Tailoring workouts for the individual.

A big part of training at CrossFit Tri-Cities is the individualization of our programs.  A big part of that is scaling appropriately.  Many athletes change work outs to fit what they can or cannot do but may not be scaling appropriately.  Here is a handy guide on when, how, and what to scale.

  • When to scale. This is probably the easiest or most difficult part of scaling.  When should I scale.  The easy answer is when you cannot do the movements being asked of you.  Whether this is because of skill, strength, mobility, injury etc.  We obviously don’t want to do perform movements that we cannot execute safely.  But it is not always that easy.  What if you can perform the movements safely but not at the pace necessary to preserve the stimulus of the workout?  Here is when it comes down to the coach and athlete relationship.  Sometimes it can be powerful to not get the intended stimulus of a workout for the mental boost of using a new weight or movement in your workout.  Those moments are powerful motivators and if they don’t become routine should be used as occasional challenges to athletes.
  • How to Scale. We can scale 3 parts of most workouts.  We can scale the load.  If something is too heavy, we make it lighter.  We can scale reps.  If there are too many reps, then we can have the athlete do less.  Lastly, we can scale movement.  If a movement cannot be performed safely or effectively we can replace it to preserve the stimulus.

    1.) We have a workout of 3 Rounds of 10x Deadlifts at 275lbs and 50 Double Unders.  The athlete can do double unders all day but has a maximum deadlift of 250lbs.  Clearly this is going to be an issue, and quite honestly unless the maximal deadlift is well into the mid 300’s we need to scale the weight.  Why?  This is a sprint workout that needs to be accomplished quickly.  The stimulus will be neutered if the athlete spends too long on the deadlifts.  I would tell my athletes to pick a weight they are confident but challenged by for an unbroken set of 10.  This way they can approach the workout with the proper intensity in mind while using a weight they can safely execute at that intensity.

    2.) Using the above workout,  I have an athlete who can deadlift anything put in front of them and can execute double unders.  Cool no problem right?  What if they have the lung capacity of a 90yr old chain smoker?  Lowering the weight won’t necessarily change anything, they will still get winded so much so they have to stop.  We can scale the reps to keep them moving at the proper pace throughout the workout.  An example would be 7 Deadlifts and 30 Double Unders.  This athlete may need a short break or two but will be able to finish in the proper amount of time with the proper amount of intensity

    3.) Easy choice here, double unders.  These are one of the most frustrating movements around.  Depending on the workout they are in, we can scale double unders with an amount of time to practice them, replace them with single unders, or the one I will be using here.  Tuck Jumps.  While practicing doubles and doing singles are great, they will not create the same stimulus as double unders for this sprint workout.  Tuck jumps will.

  • The last example shows us that what we scale is not always a one size fits all. The movement selection needs to be based on the workout just as much as the movement being replaced.  The rep scheme is the same as well as the weight.  What we scale comes down to individual strengths, weaknesses, mobility and comfort level.  As long as the intended stimulus is preserved then everything can be considered.

This is a short and concise guide on scaling.  If you are getting workouts from a coach, then you can always ask what the intended stimulus is.  If you write your own, make sure you know what you are trying to achieve.