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Scaling: Not Just For “Wimps” Anymore

I see this all the time:  The workout of the day has super heavy suggested Rx weight, or is particularly lengthy, or really intense and hard, or just purely complicated.  People see this and approach me at the beginning of class looking for advice, perhaps telling me about an injury they’re trying to protect and work around, or confiding concerns that they can’t complete all the reps with good form if they use heavier weights.  Or, the client could simply be communicating  a general worry that the workout, as is, is too much for them.  This is what I like to call the “clear-headed planning stage”.  The athlete is as of yet un-entangled in the pre-WOD hype, is clear-headed, and objectively able to consider their own limitations as they approach the workout.

Then the warm-up happens, and the client begins to look around him or her, sees other people doing a bit more weight, working a bit harder, appearing a bit more gung-ho than they themselves originally were.  The client then begins to get caught up in the “pre-WOD challenge” mode.  They’re feeling warmer, perhaps intimidated into greatness by those around them, and they decide to deviate from their original careful plan of scaling from earlier on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing…. except when it means that your ego gets in the way of the messages your body is sending to you.

I can guarantee that this has happened to pretty much everyone: in the warm up, you decide to challenge yourself to use the heavier weight, or scale to the higher Zone. However, reality sets in after the clock starts and you soon realize that you’re in over your head.  The smart people take some weight off the bar or scale the exercise then and there, swallow their pride, and proceed to do their best with what’s left.  But the remainder of folks will let the voice of their ego take over, and continue on throughout the workout with the bar too heavy, or the exercise scaled too hard for them, and they will begin a gradual and dangerous decline in form and range of motion.  Their squats will be shaky and cut short to above-parallel, their chin will be inches below the pullup bar, their elbows will be bent under the overhead weight,  and their push jerks will be poorly muscled up into slow shoulder presses.  Minute after minute, they grimace with impossible effort, refusing to admit defeat.

I’m here to tell you all that my respect lies with those who can admit their inability to perform an exercise properly, or lift the heavier weight, or execute the fully required range of motion.  Scaling isn’t for wimps.  It’s for smart, self-aware, humble, willing, brave-hearted people.  Scaling isn’t an admission of defeat!  We don’t scale to sacrifice intensity. Rather, scaling is for the purpose of INCREASING the opportunity for intensity.   And therein lies the secret, ladies and gentlemen: scale, and then be willing to move faster.  Be willing to take the time to execute perfect reps and increase that correct muscle memory.  Be willing to take two steps back so you can soon take a giant leap forward.

Make the smart choice, and scale for success!

Don’t forget to bring your friends for a workout today!

Today’s Workout:

Buy In – Dynamic Warmup
4 rounds:
15 seconds jumping jacks
15 seconds air squats
15 seconds mountain climbers
15 seconds jump squats

WOD“Burp’n Swing”

AMRAP in 12 minutes

P1: Run 100M
P2: KB Swing (35/55) (Score)
P3: Burpee (Score)

Score= Total reps of swings and burpees on the team

Zone 2- scale KB as needed, add a rest station
Zone 1 – scale as needed

Cash Out – Group stretch

4 thoughts to “Scaling: Not Just For “Wimps” Anymore”

  1. Great Post Shannon

    This is probably the hardest thing to convince others of and to do myself……some days you need to just suck it up and realize that the movement or the weight is just too much and you will lose the purpose of the wod. I hate the days I have to do it but I know in the long run it will make me a better athlete…

  2. Exactly, Sean. Another common issue I see that crops up is with people who know they are possibly nursing an injury, or have something that just doesn't 'feel right' in their body when doing a movement, yet they won't scale down the weight because then it's not "hard enough". When training, we must remember that it's not necessarily about how HARD a movement feels, it's about doing it RIGHT!! You will still get a fantastic workout even if you scale down the weight, and then your body will have a chance to learn a movement correctly and safely.

  3. Yes, great post Bones! I agree, you would be surprised at how often the Coaches see that. I can say probably at least once in every class. It is best to practice safe motor recruitment patterns because in the long run you will get a lot stronger scaling and you will not injure yourself.

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