Morning Chalk Up Community

Scale or Modify workouts for faster improvement

May 12, 2022 by

The purpose of scaling is not just for those that can’t “Rx the workout.” The reason we should scale or modify is to be able to get the stimulus that was intended from the design of workout according to our strength, skills and ability. This does not always mean we change the movement, weight or level of difficulty. Sometimes it is simply the layout or order of the exercises.

Every year we come together on Memorial Day for “Murph”. Leading up to this Hero WOD we all discuss which version we will do; straight through, the classic Cindy format, the leg saver, etc. What is the purpose of these different formats? We are looking at our current abilities and choosing one that allows us to finish in a reasonable amount of time. Why do we not take this same approach to our every day workouts in the gym? We are so quick to change to band pull-ups, hanging knee raises or singles instead of the full movement because we can do the movement, but not that many reps in a row. If you are always changing the movement, how will you ever progress to doing the full movement for the duration of the workout? What if we just change the layout of the workout? 

EXAMPLE: Yesterday the WOD was:

“Eva”: 5 RFT

800m Run

30 x Pull-ups

30 x KB Swings

While traveling, I only had a doorframe pull-up bar available in the “gym”, but surprisingly did have kettlebells. No kipping or butterfly can take place…unless I want to buy them a new doorframe. I can do strict pull-ups, but 30 reps each round would have really slowed me down and defeated the purpose of the workout.

So, I changed the layout to:

20 rounds:

200m run

Strict Pull-ups (8 for the first 10 rounds, 7 for the last 10 rounds)

KB Swings (8 for the first 10 rounds, 7 for the last 10 rounds)

This allowed me to still do all 150 pull-ups, but in a way that kept me moving through the workout at a good pace. Strict pull-ups technically would be scaling up, changing the format is scaling down so did I Rx this? Why does it matter? I chose the best option for what equipment I had, my strength and abilities and the stimulus of the workout. That is what matters. This is ultimately what will provide the best rate of progression.

I’m reminded of an old article in Catalyst Athletics Performance Menu called, “Get a F#%$ing Clue”. It discusses how as athletes and coaches we should be looking for ways to scale or modify the workout so that everyone finishes relatively around the same time according to the stimulus and duration of the workout. If one person yells, “Time!”, at the 8-minute mark and another at the 16-minute mark, someone did not scale or modify correctly.

Don’t get so hung up on Rx+, Rx or scaled. In each and every workout find what allows you to complete the workout in an appropriate time frame that still gets you the intended training adaptation it was designed for.

GO BEYOND better, to your very best.

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