Scale to Gain: Achieve More By Doing The Right Stuff

The key areas of scaling I am going to touch on include:
1. Weight
2. Movements
*Other important considerations: How well rested and nourished you are. Hitting it balls to the wall on day 5 is not intelligent training. At this point, scaling down would produce far better results. Taking the day off is probably the best choice.

Many of us are at different levels of fitness. We are all unique individuals with our own weaknesses and goals. Knowing that, does it make sense for everyone to follow one program? Not unless we tailor it to match our needs.

The crossfit model of strength and conditioning produces profound results across a broad spectrum of fitness but people fail to understand the importance of scaling and/or how to scale. So, many people do not get to experience these results.
Why do we us Rx and how do we come up with it

The Rx on the board does have utility when interpreted correctly. We prescribe the weights for a few reasons.
Most importantly, it gives us a reference point for what to use in our workouts. The Rx is a high standard of fitness and can make for a great goal to shoot for. We prescribe it based on what the fittest people can do efficiently in each category. For example, lets Rx an 8 minute AMRAP
8 Minute AMRAP
 8 Snatches
 8 Pullups
 8 toes to bar
RX is 115/75
The intent of the workout is to move efficiently with minimal rest between exercises. The movements are meant to go unbroken. We picked 115/75 pounds for the snatch because it is a weight that people who are efficient at that movement can do consistently with good form and not have to break up the reps. It is also a challenging weight for them to do in a met con workout.
We can scale it to our level by picking a weight that will challenge us but not force us to put the bar down during the set. Think not only about the weight but the other movements as well and how they can impact the snatch. Moving weight is one thing but moving weight with a heart rate 170 is entirely different.
I am not particularly good at the snatch. I can snatch well over 115 but I know better than to attack this WOD with 115 pounds.
The other use of the Rx is to standardize the workout so people may compete fairly. If Sally and Barbara do the same workout with the same standards, they can compare times/reps.
The prescribed scale is to provide a reference point for people who are not quite at the Rx level. Let’s use the same 8 minute AMRAP
8 Snatch 95/65
8 ring rows
8 knees to chest
Here we have modified each movement of the workout to give further reference for what to use. Pick the movements and weight that will give you the greatest challenge while still being able to do the workout as intended – unbroken. My workout would look like this
8 snatch 75/45
8 pullups
8 toes to bar
Notice I mixed Rx and Scale to match my needs. I’m not sure I would be efficient at 95 on the snatch, so I scaled it further. Do not read the board like Ron Burgundy reads the teleprompter! It does not have to be exactly as written. *if you don’t get that reference, watch Anchorman right now!
The competition prescribed scale is for the competitors. This scale is ridiculous! These are weights and movements for Rx competitors. This is a level beyond fitness. The scale is intended to represent the prescription they may see in competition or a little bit beyond for training purposes. Competition scale for our 8 minute AMRAP may look like this
8 snatch 135/85
8 chest to bar
8 toes to ring
Here we increased the snatch and advanced the pullup to chest to bar. In order to use this prescription you must be able to move fluidly throughout the duration. Competitors are not only strong enough to move heavy weight and perform high level gymnastics but they have incredible conditioning. If you are more than capable to do the prescription but bog down on the 2nd round, then you probably should have scaled because you missed the intent of the workout.
Scaling movements
This is just as important as adjusting load. Crossfit teaches us the best exercises in fitness from the very basic to the highly complex. There is an order of modifications and progressions we have to follow for optimum performance. An example: We have to learn the deadlift then the deadlift high pull and front rack before we learn the power clean. Learning the snatch cannot take place before learning the overhead squat and power clean.
If snatch is prescribed before you are decent at the power clean then you can either perform the snatch with the pvc (no heavier than the bar) or change the movement to power clean, so you can get better at that prerequisite.
The mistake people make is misinterpreting the prescriptions either by pride, competitive spirit or they just do not know how. More is most often not better; more is just…more. Just because Jethro did the competition scale does not mean you should. It is a detriment to your fitness if the higher demands cause you to move like crap and red-line your heart rate.
Movements executed at the highest standards rank far and above moving fast or heavy. Only when we are proficient with a movement do we advance the load/speed. Think of building a house with a faulty foundation. It is bound to collapse. That is what happens when people advance movements and load before their bodies are conditioned to handle it.
Read the workout as it is intended and scale to the most challenging options you can handle with exceptional movement. And always ask the coach if you have any questions!

 

By Clay Henderson, CSCS

Owner of Performance Edge Crossfit