Scaling a workout is not a bad thing...we shouldn't attach a negative connotation to it. Scaling does not mean the athlete is inferior or lacks talent. Scaling a WOD is done to customize the workout so the athlete of every ability, skill level and conditioning can benefit from CrossFit programming. Scaling is done to acclimate the athlete who is new to CrossFit. This does not mean 2 weeks after starting CrossFit training you are no longer considered new and should be doing the WODs as prescribed. Scaling will go on, depending on the athlete and depending on the WOD, for some time.
We often hear, "I don't like seeing 'Scaled' next to my name." We admire the spirit and competitiveness of those athletes who make the statement, but reality is most athletes will NOT be experienced or conditioned in all aspects of CrossFit--even if they are athletic. We see athletes who can deadlift near 500 pounds who can't do a single pull-up. We see athletes who can run sub-25 minute 5k's, but can't lift 85 pounds over their head. The most experienced "globo gym" members have never done burpees, wall ball, Olympic Lifts or used a Glute/Ham Developer. We scale while developing skill and conditioning for the safety of the athlete. Scaled workouts accomplish the goals of prescribed workouts. Scaled workouts are still more difficult than what most other "gym rats" are doing in the "globo gym".
"Scaling" is done in a variety of ways: reducing reps, reducing the number of rounds, reducing weight, reducing distance and/or reducing time. Scaling may also come in the form of modifying an exercise or completely changing an exercise. Scaling may be done by reducing the range of motion of an exercise. Scaling is done based on many factors: level of conditioning, ability (or disability), experience, age, injuries and health conditions.
The proper form of the exercise is necessary to develop strength in a full range of motion. Prescribed WODs must not only include the prescribed weight and time, but a full range of motion on every repetition. Form will degrade during workouts to some extent, but every effort should be made to perform at a full range of motion. Improper form during a particular exercise will cause that particular repetition not to count. NO FULL RANGE OF MOTION = SCALED -- even if every other aspect of the workout is done as Rx'd!
Examples of Full Range Of Motion (ROM):
- Push ups: chest touching floor (NOT stomach to floor) at bottom, arms straight at top
- Pull ups: chin over bar (NOT near bar) at top, arms at full extension at bottom (no bend at elbow)
- Squats: creases of the hips below the knee caps at bottom, hips and knees fully open (straight) at top
- Sit ups: shoulders to ground at bottom, chest to knees at top
- Presses: bar over the top of the head, arms locked ("head through the window")
- Wall Ball: full squat at bottom, body at full extension at top to project ball high
- Thrusters: full front squat at bottom, good Press form at top
- Ring dips: "fist to (arm)pits" at bottom, arms at full extension, body straight at top
- Handstand Push Ups: top of head touching floor at bottom, arms at full extension at top
We have a technical term for the athletes who on a consistent basis knowingly and willingly do not perform through a full range of motion or do not complete all reps, but say they do: CHEATERS. Don't be a Cheater.
Athletes will get an outstanding workout regardless of scaling. As consistent practice is put into the skill development and workouts less and less will be scaled. Scaling should be done until the particular exercise can be executed consistently with proper form. Athletes new to CrossFit should focus on proper form. Strength, speed, power and endurance will follow.