What is Scaling?

What is Rx? What does scaling mean and how do I know what to do when?

Our gym posts a new WOD or workout of the day, each day.  Each listed workout will have a set of skills.  Let's say tomorrow is rowing, pull-ups, and kettlebell swings.  To do the workout Rx or as prescribed, you will row the intended meters, do pull-ups without assistance, and do the kettlebell swings at the recommended weight listed in the workout.  When completed, you can say you did the workout Rx.

What if you can’t do that?  We scale.  Scaling means that you find movement options closest to what is written on the board that you can do well.  For the workout listed above, you might need to change the weight of the kettlebell, use a band for pull-ups or do ring-rows as a substitution.  Often times we can scale the repetitions in the workout as well.  We can find a scaled option for any movement or workout.  This is the beauty of CrossFit.  You can be in a room of people ranging from 20-70 years old all doing the same workout, but each with different movements they can perform well.

Moving out of the scaled category and into the Rx category is something many CrossFitters work hard to achieve.  Does this mean that as soon as you can do the workout prescribed that you should?  Not necessarily. 

In CrossFit each of our workouts are created to achieve a certain stimulus.  Some are designed to be fast, around 5 minutes, and feel like an all out sprint.  Many are mid-range. This is the majority of our workouts and are between 10 and 15 minutes.  The remaining are the select few that run 20, 30 and some even 40 minutes.  When crossfit.com programs their workouts they have an idea of how they want your body to respond.  If the idea for the day is to have a 5 minute sprint workout and it takes you 15 minutes to complete the workout, you have missed the intended stimulus for the workout.

This is where having a coach who understands the intended stimulus for each workout comes into play.  Your coach can help you find a suitable substitution or plan for your workout so you will finish in the right time domain.  I can, as a 40 year old woman, finish in the same time as a 24 yr old man.  Our weights might look different or our reps might be slightly different, but our bodies will feel similarly spent when we are finished.

If you are a CrossFitter and don’t know where to begin, talk to your coach, they can give you some experienced guidance.  If you have never done CrossFit, don’t worry, we can always find a fun way to get you an awesome workout!