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WOD Barbell Scaling

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Before I start, when moving a barbell in any movement, technique is key. If you do not have proficient movement and cannot move a PVC pipe or an empty barbell, then adding weight is not for you. This is most important during WOD’s. This is a time to put away the ego, check in with yourself and focus on quality movement, not beating the clock or competing with someone else in the class.


“If you allow the status quo to persist, you can’t expect to improve performance, and you can’t expect to win.” – Jocko Willink


Only when you have decided or have been checked by a coach that your barbell movement for the given WOD is adequate to add weight, then its time to add weight appropriately scaled to your ability. The following are general rules-of-thumb that should be adjusted on a per situation basis:

If the WOD includes barbell movements that have…

  • 5 or fewer repetitions: 80-85% roughly of your 1RM. Theses reps will likely not be touch-and-go, unless it is a movement you are particularly proficient in. Dropping the bar each time to reset may be an acceptable option.
  • 6-10 repetitions: 75-80% roughly of your 1RM. At the heaviest, stringing together 3-5 reps would be ideal. The number of unbroken reps would highly depend on your proficiency in the given movement.
  • 11 or more repetitions: 70% or less roughly of your 1RM. This should be a weight you can easily do 5 reps unbroken or more, regardless of the other movements in the WOD. If this means that your form will break down due to racing the clock, then either an empty barbell or a much lighter weight with emphasis on technique should be the focus, not stringing together as many touch-and-go reps as possible.

If you do not know your 1RM, play around with the weight during warm-ups and get a feel for how your body will respond to the given weight. Each WOD may differ in the movements, and as such, the barbell may feel heavier. For example, you may be exceptional as deadlifts, but thrown in some bar facing burpees and double-unders, and suddenly that deadlift is much more difficult than expected. Be honest with yourself, develop your overall fitness and movement proficiency, and do not let your ego lead you to an injury.