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June 24th, 2011

Rx’d Part Deux  – Scaling: When to scale the Rx’d WOD and why?

The majority of the WODs that Jeff posts each day for our gym come straight from what we sometimes refer to as the ‘main page’, which is the website www.crossfit.com.  Greg Glassman, the creator and founder of CrossFit, stated that the Rx’d WOD from the main page is “designed to exceed the capacities of the world’s fittest humans” and that the weights/loads set in the workout are intended to be challenging for a very fit 175 lb. man.  Since most of us are not ‘world class athletes’ yet, we will sometimes need to scale the WODs to be appropriate for each of us individually.  Your development as an athlete, the steady increase of your overall fitness and avoiding injury through proper and safe technique is much more important than your time or score on any given workout.  If you shortchange form and technique to get a faster time, you are ultimately just hindering your own progress, not getting better or fitter for the next workout (or life in general) and leaving yourself open to injury.

It is my opinion that the deeper meaning and intention behind the use of the term Rx’d to describe following the programmed WOD to the letter is that the WOD is intended to be the prescription of daily physical activity that each of us needs to become a better athlete and a fitter (and some would say better) human being.  With that in mind, it is absolutely essential to sometimes scale the WOD to be sure that it meets the individual needs of the athlete performing the workout.

I learned the hard way, working out alone in my garage for 2 years, that the fastest way to improve your fitness is to scale the Rx’d WOD so that it is challenging for your current level of ability, work capacity, strength, technique, etc. but not to the point that you have to take extra long rests between reps because you simply cannot lift the bar one more time.  It is important to remember that scaling does not necessarily make the WOD easier.  Using lighter weights and/or reducing the reps each round can allow an athlete to move through the WOD faster and with much less rest than if they used the Rx’d weight and reps, which can and does increase the metabolic wallop packed by a metcon WOD.  This will allow you continue to develop your stamina and endurance at the same time that you build your strength.  In other words, the faster you go the faster you will get.


5 rounds for time of:
400 meter run
95 pound Overhead squat, 15 reps

Post time to comments.

Compare to here.


15 Responses

  1. 14:48 mod (i think I remember right time)
    (105 OHS)

    a little friday-itis on the runs 🙂 could’ve pushed a little faster runs

    • Nice work Shawn. I guess scaling up is OK too 🙂 It will be a while before I get to that level of Shawn Awesomeness.

      • 🙂 I did feel a little bit like “that guy” after adding weight on the same day as the well thought out Rx/Scaling post, of which I’m a big believer. Just one of those days I felt like I needed a little more weight and since I could still get the OHS’s unbroken, felt like I was still keeping the stimulus intent of the WOD.

  2. 14:57 – scaled 75# OHS
    Fran had her way with me yesterday, ao scaling seemed appropriate! Inspiring Nancy Shawn, ad great job Mark on a tough WAD.

  3. 15:09 3 rds 65# Fully intended to do 5 rounds with a scaled weight of 65# but ended up at 3 rds. Started getting a little lightheaded so I thought it best to stop.

    I guess that brings up another scaling topic. If you start feeling weird, funny, lightheaded, hurt, bloody then stop. (JV is cringing right now, do as I say not as I do)

    I also look at the times of others to get an idea of the “Spirit” of the WOD. If I see Ben, Shawn, Casey, etc. really fit RX’ers finishing a WOD in 15 mins I shoot for whatever weight/rounds that will get me to that time or close to it. As usual sometimes its good to push but if all WODs are taking me 2x the time to finish with a scaled weight or # of rounds then I need to scale further. either by reducing weight or rounds.

    • Thanks and right on Glenn, that’s the idea. Still OK to ‘go heavy’ every once in awhile or test yourself by going long. But we can gain a lot of work capacity, fitness and mental toughness by pushing ourselves in that uncomfortable zone where the weights or loads are challenging but at the same time are not holding us back (i.e. you can always do one more burpee) and primarily our ability to keep moving is being tested. In a perfect world if we scaled each WOD for us individually we would all finish within a minute or two of each other.

      You also make a great point about safety in the gym. There is a difference between a competition or a ‘real world’ crisis situation, where you may not have the option of taking a time out, and the training we do in the gym. If you really start feeling sick, dizzy or injury yourself during a WOD, its 100% OK (no permission required) to take a break and assess whether or not you should go on with workout. If it will make things worse to keeping go, then you should probably stop.

  4. Forgot to add that JP is doing an excellent job with the recent Blog post series. I am hoping he becomes a regular contributor to an already great Blog.

  5. John let me come in early to do “Fran” Then I stuck around and did “Nancy” with the 9:15. I ended up scaling Nancy after 2 rounds down to 75#.

    Fran – 3:40
    Nancy – 16:42

    Thank you John for your help.

  6. I’ve been doing this now for 2 weeks and have really appreciated the encouragement of the two time groups I’ve been in (mostly the 5:30 group). It is a bit discouraging starting out for me – I remember better days… but I’m confident that I’ll get fitter. Fortunately the coaches are good at watching for excessive testosterone and poor technique. I’m confident this program will serve me much better in all my activities than my past specific (or rather sporatic) workouts. Thanks everyone for the encouraging words and to John’s excellent daily summaries of the Crossfit philosophy.

  7. 15:09 Scaled the OHS 75# Outstanding Fran time today Matt!

  8. 22:14 rx’d

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