Road to RX: How to Properly Scale Your Workouts

Scaling your workouts in CrossFit is the key to getting long-term, sustainable results. Our goal is to get you stronger, but it is also to keep you training with us for years to come. The proper scaling will ensure that you make progress without injury, and will eventually set you apart from other CrossFitters.

What is scaling and does it mean?

When we publish our workouts of the day, they are usually with a RX weight or movement. This is how the workout is designed to be completed. BUT, you’ll notice on some of the workouts, we also give you scaling options for beginner/intermediate/advanced skill levels. The point of this is that everything we do is a progression towards the next level, and everything is designed to “meet you where you are at”.

Why do we do this?

  • Match the purpose of a WOD – When the goal of a workout is to move fast and breathe heavy, you don’t want to be standing around struggling to lift up the bar (or yourself)…or vise versa, if the goal is to lift heavy, you don’t want to be done in half the time with half the weight

  • Develop strength – If your goal is to get stronger, sometimes adding weight (with good technique) is a great way to get some extra strength work in.

  • Get a better workout – The WOD’s are designed to give you different stimulus each day, and the optimal scaling allows you to get the best of each session.

  • Helps with recovery – Sometimes scaling down a workout (1/2 reps, or 1/2 weight) is a great way to do active recovery rather than sitting on your couch.

  • Helps when returning from illness or injury – Movement is always better than no movement, even if you’re moving in different areas. Prevent atrophy by coming in and training, even if you have to scale everything to avoid your hurt shoulder or knee, etc.

  • Improves skills – Working on your first pull up? Try ring rows, and make them progressively harder until you get that pull up. You have to crawl before you can walk, and scaling gives you access to developing skills you may not have otherwise had.

 

How do I scale?

  • Ask yourself how you feel – Feeling good? Go for it, hit as hard as you can with good technique. Feeling beat up? Maybe take it easy that day or take the day off. Know the difference between soreness and pain, and do not work through pain.

  • Know what your goals are. What are you working towards? – If you are working on your pull up, muscle up, or power clean, place an emphasis on that aspect of the workout. Scale up that portion if you need to.

  • Understand the purpose of a WOD – Is this workout meant to leave you breathless? or are your legs supposed to feel this one? Ask your coach if you are unsure, and it will tell you how to scale the workout.

  • Try it out: try the weight, movement, and see how it feels – Don’t wait until we say 3..2..1 GO! before you try the weight. Do a few reps of the weight or movement to see how it’s feeling (it will be different every day), and adjust your scaling accordingly.

What If?

  • I’m injured? – Change the movement to something you can do, moving is better than not moving

  • I’m not strong enough to do that yet? – Do a scaled version of the movement (ring rows for pull ups, etc)

  • Everyone else is doing something different – You’re here for your fitness, not anyone else’s

  • I still don’t know, not sure, is that enough? – Less talking, more moving, just try it and see how it goes, you can always change your mind later

When I started CrossFit (and when most people start), I scaled everything. You need to make it as easy as possible for you to be successful, and build on that every day until you reach your goal of doing the workouts as Rx’d.

Good luck, and happy scaling!

Additional Reading

Jesse Humphrys