Stimulus + Scaling

Scaling + Stimulus: Achieving the desired result

Scaling appropriately allows anyone to complete the same workout.


Yesterday I completed the 40 minute EMOM I had programmed for the classes alongside some of the members. We all smashed it. It was one of the toughest workouts I have done in a long time. It was supposed to be.

The workout was programmed, like everything else we do, to be tough and to have a specific stimulus. The structure of the EMOM was to allow athletes to complete a high volume of basic gymnastic movements whilst fatigued and then for them to try and sustain a high level of power output on a simple movement. With built in rest periods the aim was to develop athletes ability to sustain a consistent power output over a prolonged period of time.

The programmed rep scheme was hard and very few athletes completed the workout as prescribed. Nearly everyone had to alter the workout, some fractionally, some more drastically. However everyone achieved the same stimulus: lots of pulling and pushing movements combined with a tough conditioning element.

This was achieved through scaling.

Every single workout, movement or skill that we complete and practice at Saxon CrossFit can and should be scaled to the needs of the individual. Scaling allows the stimulus to be constant across all athletes. If a programmed workout is designed to take around 7 minutes and due to improper scaling it takes an individual 30 minutes then the stimulus has completely changed. As a drastic comparison, imagine two athletes of different abilities completing an 800m run. If one completes the run in two and half minutes and the other in ten minutes they have had two very different workouts. The second athlete took four times longer than the first and has therefore moved from anaerobic activity to aerobic activity, not the desired effect of the workout.

Our workouts are designed to increase your work capacity across broad time and modal domains to increase your general physical preparedness. This means we want you to train in as many varied times frames, in as many movement patterns to make you better at tackling any physical challenge you are presented with. Each workout is therefore carefully designed to encourage a particular response from your body. By not scaling appropriately we will miss the desired effect of the workout and not improve our ability in that area.

Scaling is a very personal thing and there is no one size fits all for any movement. Scaling can be as simple as running a shorter distance, lifting a lighter weight or decreasing the number of repetitions. As athletes you will know what you can and can’t do and should therefore have a rough idea of what scaling you may require. The coaches will always advise you on appropriate scaling and help you to maintain the desired effect of any workout.

As well as scaling down to maintain a stimulus it is also important to not scale too much or indeed scale up when able. If the prescribed workout is too easy for the athlete, in that they will not achieve the desired result, then scaling up may be required. For example, scaling strict pull ups down to ring rows may be required but we may then look to increase the repetitions, or ensure the athlete is as horizontal as possible to make them work. If this is to easy but pull ups are still too hard then we can elevate the athletes feet to increase the work. Alternatively strict pull ups might be too easy for certain athletes and can therefore be scaled up to chest-to-bar pull ups or weighted pull ups. As long as both athletes are working to their maximum potential then all is good with the world!

In short guys, make sure you scale appropriately. Each workout is designed to achieve a specific result. We will make it clear what the intended result should be then help you to scale the workout so you can achieve that result. Scaling is not a sign of weakness and everyone, even me, has to scale sometimes. It’s what makes CrossFit so accessible and so successful at creating amazing athletes. Next time you see a workout and think it is beyond your abilities or even below them, then think how you can scale it appropriately and attack it with everything you have. The harder you hit each workout you will gradually notice that you need to scale less and less!

Coach Tim


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