On Scaling and Intended Stimulus
“Yeah, but I scaled it.” Folks, I’d like to take a moment on behalf of all of your coaches to talk about the concept of the RX in our WODs.
When you’re programming for the entire world – like CrossFit.com has done for the past 15 years or so – you can’t really target the RX for people’s capability. That’s why (especially in the early days) we’d see posts from people all over the world varying in time domain for a simple 21-15-9 triplet anywhere from 6 minutes all the way out to nearly 30 minutes.
But when we talk about an “RX” here, while it still means doing the weights and movements fully as prescribed, the more important prescription for you is the intended stimulus. The prescription for maximum effectiveness is to move well and to hit the targets your coaches have set. It’s not about using terrible form and standing around staring at a bar that’s way too heavy while the rest of the class is long-finished. It’s important to scale the complexity and load of the movements in the WOD so that you can get close to the time target we set for you to finish the task.
Every day, every workout you find here at CFSV has been designed, discussed, and tested by our coaching staff to provide a very specific stimulus. Even when an AMRAP 15 is programmed, it’s not just “let’s see what they can do in 15 minutes”. We have a pretty good idea of how many rounds we want you to get in order to get the desired result in terms of general exhaustion and volume of reps. That’s why we often give you a target at some point – a guideline to get you in the right mindset on how to choose the right scaling and something to aim for when you get moving.
Scaling is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s exactly what we want you to do, and what we as coaches do with our workouts every day. Hell, sometimes we’ll set the WOD targets aspirationally, knowing that only a few (or none) of you will be able to hit the movements and loads “as RXd” that day within a reasonable time frame. That’s fine, because we know it going in and are setting those loads as a goal that you may choose to work towards as you get stronger and faster. Scaling is something that everyone will have to do that day… and that’s perfect, because really we’re all scaling every day.
As you go into today’s WOD, a test from the CrossFit Open in 2014, we don’t want you crashing against the RX. The time frames that competitors got in the open that year ranged from 8 minutes to over 30 minutes. I’d argue that as a test, that’s fine – it certainly separates out the competitors and gives a way to measure relative fitness. But as a training stimulus, it would have been more effective at making the slower people faster if they scaled those weights to finish in under 15 minutes… and for the fastest people, it would have been more effective at making them stronger if they had put the weights up to a point where it took them just a bit longer.
My old friends Erica and Evan at JournalMenu – the original photographers at my gyms, and producers of kickass custom CrossFit Journals – wrote about this back in 2013 (and frankly, probably earlier than that too). I’m going to leave you with an extensive quote from them here:
Double unders are scaled triple unders, MU are scaled weighted MU, 15′ rope climbs are scaled 20′ climbs.
Sure, they aren’t called for in the WODs today, but what about tomorrow?
Scaling is how you get from where you are now to your future kickass self.
Scaling is how you stay safe and healthy.
Scaling is how you finish the workouts and feel obliterated after, using a band instead of just staring at the bar for 10 min willing yourself to get a pullup.
Scaling is how you improve your technique and learn to lift heavier.
Scaling, is not, however, something to be ashamed of or something that you can use to write off your WOD as a poor performance.
So next time you are crumpled on the floor gasping for air, be proud that you choose the right scale for you.
Be proud that you killed the WOD, and that the WOD killed you.”
CrossFit Open 14.5
* Hard time cap: 25 mins