Scale more, more often By Courtney Shepherd and The CrossFit Journal
Last Thursday’s post was about intensity. We need intensity in our workouts. Intensity is what gives us the results we want. If you have ever attended a CrossFit Level 1 Seminar, during the opening lecture, “What is CrossFit?” there is the discussion of relative intensity. Intensity is relative to the person and their physical and psychological capabilities. Whether you are an elite athlete or an elderly grandparent, you can get the intensity needed from a workout. The needs of the elite athlete and the grandparent differ by degree, not kind. The elite athlete seeks functional dominance while grandma seeks functional competence. There is no need to change the program to help these people get their personal needed intensity, we simply need to scale the workout.
Let’s look at the workout “Fran” for an example. This workout absolutely should be less than 10 minutes. That is the desired intensity. An elite athlete might do this workout as it is written (RX) in around 2 minutes. My grammy B can also do “Fran”, she might do 21-15-9 reps of ring rows and air squats to a box. She might do it in 6 minutes. And she will have gotten her necessary intensity for the day. . . the same way the 2 minuter got their intensity for the day. These 2 can even workout right next to each other.
When we introduce workouts at the board, trainers give their expectations for the workout. If the expectation is 10 rounds in 20 minutes, that should be a goal everyone shoots for. Some of us may have to make changes to the workout to achieve this, AKA scale the WOD. Scaling is not a bad thing. It does not make us weaker or less of a human. Scaling is a necessary thing to get the necessary intensity. Because if you are the person who avoids scaling at all costs and then gets 5 rounds in 20 minutes. . . while you may be sweaty and out of breathe, you did not get truly intense. What you did is exactly half the work. And the questions becomes, can we expect to get 100% of the results doing 50% of the work? You can wish it to be true, but as my dad use to say, you can wish in one hand and poop in the other, see which one fills faster. It is the person that refuses to scale accordingly and does 50% of the work that often finds me several months into their CrossFit journey and asks me why they are not seeing improvement? Intensity gets results. Period. If you avoid intensity because you think having an “RX” next to your name is more important and way cooler, then you don’t get results.
The CrossFit Journal published an article titled “Scaling: How Less Can Be More. There’s no shame in scaling a WOD. Here are some ideas on how to do it effectively” by Clea Weiss (click here for full article). It is an amazing read for those of you who want a bit more insight into scaling. For some of you science geeks out there that enjoy putting numbers to concepts, the article gives examples of how scaling a workout actually yields a higher power output, AKA intensity.
“There are various ways to scale. How to elicit the most effective response is both subtle and complex. You don’t always scale by reducing the duration of workouts, for instance. Scaling correctly will increase work capacity more efficiently than attempting to complete workouts as prescribed before you’re ready for them. Properly lowering the weight and achieving a faster time will actually yield a higher level of power.
The work and power output calculator on the Catalyst Athletics website shows that a 5-foot-10, 180-pound athlete who completes Fran with 95 pounds in nine minutes has a power output of 98.2 watts. If the same athlete scales the weight down to 75 pounds and completes the workout two minutes faster, his power output actually rises to 115.7 watts. So using less weight can sometimes be better.
Here’s another example of how using less weight can be the right thing to do: a five-foot- five athlete who weighs 130 pounds and completes Fran in nine minutes using 65 pounds has a power output of 64.3 watts. If the same athlete scales the weight down to 45 pounds and completes the workout two minutes faster, her power output rises to 72.9 watts.”
I often have athletes that tell me “it’s not the weight, that weight is light for me but it’s all the other stuff.” To be clear, it’s the weight. If asking you to hold on to a weight for many reps gases you so much that you can’t do the other stuff or doing the other stuff makes it hard to hold on to the weight for many reps, it’s the weight.
“If the WOD calls for 30 clean and jerks at 155 pounds, it’s clearly a met-con WOD. If you turn the workout into 30 single reps with a minute rest between them, you’ve missed the point.”
We don’t just scale weight. We can scale rounds, reps, rest, and even the movement itself. We have another saying in CrossFit “scale more, more often”. If you over scale a workout that was suppose to take 12 minutes and get it done in 6 minutes, the benefits to that are far greater than taking 17 minutes to do it. If that happens, if you just crush a workout. . . write that stuff down. Start paying attention to what your new limits are. Keep track of your accomplishments and use that information to achieve even more.
“If you’re just starting out and can’t judge whether to hold back or push harder, hold back. Once you’ve been doing CrossFit for a while and learn what your real limits are, push harder. Careful scaling works—but it takes planning and experience. Track your progress, evaluate the results of your scaling and correct your mistakes. Talk to other coaches and athletes and ask for advice. Think, plan and educate yourself.
Most importantly, keep at it. While it may seem that you’re always scaling or just completing basic movements day-in and day-out, you’ll eventually start cranking out impressive CrossFit performances. The day will come. Just keep hitting the scaled workouts with all you have: blood, sweat, tears and patience.“
This upcoming Saturday we will be honoring 31 HERO’s. In Remembrance of the fallen heroes who passed five years ago. On August 6, 2011, a tragedy shook the military community and Americans everywhere. In a single instance, America lost 30 military service members, many of whom were members of the Navy SEAL community—and one military K9– when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, call sign Extortion 17, was downed in Afghanistan. Visit 31heroes.org for more information.@31heroes and to donate if you wish.
Dynamic Warm-Up – Mobility
Prepare to for..
5 Rds of:
20 Wallballs 20/14 18/10 16/8 14/6
10 Hang Power Snatch 95/63 85/55 75/45
13 min cutoff
*Scale accordingly to meet or beat cutoff & maintain intensity with good mechanics on A. Ask your coach for help.
Competitors or athletes wanting to improve your Fitness level: Recover, hydrate 6-8 mins after above WOD, then:
C. See programming on white board.