Scaling Workouts Makes You Fitter


In our increasingly competitive CrossFit communities, there can often be a negative connotation associated with scaling a workout – either reducing the load (weight of the barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell), range-of-motion (ROM) of the movement, or total volume (reps) of the workout.

Athletes sometimes fall into the trap of thinking they are scaling simply because “I’m not strong enough,” “I’m not good enough to do this,” or “I can’t do the workout like everyone else.”

These thoughts and reactions can be normal, but let’s reframe and understand the “Why” behind scaling a workout:

We scale workouts to preserve the intended stimulus for all athletes. So, we are actually scaling to IMPROVE fitness and continue working on strength and skills, whereas NOT scaling would limit progress and do a disservice to the athlete’s training.

Let’s look at an example workout to break down this idea:

5 Rounds For Time:
200m Run
10 Pull-Ups
10 Deadlifts 225/155#

The intended stimulus here is a 7-10 minute workout with intensity; fast runs, unbroken sets on the pull-ups and deadlifts.

Our example athlete has a one-rep max deadlift of 195 (female) and pull-ups she can do in sets of 2-3 at at time. She CAN do this workout as prescribed (RX’d), but she would be better served and improve her overall fitness through scaling.

Here’s how I would scale this athlete:

5 Rounds For Time:
200m Run
5 Pull-Ups
10 Deadlifts 115#

The reduced volume on the pull-ups will allow her to move through the sets with intensity. The barbell weight has been set at 115 pounds to allow her to move through the sets unbroken and with proper form under fatigue.

Coaches will be able to provide these kinds of scaling options to athletes during classes. In fact, at @crossiftunifyroanoke and @brickhousecrossfit the coaching team analyzes the daily WOD each night before to go over points of performance and scaling variables for the next day’s classes.

Long-term progress can and will be made through appropriate scales, but we have to understand WHY we are scaling, the purpose behind it and how it’s going to benefit us in the long-term.

Have fun, scale as needed and enjoy your fitness journey!



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