Why We Scale
You walk into your CrossFit gym and you see the Workout of the Day is written on the board. It is 21-15-9 Deadlift 225/155 Box Jump 24/20 inch. Does this mean that everyone in the class is going to do this workout as prescribed? No… Each CrossFit class is made up of a very diverse group of people. There are soccer moms, elite athletes, beginners, athletes with physical limitations, athletes with limited range of motion in movements (aka mobility). Scaling a workout is one of the most important parts of CrossFit. Scaling keeps the athletes safe from injury, allows athletes to move with proper technique, and to achieve virtuosity.
We find that there is a lot of confusion about why we scale. Coaches scale a workout for their athlete because of mobility limitations, technique, strength and skill level. For each athlete there is a different reason to scale a workout. A well educated CrossFit Coach will be able to guide their athletes to appropriate scaling options that are correct for them.
For example our workout of the day is the 21-15-9 Deadlift Box Jump. When I design a workout, there a lot of things that go into play, the strength cycle we are on, the type of energy systems we are working, and the time of the year in the CrossFit Games™ season. When I prescribe the workout, I am writing it for the top athletes in my gym, who can perform it as prescribed and achieve the appropriate time I’m looking for. For example, an elite athlete would perform this workout at the prescribed weights of 225# for men and 155# for women with unbroken reps. The rest time would be minimal and the transition times would be quick to allow them to complete the workout in sub 3:00 minutes.
Here’s how we go about breaking this workout down for two different types of athletes. For an athlete that is lacking the strength needed to complete this workout as prescribed, they need to choose a weight that the reps can be performed unbroken with good technique or in two sets per round with minimal rest. For this athlete we are assuming that they can perform the box jumps proficiently. With a lowered weight selection and keeping their intensity level high, they should be within 30 seconds to 1 minute behind the elite athlete.
Our next athlete is very strong and can perform the deadliest at the prescribed weights, but has an old injury limiting them from jumping the box jumps. There are two different ways to scale the box jumps for this athlete. One way would be to scale the box jumps to step ups, while the second option is to give this athlete a different movement to maintain the proper intensity levels for the workout. There are multiple movements you could substitute for box jumps, but two options would be no push-up burpees or Air dyne for calories. Depending on which scaling options that are chosen, the workout should still be competed in 5-6 minutes.
Lastly, another reason to scale a workout is to reach the proper intensity level. If an athlete is strong enough to perform the deadlifts at the prescribed weights and the box jumps, but does not have the ability to maintain a high intensity throughout the workout, they must scale the movements. Scaling for this athlete is to allow them to build their endurance.
Always ask your CrossFit Coach for their advice on good scaling options that will continue to help you get better and keep you challanged. Don’t allow ego or competitiveness to get in the way of safety. Stay smart and train hard!