Scaling is Failing!…… or is it?

The title of this post came about when I was training with a friend and I needed to scale back the number of prescribed ring muscle ups in my workout. When I mentioned that I would reduce the number, he agreed with me and then said the immortal words … “Scaling is Failing!”

From my perspective, that really fired me up…in a good way. However, even though I may be okay with hearing that from someone else, as a coach, you can’t wander around class and throw out bombs like this – it doesn’t help. I must admit that I have used this a few times; however, it has always been in a tongue and cheek tone. While there are some lunatics like me out there, the majority of the human race need a more positive approach.
As coaches, we are constantly reminding our members that they are welcome to manage their personal level of INTENSITY by scaling (modifying) movements, either reducing loads or finding a more manageable option of body weight movements, to better allow them to get the best workout they can. The truth is that scaling HELPS intensity! Scaling HELPS you get FITTER and STRONGER!

How scaling helps with intensity
The YouTube is rife with videos of people ‘training’ with maximum intensity – screaming, turning red, sometimes even vomiting. Unfortunately, this has lead to our perception of intensity being distorted. Intensity is not how hard you can push your limits before feeling nauseous, true intensity is consistent uninterrupted movement with laser focus. In other words, the more and faster you move, the more intense you are being. Therefore, it is your and the coaches responsibility to identify potential limitations in a workout that would steer you away from the intended stimulus and thus decrease your intensity.

For example, if a workout calls for 3 rounds with 10 reps of 135/95 push press (let’s say this is 5# off your 1 rep max), if you don’t modify the weight you will likely spend the majority of the workout trying to finish the push press. This would result in a slower pace, potentially poor mechanics and overall a decrease in the intensity. On the other hand, if the weight was decreased to something lighter (scaling), then you would likely be able to perform the repetitions touch and go, safely and efficiently, resulting in completion of the workout and a much more elevated heart rate.

Scaling is just another way of saying “tailoring to your needs”. It is a mechanism in our toolbox which allows us to identify the appropriate weight and movements which allow us to move safely and quickly, resulting in greater intensity!

How scaling helps you get fitter & stronger
There is a huge misconception that completing a workout RX is the only way to get fitter and stronger. In this regard, of course if you stay on a certain load forever your body will not adapt. We are not saying to scale every workout to the exact same weight each time. Instead, target smaller, incremental weight increases and/or progressions over time with a realistic goal of eventually completing a workout RX.

For example, if you are used to completing a workout with 95# (RX = 135#), instead of jumping right to 135# from 95#, start with 105#, then next time try 115#, then 125 until you reach the 135 RX. While this may seem like a laborious process that can take months/years and not days/hours, the more time you dedicated to moving weight with speed and efficiency (less time hook-gripping your shorts/tights gazing at the bar or rig) the fitter and stronger you will become.
Being able to properly execute movements with high intensity will ensure that you are benefiting from the intended stimulus of the workout. Over time, these habits – the relentless pursuit of excellence and dedication to mastering progressions – are what will make you fitter & stronger.
So, maybe we should change the title to: “Not Scaling? Well you might be Failing!”
Failing yourself and your dreams to be a fitter, stronger and better YOU! Adhere to a CrossFit cliche… Leave the Ego at the Door. This something all of us struggle with because we want and expect more (that’s why we’re doing CrossFit!); however, it is something we should all practice daily.

Look at the elite athletes of ALL sports. All those athletes have been doing their chosen sport since childhood. They have all started somewhere, and have dedicated many years and countless hours executing progressions, scaling movements and loads. This patience, humbleness and dedication to their practice is what makes them so successful – allowing them to compete in the Olympics or a professional arena. CrossFit is not any different different!

Strong takes long – remember we all need to walk before we can run!

See you at the Box!

Coach Dave

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