Thursday, November 17, 2011

Scaling Still Hurts

One of the things that makes Crossfit unique is the ability for all movements to be scaled down to suit any ability level.  This enables everyone to be able to participate and work to their full capacity, still being challenged by the WOD ahead of them.

There really isn’t room in Crossfit for a big over inflated ego.  There is no benefit to being a hero and going super heavy when it’s outside your capability.  It simply means you don’t have a great workout and may not be safe.  The smart Crossfitter knows when to scale back the weight or the movement, the good coach knows when you should as well and is quick to scale you if you don’t.

Everybody wants to Rx a workout. It would be kinda cool to write those two letters next to your results on the board.  But Rx’ing is really not what it’s about. In fact every time you do a workout that takes you to YOUR capacity then really that’s your own little Rx result.  Be proud of it, own it & know that next time you can find more within you.

Last Saturday we had a very hard WOD scheduled, it was a workout from the Australian Regional Games earlier this year.  The WOD was:

100 pull ups

100 kettlebell swings 24kg/16kg

100 double unders

100 overhead squats 42.5kg/30kg

So on the face of it there in nothing in this workout that I can do Rx, as prescribed. So time too look at scaling options.  My goal at the start of the workout was to simply finish the required number of reps for each movement.

My workout looked like this

100 ring rows

100 kettlebell swings 12kg

300 single skips

70 overhead squats with 15kg

I managed to power through the ring rows by breaking them up into sets of 10, stopping for a short breath then back into it.  I managed to do the last 30 non stop.  This perhaps tells me maybe I could have pushed harder and tried to do more unbroken sets.

Next up was the kettlebell swings.  My arms were pretty tired from the ring rows and when I first picked up that kettlebell I wondered how on earth I would get it over my head.  For a brief moment I thought about dropping back to the 8kg, but decided to at least try.

The secret to a kettlebell swing is that it isn’t your arms that generate the power, it come from driving through your legs & hips.  It is an intense exercise to do.  Once again I broke it up into sets of 10.  Tried to rip out the 10 as fast & as efficiently as I could, stopping for short breaths in between.  It was excruciating and my breaks were getting longer and longer.  It was a hot muggy day and the sweat streamed down off my face. I really wanted to just stop but I couldn’t allow myself to do that.

Next up was skipping. I really need to master double unders as the 3-1 scaling really sucks.  It’s intimidating to look at that number of 300 before you.  I broke these up into sets of 30.  I’m amazed at how quickly my skipping is improved.  When I first started Crossfit I was taking two jumps for each pass of the rope.  But all of a sudden the technique clicked and it seems easier and I am lighter on my feet. I can now do more skips in a row before stopping.  Still a long way from double unders but I’ll get there.

The last step was 100 overhead squats with 15kg.  I did 5 of these and just couldn’t hold the bar so I scaled myself back to zero kg and just using the broomstick above my head.  That’s one of the keys in CrossFit I think is realising your own limitations and being prepared to work within them.  Not all the time, there are times when you need to push beyond you think is possible but there are other times when it is appropriate to scale back.  This is that time.  I couldn’t make the 100 squats and stopped the workout after 70.  I was pretty disappointed not to get it done but my body just couldn’t do anymore.

I had done a hard week of training prior to that session and my legs were pretty smashed and had run out of gas.  But that’s ok.  It really is.  I know that next time I do that work out I’ll do a little better and achieve more.  Every time I step into that box I aim to do a little better than I did the last time.

Last night was a strength session going for 1RM in clean, bench press & overhead squat.  I started with the clean.  Last week I struggled to get 30kg up with good form.  Last night I did 35kg and almost landed 40kg. BOOM

Next was overhead squat, I was somewhat apprehensive about what I could do as I had been getting mixed results.  A couple of weeks ago in a 1:1 session I did 5 x 3 sets of 20kg, but a few days before couldn’t lift any weight.  I did quite a few lighter lifts till I got my confidence and got my self to 25kg and I think had I had more time I could have done 30kg.  Something to aim for.

Bench press I got to 40kg.  I was hoping for more, but I haven’t done bench press for such a long time I think with work I can improve that next time.

Crossfit provides me with a constant stream of challenges.  Challenges that I don’t shy away from and that I do my best to tackle every session.  So yes I maybe doing scaled versions of most of the movements, but I can assure you, scaling still hurts because that’s my own personal Rx.


  1. That's bloody brilliant! Both in the amount of actual work you are doing (because there is no way I could do anything like that without keeling over) and for recognizing that it is ok to scale - as long as you are still pushing. Keep doing that and you'll be lining up those Rx's. Well done you xx

  2. love the article.... keep up the good work!

  3. Bloody Brilliant is right! This sort of article makes it real and reachable for anyone. Last night I did 3 x 400mtr runs without stopping, 1st time, 60 x lunges without weight, 60 x toe to bar. make that knee to elbow, Then 60 x Box jumps. And I still finished 8 minutes behind. Massive achievement for me (no RX anywhere in sight) The incredible thing is, everyone in the box was supporting me whatever. THANKS to the people who embrace crossfit

  4. Thanks for the awesome comments guys!!! It's great that you get something out of my little blog!!

    Great work on those WOD's Gary!!! Rocking it!