This is a wonderful answer to that question written by our friends at Crossfit Champions (where we’ve competed in Oktoberfest Obliteration several years). This is a HUGE question that we get everyday at ISI.
To scale or not to scale?
Who, how much, for how long, which movements…?
The rounds, weights, distances, reps, movement variations…?
It might seem like its no big deal to adjust people up or down for a workout, but it is a very big deal and its what you’re paying for actually. Each WOD has a specific goal in your development. Sometimes that goal is an improvement and consistency in your range of motion – such as getting deeper in a squat or push-up. Sometimes the goal is to improve your cardio-respiratory response. There is a reason behind the trainers’ adjusting the WOD for you, personalizing the general workout to your specific needs, and it needs to be recognized and followed.
The purpose of scaling a workout is to make sure that everyone can have a workout that benefits their individual needs. Everyone comes into the gym with different skills and abilities, issues and histories, goals and needs. The beauty of CrossFit and the CrossFit prescription is summed up in Coach Glassman’s definition of CrossFit:
“The CrossFit program is designed for universal scalability making it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of experience. We’ve used our same routines for elderly individuals with heart disease and cage fighters one month out from televised bouts. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs.
The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree not kind. Our terrorist hunters, skiers, mountain bike riders and housewives have found their best fitness from the same regimen.”
That being said, the same program is applied to everyone who trains here, however, the workouts are adjusted to each person via modifications made with each individual in mind – scaling. What scaling is not is a statement as to a person’s abilities or conditioning or lack there of.
The methods that the trainers here utilize for scaling are adjusting weights used, distances covered, rounds or reps to complete, range of movement or movement modifications.
As a general rule of thumb, beginning athletes should be doing approximately ½ of the prescribed workout. A beginning athlete is someone who is de-conditioned and/or has been with us from 1 – 3 months. If an athlete comes in the door in decent condition but is not used to CrossFit training or the full range of motion that we use in workouts they have to build the strength base in the muscle as well as get the tendons and ligaments used to the stressors of the training. Patience is a virtue in preparing your body for the wear and tear of regular CrossFitting as it helps you to avoid injury. Too much too soon is no benefit to anyone.
Intermediate athletes are those who have come into CrossFit already in decent condition and have spent the time in the first several months of training building a strong base in range of movement and steady progress in workouts. Or, they are folks who have been with us for 3+ months and have been consistently training and progressing. A good majority of athletes are found in this group on a day to day basis. There is nothing wrong with this!
If you are new to CrossFit at our box you should be scaled. Second guessing your trainers or, worse, letting ego get in the way of your training does you no good in the long run. Your overall health and fitness are our most important interests!
Check your ego at the door and be scaled!
-Courtesy of CrossFit Champions