, but if you don’t have the capacity to climb the rope, opting for a scaled rope pull or pull ups doesn’t mean you’re doing less work. Rather, it means you can work harder on achieving the proper stimulus that will lead to rope climbs in the future.

Critical to Scale

You need to discern the programing from the given WOD. If the WOD is 30 clean and jerks at 135lbs for time, and you decide to attempt the prescribed weight, but it turns into 30 single-reps with minutes in between, you’ve lost the stimulus for the WOD. Clearly the stimulus is to be constantly moving the barbell at a steady pace. Not scaling properly not only removes the necessary stimulus, it can also set you up for injury. Therefore, it is important for you to come to days with specific cycles. One-rep max day would give you a baseline number, so the scaling down from 135lbs doesn’t have to be a guess.

“Ahead of efficacy is safety.”
-Greg Glassman, CrossFit Inc. Founder and CEO

Ask Questions

If you come across a movement that you are unsure of, a weight you aren’t yet able to do, or any other concern, talk to the coach. The coach is there to help you achieve the best results. Make sure you track all your progress and scaling options for each WOD for retesting purposes. For example, if you had to scale pushups off your knees from your last WOD, and a few weeks later you’re now doing them on your toes, you just PR’d your push up! Scaling is learning how to be honest with you current abilities and accepting that we all have aspects of our fitness that we need to work on.