19 April 2020

Sadly, the word “scaling” is often demonised and can be a negative term within a CrossFit gym. This could not be any further from the truth.

We find that there is a lot of confusion about why we scale.  Coaches scale a workout for their athlete because of mobility limitations, technique, strength, intent for the workout and skill level.   For each athlete there is a different reason to scale a workout.  A well-educated CrossFit Coach will be able to guide their athletes to appropriate scaling options that are correct for them.

You walk in to the gym and see this on the tv: (this not might be exactly what you see but this is how we do it at @CF_LIGHT)

3 sets:

500/400m row

10 bar muscle ups

400m run

10 clean and jerk@60/40

*rest 2:00 b/t sets

-Goal is to stay consistent across all sets (within 5-15 seconds of previous set)

-If row/run is going to take you over 2:00 (2:00/500m split) then cut it back by 100m

-Scale for bar muscle ups is chest to bar pull ups/pull ups/jumping pull ups

-We are looking for fast singles on the c+j scale weight to allow this please

Does this mean that everyone in the class is going to do this work out as prescribed?  No…  Each CrossFit class is made up of a very diverse group of people.  There are soccer mums, elite athletes, beginners, athletes with physical limitations, athletes with limited range of motion in movements (aka mobility).  Scaling a workout is one of the most important parts of CrossFit.  Scaling keeps the athletes safe from injury, allows athletes to move with proper technique, and to achieve virtuosity.


For example, let’s take our workout above, when we design a workout a lot of things go into play E.G where we are in our current training cycle, what energy system we are trying to target, what time of the year we are in. Now I’m writing this for our top athletes in the gym. I want you to be able to hold a decent pace on the rower, do the bar muscle ups unbroken keep a good pace on the run and be able to do fast singles on the barbell. And each interval needs to be within 5-10 seconds of the previous.

How we go about breaking this down we must know the intention of the workout which I have stated above. So, we first we look at the athlete’s current fitness level if we intend for each set to take around 6-7 minutes, we would need to take that into account and possibly make the row/run a little shorter if this is asking too much for the athlete.

Look at the athlete’s skill ability, if they can get a few muscle ups out (3-6 reps) we would look at making the number of reps lower. If they don’t have muscle ups, we would look at changing the exercise to chest to bar pull ups or normal pull ups and if they don’t have pull ups, we would change it to ring rows OR jumping pull ups.

See where I’m going with this?

Same applies for the clean and jerks, if the athlete is unable to do fast clean and jerks and complete the 10 reps in under 1 minute – 1minute 15 seconds then we simply make it lighter so our intention of the workout is met by the athlete.

Scaling should not be associated with negativity, its important and its POSITIVE. I have been at this for 5+ years now and I still scale frequently!

Always ask your CrossFit Coach for their advice on good scaling options that will continue to help you get better and keep you challenged.  Don’t allow ego or competitiveness to get in the way of safety.

Stay smart and train hard!

-Coach Jake