When and how to scale


When and how to scale

Thank you Mirek for asking this question, if yall haven’t met Mirek, he’s just recently moved to San Antonio from DC and usually works out in the evening! Great guy!

Mirek asked me the other day “How should I scale for a wod?” My response was “It depends” J

The most important thing that we need to keep in mind when scaling is how to keep the quality of the movement in the workout. Bad form will reinforce bad habit.  Bad habits will cause injury.  So keeping this in mind, let’s touch on a few aspects that I think about when I scale a workout:

  1. What movement is it:
    1. If it is a gymnastic movement, let’s say the pullup, and the athlete can do maybe 5-10 unassisted kipping pull ups, and then start failing and need a band. I would say go ahead and start the workout without the band and then move to the band when you need to.  However, I would ask the athlete if they have a strict pull up.  If the answer is no, then a good way to scale would be to cut the reps of the pull up in half or more and instead of doing any kipping movement, do strict pull ups (with the lightest band possible) to gain the strength in the shoulders.  If you are able to grind out 50 kipping pull ups in a workout and you are unable to do a strict pull up, your shoulders are unstable and do not have the strength to support the work you are putting in!
    2. If it is a movement with heavy weight, and the weight is most likely unsustainable for the workout, scale it down. It is more important to maintain good form and maintain a workable weight than to attempt to go RX.  Let’s say you attempted to go RX at a heavy weight and you’re able to hold it for 1 round, next round you’ve reached muscle failure and have to drop down in weight.  First off, the weight you have to drop down to is most likely going to be less than what you would have been able to do if you started out correctly scaling the weight.  (Confusing sentence I know!). Secondly, hopefully you haven’t injured yourself straining to maintain the RX weight.  When there is a timer on, pressure of completing the WOD can cause bad form=potential injury.
  2. Is it caused by mobility issues:
    1. For example, let’s take a front squat. If the athlete is unable to keep the integrity of the movement due to lack of mobility in the hips (butt doesn’t go below parallel, chest doesn’t stay up right while squatting, weight comes onto the toes while squatting), I would not put heavy weight on this athlete.  Even if they are capable of squatting more weight, I would not push it until they have gained the mobility to squat correctly.  And how to mobilize will be another entry J

I hope this helps clear up a few things! Don’t underestimate the power of listening to your body. When in doubt, always ask the coach and they’ll help you out!! Keep asking questions, because one of the greatest things as a coach is when you see athletes gain the self-awareness and knowledge of their own abilities.  See y’all at the gym!

Jenny Wang