Scaling Is Not A Crime!


Written by: Coach James"Our understanding is that the needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree, not kind. One needs functional competence to stay out of the nursing home, the other one wants functional dominance to win medals." – Greg Glassman, CrossFit CEOIf you’ve been around the CrossFit space a while, you’ve no doubt seen this quote before. CrossFit’s premise, since its beginning, has been that there are 10 General Physical Skills that are necessary for all walks of life, and that we can improve our overall work capacity (fitness) by combining these skills into an infinite number of workout combinations. The goal each day is to use various movements, loads, durations, rep ranges, and rest periods to create an “intended stimulus”, which is just a fancy way of saying that we’re trying to improve one or more of those 10 general skills. The prescribed (Rx) workout is written to challenge even the fittest of CrossFitters. But what if you can’t perform the workout “as prescribed” …yet? This question gets asked often in class, and likely far more often in the heads of most of our members. The answer is easy -- scale!A very common misconception is that scaling makes the workout “easier”. Remember that the term ‘metcon’ is short for metabolic conditioning, and any time you add load (heavier weight) or complexity (higher skill), you inherently slow the workout down and limit your ability to push yourself. Anyone who’s ever done a workout with running and air squats, or burpees and rowing, knows how tiring a simple workout can be.First and foremost, one of our primary roles as coaches is to guide you through the scaling process, so don’t ever hesitate to ask us! We can certainly steer you in the right direction. Second, it’s incredibly valuable to keep a workout log so you know what you have done in the past, how it felt, and what you should be striving for next time. Whether you use SugarWOD or you prefer pen and paper, be diligent about writing stuff down after every workout. It’s not just about the leaderboard, it’s your personal workout journal that can do wonders in preparing you for workouts in the future. Third, remember that this workout is for YOU. You can and should modify it in the way that allows you to get the best workout possible – not just for that day, but for your long-term development as well.For strength work, it really helps to know your best performances for certain lifts. Whether it’s for 1, 3, 5, or even 10, you can use that can use that as a general guideline from which to base your efforts. Consistent effort is what’s going to move the needle in the right direction, and small, steady increases in weight – while maintaining a strong emphasis on technique – is going to provide the overload necessary to make incremental progress on your 1RM’s. We’ve said it before: first we develop proper mechanics, then consistency. Only then do we add intensity!With skill work, some of the more complex things we do, like a muscle-up for example, require a significant amount of upper body pulling and pressing strength, power, coordination, and shoulder mobility. Different progressions and scaling options will work to improve these various pieces, and one is often not better or worse than another in general, but one may be better or worse for a specific person on a specific day. Maybe some days you focus on strict pull-ups and dips, while others you do jumping bar muscle-ups, maybe eventually jumping ring muscle ups. During the metcon portions of the workout, there will almost always be a time cap or a target number of rounds/reps to be completed in order to not only manage the class better, but more importantly to ensure each member is getting the right “dose” for the day’s intended stimulus. Say the workout today is Fran, and your best thruster is 115#. A workout with forty-five reps of 95# thrusters is very likely going to be much too difficult to complete as prescribed at this time with your current abilities. But just because you can’t do that workout with that heavier weight in no way means you are not getting an excellent workout and aren’t able to achieve the desired stimulus for that day! In a workout like Fran, the goal is an all-out sprint. The best athletes in the world can get it done in under 3 minutes. If that workout is taking you 15 minutes, you are most definitely not getting the desired effect of that planned workout! Realistically, we would want a workout like that to take no longer than 7 minutes, while meeting as many components of the original workout as possible. If the load is an issue, we can decrease the load to something more manageable. If mobility is something you struggle with, you can sit to a box and/or use dumbbells instead of a bar. If you can’t perform that many pull-ups yet, we can jump into them and focus on getting stronger at another time.Ultimately, you control your destiny, and it’s our job as coaches to guide you there using the best of our knowledge and experience. But if something doesn’t feel right, there’s a good chance it isn’t. Don’t ever hesitate to ask for different variations or scaling options, and always listen to your body!

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