Scaling your CrossFit workouts for better results

Scaling your workouts

Everyday on Unit2CrossFit we post our daily workout. The fact is that these WODs are designed for elite athletes with CrossFit experience. Nearly all new newer CrossFitters will have to scale these workouts in order to complete them. As your coach in class it is my job to help scale the WOD so that you can achieve the desired result of the day. For instance if a workout is “for time” and has 50 dead lifts at 150lbs and an athlete has a deadlift 1RM that is 200lbs we will scale the weight down significantly from the RX 150lbs. We scale workouts for safety of the athlete and to preserve the goal of a workout.

The posted RX weight is also for men. If you’re female or just starting out and weigh significantly less than 175 pounds, the prescribed weight will be too much. While there are elite female athletes that can complete workouts with the male RX weight; many consider two-thirds top three-fourths of the men’s RX weight to be the RX for women. For instance in Fran the RX for men is 95lbs and the RX for women is 65lbs.

It is more important to finish than to use RX weight. In the beginning you might try doing 50% of RX weight or possibly even just the bar. The next time the exercise comes up in the WOD you might do a few pounds more or even the RX weight. It all depends on how you do. (another reason to keep a workout log!)

It is also critical to scale the weight on workouts to preserve the point of the workout. In CrossFit, one-rep max days exist for a reason: to build strength while struggling with a heavy load. If the WOD calls for 50 reps of an exercise it is clearly a metabolic conditioning day. If the athlete does the 50 reps with 60 second breaks they have clearly missed the intent of the WOD. The athlete should scale the weight so that it is heavy enough to be challenging but light enough to allow the WOD to be done at a reasonable pace.

There are many technical lifts in CrossFit. There is a reason we have so many PVC pipes. It is so learn to do these lifts with proper form. If you not do a perfect snatch with a PVC there is no reason to put 150lbs on the bar and start a stopwatch!

Scaling can actually make your workouts more effective:

In the above example our WOD was 50 Dead Lifts with 150lbs. The athlete’s 1RM is 200lbs. The goal of this workout is metabolic conditioning.  If our athlete refuses to scale because his ego will not allow it he can do all 50 Deadlifts (with proper form) in 45 minutes. The athlete has completely missed the point of the workout because he is taking close to 60 second breaks between each rep. The athlete’s ego has prevented him from getting a good workout.  Doing the RX weight in 45 minutes the athlete only generates 11.48 watts of power. When the weight is reduced to 125lbs the athlete completes the workout in 20 minutes and generates 23.05 watts of power.  So by reducing the weight the athlete actually got a better workout!

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