SCALING: WHEN AND HOW TO DO IT APPROPRIATELY
Whether you are first starting out in CrossFit or have been doing it for years, there are still times that everyone needs to scale a workout. Most of us know WHEN we have to scale a WOD, but the question is usually HOW? As coaches, we strive to maintain the stimulus and intensity of each WOD whether it is scaled or RX.
The first thing you need to look at it is the goal of the workout. We use the strength and skill portions of the day to focus on technique and higher level skill work and progressions. That is the time to work on the hardest progressions you are capable of and master the basics. During a WOD is not a time that you want to “practice” higher skills because the focus should on efficiency of movement and raising your cardio capacity, not on perfecting technique like the skill work portion.
When looking at the WOD, scaling options will be different depending on the types of movements, but also for different for depending on the length of workouts. Longer AMRAP (as many reps/rounds as possible) or workouts with higher volume scaling will be different than short sprint WODs or EMOMs because the number or reps will be less which will allow you to work through that muscle up. For example if the workout is 30 muscle ups for time, you may scale down to chest to bar. If the workout was 5 rounds of 3 muscle ups, 6 burpees, and 100m run you may be able to accomplish the muscle ups because the reps are less.
(Here is a cheat sheet for movement pattern and their modification)
Scaling options include:
1) Movement. This one is the most common and includes scaling from muscle ups to chest to bar pullups to pullups, etc. See the table below for many scaling options!
2) Weight/Load. This is almost very common, using a lighter weight or load to be able to complete a WOD and move safely. Your goal when scaling weight is to be able to perform the desired number of reps efficiently and safely. This would also include using a band for pullups and ring dips as this decreases the load.
3) Number of reps. Scaling the number of reps will apply mostly to higher skilled gymnastics movements. Movements such as double unders, handstand pushups, and toes to bar require practice to master. If you can complete a small amount of reps of these, it is better to do some in a WOD than to scale the movement. The best way to learn these movements is to do them!
4) Range of motion. If you have mobility restrictions, this one applies to you! Range of motion scaling would include box squats instead of full depth squats, power snatches instead of squat snatches, and front squats instead of overhead squats.
If you ever need scaling options, especially for injuries, or even just questions about why the coaches are scaling a movement a specific way we would be more than happy to answer any questions…And remember that every once in a while you need to challenge yourself and do something you wouldn’t normally do during a WOD though!