01 June 2015 - Why do we tell you to...scale


Universal scalability is something that makes CrossFit so inclusive – it allows elite level athletes to workout alongside grandparents.

Regardless of our level of fitness, our needs differ by degree, not kind. This means we should all run, throw, lift, climb, jump, squat, etc. (kind) if we want to remain fit, healthy, and compete in sport. However it is the volume, intensity, movement, progression, etc. (degree) that will vary from person to person and this is dependant on background, present health, goals and so on.

Take for example an 80 year old with a hip replacement, and a top level powerlifter. Both of these people need to squat in some form. The powerlifter will need to squat often and lift a lot of weight. The 80-year old, on the other hand, may need to practice getting in and out of a chair unassisted (still squatting!). Both people are developing the same fitness (they are both squatting), it is each individual's degree of volume and intensity that differs.

With that explanation out of the way, here are our top 5 reasons that we tell you to scale.

#1 Develop proper movement patterns

Did you run before you could walk? No. Did you walk before you could crawl? No.

When we learn new skills (whether learning to walk, play piano or to snatch) our brains and bodies go through complex processes of adaptation to commit the skill to long-term memory. This includes various cognitive developments as well as establishing neuromuscular (brain > muscle) connections. This takes some time and is why practicing a new skill takes lots of repetitions and, well, practice!

Scaling movements allows you to break down complex motor patterns into more easily digestible chunks. Once you have mastered one aspect, you can layer more complexity on top.

Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect. If you want to learn a new movement well, you have to practice perfect movement.

If you load your barbell so heavy that during your clean your knees are practically touching and your elbows are crushed against your chest then you will not get any better at cleans, you will only get better at performing cleans badly.

#2 Avoid injury

If we perform movements incorrectly whether due to weakness or poor proprioception and motor-control, we significantly increase our risk of injury. That's not to say that perfect movement insures you against injury, it doesn't, it just greatly reduces your risk of injury.

If we perform movements incorrectly we will begin to bias muscles that should not be the primary mover in certain movements. When this happens we can develop imbalances and compensations, this is the road to recurring niggles and potentially serious injury.

#3 Build muscle/tendon/ligament strength

This point goes hand-in-hand with the above. If we want to build functional strength, we need to perform movements correctly and load the body's tissues appropriately. By doing this we can build the strength and connective tissues that support our posture and our movement. Overloading movements can lead to compensations and muscle imbalances forming...which loops back to reason #2!

#4 Hit movement standards

We want you to hit full range of motion every time, (unless you have an injury or medical condition which prevents this). Often we see people with weight too heavy for their ability or trying a movement pattern that is too complex for their level, which prevents them from hitting the range of motion standards, and/or hitting those standard safely.

#5 Match the purpose of the workout

When we design a workout we always have a goal in mind, an adaptation or stimulus we want to achieve from that workout. Let's look at an example...

If you see a 21-15-9 format, the goal is usually a fast and furious workout and is done in anywhere from 90 seconds to 4 minutes. In other words, it's meant to have a very high intensity.

If doing the Rx'd weight means you will have to break the workout up and it takes a lot longer than 4 minutes your intensity is going to be much lower than the workout demands, thus you are not matching the purpose of the workout.

So scaling is an intelligent part of a training program. It will allow you to stay safe and also progress at a much faster rate. When the coaches tell you to scale we are giving you advice on how to make the most out of the short time you spend in the gym. Take it!


A) 8 minute AMRAP:
Max Push press @ 75%+ 1RM
Every time you break perform, 50 Double unders

- Rest 4 minutes -

B) 8 minute AMRAP:
Max thrusters @ a challenging load
Every time you break, accumulate 30 seconds hollow hold

This is a strength day, so the aim is to go heavy!