Should you scale?

Scaling is an important tool to ensure that the stimulus required by a workout is maintained, no matter the level of athlete completing the workout.
You may have noticed a goal time written on the board or BTWB and workouts recently with weight loading’s that are currently way out of reach. I want to use this blog post to explain the thinking behind those two things. Hopefully this will help make workouts more effective in helping you reach your fitness goals.

The workout goals should be an indicator of the intensity level required for the workout. Building on last months post, we work through raw strength first, muscle endurance then speed and aerobics. A raw strength workout may be written as “find your 1RM Clean & Jerk in 20 minutes”.  A single movement in 20 minutes should indicate the level of intensity you should be going for in that workout. Whereas a “5 minute AMRAP, 5 Burpees, 10 Wall Balls, 8 Round Goal” should tell you that you need to be going with your foot flat down on the gas with no let up. There should be little in the way of muscle fatigue but very much gas and aerobic stress. Your aim during the workout should be to hit the goal.

So to give an example of how that would work, if the workout was 21-15-9 60kg Power Cleans and Handstand press ups.  The goal for that workout may be 8 minutes. If the athletes clean max is 70kg and you have managed 5 HSPU, but no more, then it may take you more like 20 minutes rather than 8 to hit the goal. The goal of 8 minutes is designed to hit somewhere in between muscular endurance and aerobic however if the workout takes you 20 minutes, your body will respond differently to that and not receive the correct stimulus that the 8 minute all out is intended to produce.

We would need to scale the workout for that athlete to hit the time domain. The Power Cleans may be too much to hit the aerobic window so we will lighten them up to 40kg. That should allow the athlete to string together larger unbroken sets. The HSPU’s will also be an issue, if the athlete can max out at 5, a total of 45 will fry their shoulders and possibly prevent them from completing the workout. What may be more appropriate would be simple press ups with the feet elevated. We would get a good pressing movement with extra weight placed upon the scapula and triceps. The raised press ups will be difficult but still allowing the reps to be completed swiftly enough to keep the lungs burning. The workout isn’t about lifting loads of weight and learning the skill of HSPU, but hitting the correct aerobic pathway to build that CrossFit engine. It takes time and experience to get to know your body and fitness level to know exactly how to scale things. The amount of sleep you had the night before, your diet over the last few days, stress levels, an argument with your partner that morning, and injuries all make a difference, so you may not hit the goal perfectly each time but eventually it will all start to fall into place.

In terms of the weight loading’s, there have been some pretty heavy workouts recently with highly skilled movements. You may look at this and think that it is completely un-realistic, unobtainable and perhaps in some cases a little demotivating. The idea is to program for the best and scale for the rest. This means that for most cases we only have one direction of which to scale. There is a hierarchy of workout movements. An example would be an Overhead squat as an advanced squatting movement. We would then scale down to a front squat, then a back squat, then finally an air squat as an example. The intention is that we break the workout down enough so that you meet the same time goal as an athlete completing the workout RX’d. It is sometimes difficult to always be doing WODs scaled, but by working on the correct base to build from, the scaled workouts will be as worthwhile as the RX equivalent. As long as we are hitting the intended stimulus as explained above.

I hope that helps, if you have any questions, please as usual, talk to your coaches. Talk to us, keep us updated about variances in your life that may impact your training and we will help you hit the goal.

Guest post by Coach Tom V 

December 15, 2016