Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Scaling UP!

Much talk is given to the concept of scaling in CrossFit: We want anybody, regardless of age, ability or fitness level to be able to workout with a high level of relative intensity. Weight can be reduced on weightlifting movments, mechanical advantages can be given for challenging bodyweight movements (think band assist etc.) and distance can be reduced on monostructural activities. No news here.

For the beginning CrossFitter, scaling is most likely a necessary step. The goal here is to introduce some quality movements at a level that is appropriate for 'ramping-up' your work capacity. After a few weeks or months, the question of 'how-do-I-take-my-shit-to-the-next-level?' must be addressed. There are several issues to consider...

...the most important of which is mechanics. As long as your mechanics are maintained at a safe level where the best ROM possible (range of motion) is achieved, you are good to go. Struggle is to be expected here. It is OK to struggle when scaling up to a more difficult variation or weight, as long as the struggle is safe. This concept is often overlooked. The trainee is too quick to assume the new weight or movement is inappropriately difficult. This comparison is a mistake, as the old weight or movement is being used as the reference point and logically, the new step will be more challenging. You can't fall into this mind-trap! These workouts and movements are hard and you can expect to have to break up sets into bite-sized pieces. It might not seem apparent, but what you are experiencing is improvement!

Now that the technical concept of 'it-will-be-harder-but-that's-the-point' is understood, let's talk specifics.

The first step is learning to identify what is an appropriate load for a given workout. The rep scheme will be your best road-sign.

If a workout has a relatively low rep count (in this case 10 or less), feel free to go a little heavier. It will be expected that a set of 10 or even a set of 5 will be broken up...maybe even several times! If you fly through a set of 7 every round for 5 rounds, it's time to step it up. Keep this in mind.

If a workout has a relatively high rep count (10-30), pick something that will allow you to keep moving. If you are breaking things up into 2s and 3s during a set of 30, it is too difficult.

For bodyweight movements, ask your coach about the next step up. Here's an example:
In a recent workout we performed a lot of ring dips (in the Rx'd or as written version of the workout). Ring dips are hard, even for the strong. That being said, in order to mimic the demands of the workout, you must choose a difficult variation, even if you are scaling. Here's a theoretical hierarchy from the top down:

Ring Dips--->Bar Dips--->Feet elevated pushups--->Pushups on parallettes to increase ROM--->Regular Pushups--->Knee pushups.

Notice there are many degrees here. Don't get stuck just defaulting back to your plain-jane standard.

Now, if you are a person who typically performs knee pushups for most of your work during high rep workouts, this would be a good time to do the lion's share of your reps as regular pushups. You will have to break them up. This is ok. The dude (or dudette) who is chipping away at the ring dips is doing the same thing.

Things are a little easier when we are talking weightlifting or monostructural activity. Simply put more weight on the bar (have your coach check your mechanics) or get out the gate faster on your rowing or running. Again, don't worry if you have to break things up later or you burn out halfway through. Your gym, filled with your compatriots, is the best place to experience this 'blowing-up'...they won't let you pack it in while facing adversity.

Now get out there and challenge yourself! This is what improvement feels like!!

-Adrian 'Technical_Terms' Bozman

PS Get your nominations in by Sunday! We will be voting soon!!

PPS if you would like to help out by volunteering at the regional qualifiers to be held in may, please email austin AT
The website is up and running here:


Class schedule tomorrow will be business as usual.


Anonymous said...

Talk about timing for a blog!!! I ran in to this today. I was trying to do TOO much, with too little experience. Thanks for the blog Adrian. My new resolution, seek my coaches guidance during each workout to maxmize effectiveness.

James F.

Anonymous said...

Scaling up is def starting to be in order for me...which is a good thing but it also sucks because it will bury me. I love it.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Damn lucas you are a beast

Molly Petersen Nardone said...

awesome post. Totally inspired.

Melliefarrell said...

Just wanted to say Bad Girls Open was awesome! Catherine did a great job and it was an impressive sight to see all ages and skill levels compete in snatch and clean & jerk.

Really inspiring!