WHY WE PROGRAM SCALING OPTIONS?
So, I’ve coached a few wild cats in my time and one of the most frustrating points to get across is the importance of scaling. I know you are thinking to yourself “Coach K I’m a peacock, you gotta let me fly”. Well my functional friend before you get RX’D (rx’d – completing a workout as prescribed) fever let’s delve into all things scaled
WHAT IS SCALING AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Scaling is the practice of altering the exercises within a workout to suit a variety of different athletes ranging in fitness levels within a class. It allows athletes of all abilities, from professional to a total beginner, to complete the same workout together. For example, a workout that involves 3 rounds of 10x muscle ups, 10x 100 kg back squats and 50x double unders programmed for an experienced athlete may be scaled to 3 rounds of 10x ring dips, 10x back squats with 60 kg, and 100x single unders for an athlete that has not been doing CrossFit for very long.
The major advantage is that both athletes are then able to experience a similar level of stimulus from the workout, despite the differences in their level of fitness.
THE NUMBER 1 REASON FOR SCALING IS SAFETY!
I remember when walking into my first CrossFit gym I saw written up on the wall – Golden rule of CrossFit is leave your ego out!
But as with every rule, there are some athletes that often break it. In case of an athlete overestimating their ability during a WOD, it ́s the Coaches task to scale the WOD in a proper way to suit and challenge the appropriate level of that athlete. For example, when a workout calls for heavy deadlifts, many individuals will try to Rx the workout with a weight that is very close to, or even equal to their 1 rep max, because they have moved that weight maybe once or twice before. As you know, performing a one rep max deadlift fresh and without fatigue is completely different to completing the same lift half way through a 20-minute workout.
Scaling correctly will help you get the most out of every workout. Some coaches will allow for an athlete to Rx the WOD even with this information in mind. This can lead to common faults occurring such as a rounded back thus leaving the athlete to wake up the following day like they have broken their back and it’s spinal.
CrossFit workouts are scaled to maintain the planned stimuli (the intention). A properly scaled workout safely maximizes relative intensity (load, speed, range of motion) to continue rising increased work capacity despite those limitations. In simpler terms, by scaling a workout, any athlete is able to get as much benefit from a workout accordingto their own ability level
THE BEAUTY IN SCALING
Everyone has something to work on, let’s take gymnastics for example. If a movement is performed incorrectly, it could result ininjury. Which leads me back to reason 1: Safety.
Quality of movement forms the base for developingstrength and ability. Without these aspects, every further movement will simply result in poor form. If an athlete RX’s an entire workout with terrible form, then they haven’t really Rx’d the workout at all. They also completely bypassed the benefits it was supposed to offer, and put themselves at a much greater risk of injury.
“Ahead of efficacy is safety.” —Greg Glassman, CrossFit Inc. Founder and CEO
On the other side of the spectrum, what happens when an athlete is overly cautious? When they still scale yet are probably capable of going RX?
FINDING THE BALANCE OF SCALING
“Scaling isa great way to improve your weaknesses, but it ́s not that easy to program correctly. When scaling about 50% of the people don’t train in that intensity they should”, says Mike McGoldrick from Barbell Shrugged.
If you aren’t doing a WOD Rx then you shouldn’t be able to do all the reps in an entire workout unbroken. If this is the case, then you scaled yourself too much and you are missing the point of the workout whilst not getting the desired stimulus.
EXAMPLES OF SCALING