Scaling: Not just for Beginners

2013-MAY-IMAG0682There are many milestones in every CrossFitter’s career: their first CrossFit WOD, the first time they got a double under, their first muscle up, the list goes on and on. One of the most rewarding of these milestones is to RX your very first workout. For those new to CrossFit, to “RX a workout” means to perform a workout as prescribed, aka exactly as it is written, without scaling or substituting out any movements. There is a great sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with this, as it often validates all of the hard work you have put in at the gym. However, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility.

RX with Caution

It can be easy to get caught up in the mindset that once you’ve started RXing workouts that you should always be trying to push yourself to perform all workouts as prescribed. This flawed thinking can often result in lowering the weight mid workout, scaling movements down mid workout, or in the worst case scenario, injuring yourself. In an attempt to constantly push ourselves and see where we stack up against other CrossFitters, we can lose sight of our original goal: to constantly improve yourself and yourself alone. We must always remember that each workout should be considered independently and that each workout is intended to have a certain effect on your body and last for a certain time domain.

Let’s take the CrossFit workout Grace for example.

Grace is 30 reps of clean and jerks for time with 135lbs for men and 95lbs for women. Grace is intended to be a fast workout lasting roughly anywhere between 1-8 min. If you take a look at the athletes who qualified for Regionals this year, the average male and female athlete performed Grace in 1:44 and 2:02, respectively. Now just to get an idea for the strengths of these athletes, the average male had a clean and jerk max of 318lbs and the average female athlete had a max of 202 lbs. This means that while performing Grace, male athletes are using 42% of their max while the female athletes are at 47%, both significantly less than their one rep maxes. While the weights themselves might not seem very intimidating at first, performing a workout like Grace at near maximal weights can not only be overly demanding but more importantly, dangerous. Only those with proficient technique in the clean and jerk should attempt to perform this workout at weight above 60%.

Always Start Light

While these numbers serve as general guidelines and aren’t set in stone, they serve as a good reminder to think about what weights to use during a given workout. While the example of Grace used weights that were relatively light, other workouts might intend the use of weights that are heavier. Always warm up for the movements before starting a workout and take into consideration how you’re feeling that day. Remember, if you are unsure about what weight to use you should always as your coach. Err on the safe (lighter) side when performing movements for the first time and should you determine that the weight you used was too light, you can always add a little bit for the next time.

Scale smart and watch yourself improve!

FullOut Crossfit Coach Jason

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