For most people, scaling movements feels a lot like showing up to work on Halloween being the only person wearing a costume.
For most people, it’s embarrassing.
So you’ve got two choices:
1. You can wallow and whine and wish you were anywhere and anyone else than the only Mr. Potato Head in sales.
2. Or, you can swallow your pride and power through – taking this temporary situation in stride.
Scaling is a necessary step in everyone’s fitness ascent. Yes, even Kings Froning and Fraser had to start somewhere. And yes, even they had to scale workouts. So you shouldn’t feel embarrassed, but empowered; because getting started is half the battle, and once you do, you jumpstart your journey to super CrossFit awesomeness.
So let’s squelch those less than savory feelings about scaling.
So what is scaling, exactly?
Scaling is another term for adjusting the level of intensity of a workout. CrossFit encourages us to “first learn the mechanics with proper technique consistently – then add intensity.” Whether that is to decrease weight, modify a gymnasty movement, or find alternative movements to offset an injury. We scale so we can move correctly, efficiently, and safely.
At Renew, we offer 3 levels of a working effort to give our members of all fitness levels a goal to work toward. They’re a marker to make you better. While we all know it feels great to write “RX” on the board, mastering movements takes time (and lots of it).
And knowing when to scale is key. Here are a few things to consider when you approach a WOD to determine if you should scale:
- The WOD weight vs. your 1RX
- Whether you can maintain good form throughout the duration of the workout
- If you can finish the workout under the desired time cap
- The stimulus desired each day (is this supposed to be a sprint, a chipper or somewhere in between?). Each of us have strengths and weaknesses, so plan accordingly.
Okay, but I’m definitely strong enough to lift that weight.
Probably. But there is no shame in the scaling game – even if you’re the strongest member in the gym (*cough HrochZachRuss cough*). Scaling’s sole purpose is to keep you safe and help you get stronger so you can eventually get to that heavy weight. Generally, when we see folks lifting too heavy, the first thing to go is form. When you sacrifice form, you increase your risk of injury. And you better believe you won’t be hitting those lifts if you’re injured.
Our recommendation? Spend time under a lighter load to tighten up your technique. Even the most competitive athletes spend a ton of time perfecting their techniques. This practice helps build up the proper muscles for each movement, improving the quality of your movement and helping you safely work your way up to them RX goals.
That makes sense. What else should I know about scaling?
We’re so glad you asked! Here are some other cool things about scaling:
- Scaling helps encourage mind-muscle connections. You ever make it to 40 pullups and start channeling your shoulders out of exhaustion? Working to call on the correct muscles during times of fatigue will help you work longer and smarter. Pretty cool, huh?
- Even CrossFit HQ loves scaling – and they encourage you to track your progress as you chug along.
- Scaling progressions can be creative and fun. There are about a million things you can do to build strength and construct your mind-muscle connections in nearly every movement. Check out this video from CF Gymnastics’ Insta.
And let’s be clear: scaling does not equal sandbagging. We want you to be safe, but we also want you to push yourself! If you find that you’re finishing first in every WOD and leaving the box without breaking a sweat, it may be time to increase the level of difficulty. Ask your coach how much weight you should increase by, or what the next progression for that scaled gymnastics movement you’ve been working on is – we’ll help get you from an L2 to RX in no time!
So guys, if we tell you to scale the weight, don’t be a pouty Mr. Potato Head. Embrace the instruction, know your limits, perfect your form, push yourself, and kill it.