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Old 04-18-2014, 04:36 PM   #1
Ryan Schauland
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Knowing when and how to scale?

I'm doing CF at a certified box in town. I was going fairly regularly but took some time off to train for half marathon (1:35), then some more time off to heal a foot wound from a soccer game, so it had been a while.

How do folks decide what WOD's to scale and when? Friday is "benchmark girl day" and we did regular ole Fran. I did as rx'd and it took about 12 minutes. Thrusters really suck it out of me. By the end, I could only loop together about 3. I only weigh about 135#, which doesn't help. At one point during the workout, the coach (knowing I'd been out for a while) said something along the lines of "you could have considered scaling today". And I was indeed the last one done (of 6), but I was still well under the 15 minute time cap.

Fact is, at my (light) weight and (decent) fitness level, I find myself trying to do the Rx WOD, but in any WOD with a Rx'd weight (rather than pure body weight), I suffer mightily and often finish near last. I just take it as the cost of doing business and know I'll continue to improve, but the coach has mentioned on a couple occasions I could "consider" scaling more aggressively. I do sometimes make my weights "strippable" so I can scale down once I figure out I'm not going to make it.

What do you think? Do you have any general rules? How hard is it for you to predict how hard it will be to complete? Thanks in advance.
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Old 04-18-2014, 09:01 PM   #2
Michael Troxell
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Re: Knowing when and how to scale?

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Originally Posted by Ryan Schauland View Post
I find myself trying to do the Rx WOD, but in any WOD with a Rx'd weight (rather than pure body weight), I suffer mightily and often finish near last. I just take it as the cost of doing business and know I'll continue to improve, but the coach has mentioned on a couple occasions I could "consider" scaling more aggressively. I do sometimes make my weights "strippable" so I can scale down once I figure out I'm not going to make it.

I am still fairly new to Crossfit and like most(I believe?), I was not nearly as strong or proficient as I had thought and/or desired. What worked for me was accurately recording my current strength numbers; BS, FS, OHS, Strict Press, etc. The more lifts, the better. As a technique, I also downloaded an app which allows me to instantly determine my individual lifting percentage based on a 1RM.

Whether through workouts on my time or strength training at the box prior to conditioning, I was able to accurately gauge and record my current strength numbers. Once I recorded my strength numbers, I was able to quickly determine whether I could complete a WOD RX or scaled. I always left the weight as scalable, but also had a realistic expectation based on prior strength training.

Lastly, I am sure your coach is being nice in making a "suggestion." I would heed his/her advice, swallow your pride, and scale to your ability and not complete a WOD RX for sheer pride.

Remember, sometimes you gain more by doing less!

Last edited by Michael Troxell : 04-18-2014 at 10:36 PM.
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Old 04-19-2014, 05:46 AM   #3
Steven Wingo
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Re: Knowing when and how to scale?

Ryan I'm a former runner and cyclist, thin like you. I've managed to gain 15+ pounds over two years--a hard battle for me. But I'm still a lightweight in the CrossFit world. My strength numbers have improved dramatically, however, through consistent strength work. It will probably come slowly for you, but if you are consistent the strength will develop.

My suggestion is to not be concerned with hitting Rx weights. You are going to be lower than on most workouts until you gain strength over time. I'd suggest you slowly build up your metcon weights over time, just as you would build your weights in strength sessions over time. Don't worry about doing Rx.

How can you judge what weight you should use?

Look at the men's Rx weight. Is it too high? Have you every done anything close to it in metcons? If not, look at the women's Rx weight. What is it? Is it about right? Maybe too low? Sometimes you might find the women's Rx weight is just right. Over time it will probably be too low. Often times the women's Rx weight compared to the men's weight is a good guide because you learn that, for many workouts, you are somewhere in between and that can get you close to where you should be. If you knock out all the weight portions of a metcon completely unbroken, then you should make a mental note that it is time to go higher. If you struggle too much, make a note of it and understand for that movement and that number of reps you probably need to back it down a little.

Understand you will rarely hit it perfect. There are so many variables. How do you feel that day? How has your strength progressed? How many reps are you doing? What other movements are you doing in the metcon that will cause fatigue and affect you on the movement where scaling is necessary? But you don't need to get it perfect. The gains come from the work and struggle, not picking the "perfect" scaling weight.

For Fran, if the thrusters are what slowed you down significantly, I tend to think you should have less weight than 95 lbs. since it took you 12 minutes. But the 65 pound women's Rx weight is probably too low. Try 80 or 85 pounds next time.
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Old 04-19-2014, 08:07 AM   #4
Brendan McNamar
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Re: Knowing when and how to scale?

At 135 you are lighter then the average woman in CrossFit. Use women's weights for a while.

People miss the idea of using the "correct" weight. If you train with the correct weight you will improve rapidly, be able to maintain better technique and reduce the likely hood of injury.

Grinding through a 12 minute Fran at 95 doesn't help you as much as a 6 minute Fran at 65.

Work on your strength training separately outside the met-con.

For you 95 pound thrusters are too heavy for a met-con, you loose the intensity, and they are too light for strength training.

Basically they are in the middle which doesn't do you a lot of good except to beat you up.

Scale met-con weights, have you coaches help you with a dedicated strength program, eat everything you see and sleep a lot. You will never be big but 145 is a lot better then 135 if it is 10 pounds of muscle.
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Old 04-22-2014, 07:41 AM   #5
Tommy Sittinger
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Re: Knowing when and how to scale?

To follow up on Brendan's post, you have to think about what the WOD is trying to accomplish.

For example, 21-15-9 is a sprint - minimal rest, if any. 2-6 minutes would be the goal, I would think. If you have rounds with a specific rest period, for example 500m row x 4 with two in rest, that's also a sprint. WOD's like Kalsu, or Khalipa's "Hotel WOD" on youtube are similar, and seem to be in-between a 21-15-9 and a longer session. Kalsu is 100 thrusters for time 135#, EMOM 5 burpees (start with burpees), and the hotel WOD is 35# dumbbell HSC thrusters 100 for time, EMOM 5 burpees (start with thrusters). You'll want to choose a weight where you can finish in 15 -20 minutes, preferably less. I can Rx Kalsu, but it takes me the better part of an hour to do so. I'm getting three reps/round at the end, and I even have to skip a few rounds and just do burpees to recover. I do much better with 105#.

Rounds for time typically require frequent rest periods, but they should be brief. Do a few reps, take a few breaths, do a few more, etc. Stay at the bar, don't walk away. This requires more strategy, how to divide your reps, etc. Same for AMRAP's. Those are a little more prolonged, so you can't blow through the reps like a 21-15-9.

Basically, if you're resting too long because the load is too heavy, even if you can still technically complete the WOD Rx, you're defeating the benefit of doing that particular WOD; you're missing the purpose of doing it.
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Old 04-22-2014, 09:48 AM   #6
Glenn Plomchok
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Re: Knowing when and how to scale?

I base it mainly off what the time domain for the wod is supposed to be. If it is a benchmark, you can find this data online if it is a non-benchmark, I ask the coach "what is the time range for the wod" and then scale appropriately.

I will some times sacrifice speed in a wod to move a heavier load but mostly, I will save the heavier load work for emoms or separate strength training.

Also agree with what others have said. Good reps at lighter weight I believe will always help more than heavier weights and suspect reps
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Old 04-22-2014, 10:25 AM   #7
Tighe Crovetti
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Re: Knowing when and how to scale?

Your coach had no business letting you try that Rx. IMHO. At my box, there's usually a solid five minutes spent (during a larger class) while people ask the coach what weights, reps, exercises, etc... they should be doing, compared to the Rx specs. I've been doing CF for almost seven months. I'm 6'0", 195# and have picked up almost all of the CF skills (doubles, MU's, HSPU) at least at the basic level, and have pretty good technique in all of the olympic lifts (again, basically). I almost NEVER do Rx weights in our WODs, I'm just not there. As was said, metcons are usually about staying in motion and/or moving weights fast (assuming we're not talking about strengh work, which is usually specifically about building up based on whatever your specific abilities are). Unless your programming is done way differently, Rx is supposed to signify "elite" abilities. By definition, that shouldn't apply to many people. In reality, scaling is the norm, and Rx'ing is the exception.
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Old 04-22-2014, 01:59 PM   #8
Richard Colon
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Re: Knowing when and how to scale?

As a relatively strong guy (north of 1k Crossfit total) I do the following:

I load with women's weights/scaling of movements (less of a deficit on HSPU for instance.) Many times there is no difference from men to women, such as a run being a run. 400m is 400m regardless of gender. Ok, moving on...

So I load womens weights unless I know the movement is a strength (something I'm good at) for me and I know I have a huge advantage over women's strength. For example, I can do 315 Deadlifts in a workout/for reps, etc, so I won't scale it to 225 or whatever the women's weight calls for. Otherwise, I keep at the women's weights/scaling. When I can beat the top women in Crossfit - with some exceptions (I'm not beating Briggs at 14.5) with the weight they use, then it is time for me to start messing with men's weights (or close to it.)

Again, I'm pretty darn strong for a normal, non-competitive Crossfit guy. Other than OH Squat/Snatch work, I can do all men's weight RX. 225 Cleans, Cinco 1 DL, 88lb KB Swings, etc. However, my times are about 3x what they should be, so I scale.
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Old 04-22-2014, 02:28 PM   #9
Ryan Schauland
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Re: Knowing when and how to scale?

Thanks so much for the thoughtful responses guys. Sorry for the slow follow-up, but I do appreciate it. It's the Napoleon effect, I guess. Despite the fact that everyone in the box is supportive, it's easier on some level to struggle with an Rx weight than admit I need to heavily scale.

Synthesizing the comments and upon reflection, I think there are a few steps:


1) Look at the WOD before class, consider what weight might be appropriate. Google for options and ask questions in class.
2) Try to work for a time, not a weight or by simply completing it.
3) Gain strength through strength work, and metcon through metcon work.
4) Eat more.

Thanks again!
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Old 04-22-2014, 04:23 PM   #10
Ryan Schauland
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Re: Knowing when and how to scale?

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Originally Posted by Tighe Crovetti View Post
Your coach had no business letting you try that Rx. IMHO. At my box, there's usually a solid five minutes spent (during a larger class) while people ask the coach what weights, reps, exercises, etc... they should be doing, compared to the Rx specs. I've been doing CF for almost seven months. I'm 6'0", 195# and have picked up almost all of the CF skills (doubles, MU's, HSPU) at least at the basic level, and have pretty good technique in all of the olympic lifts (again, basically). I almost NEVER do Rx weights in our WODs, I'm just not there. As was said, metcons are usually about staying in motion and/or moving weights fast (assuming we're not talking about strengh work, which is usually specifically about building up based on whatever your specific abilities are). Unless your programming is done way differently, Rx is supposed to signify "elite" abilities. By definition, that shouldn't apply to many people. In reality, scaling is the norm, and Rx'ing is the exception.
I was just looking at some of the programming on the main site and feel like I should clarify that the Rx numbers at our box are not really elite level stuff and not nearly as hard as most of the numbers on main site. The box only started about a year ago, and attracted mostly newbies, so there are very few elite level guys there besides one of the coaches. So we're not talking about metcon's with 135# overhead lunges or even multi-reps muscle ups. Scaling (or not scaling) Fran was a good example of my strength level. Most metcons we do are more time-consuming than that, but a lot are in that range of strength requirement.
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