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When scaling a workout a coach should do everything possible to maintain the intended stimulus of the WOD.  What does that mean? It means substituting double unders for squats is not a preferred scaling option.  There are many things that go into scaling a work out:  reps, load, time and let’s not forget about assessing the athlete and what their physical and psychological tolerances are.  Here is a pretty good rule of thumb: Err on the side of less weight and less reps, only always.  It’s the coach’s job to ensure the safety of the athlete even when the athlete is being stubborn.  I assure you they will get over it.

Scaling is a robust very thought intensive, very intentional… process that resists formulas  and fixed rules.  Learning to master the art of scaling is arguably the most important skill for you to develop as a coach and can ultimately determine your success as a trainer.  Scaling appropriately can also make or break a member’s experience. It can doom them to fail or propel them towards their goals.  There is no substitute for common sense.  A very common error I see is that gyms or coaches only have one scale they go to for a given movement.  I would argue that this lack of a plan will prolong any athlete’s development.  A good coach has 3-4 scaling options for every movement.  And a great coach changes the scaling option each time to make it more difficult and to provide the variance we are looking for.  We recommend our coaches have a conversation with every athlete that is going to scale and find out what the last scaling option the athlete used was.  Then we change it to something else.  It helps the athlete’s fitness and keeps them interested.


Let’s run through very simple template when trying to determine scaling


1)     Simply decrease the weight

2)     Decrease the reps or rounds

3)     Only after considering 1&2 should we change or modify the movement

4)     If the athlete can’t do a movement scale to another version of the movement i.e. power snatch vs snatch, hand stand hold vs HSPU, ring rows vs pull ups etc.


What about injured athletes?  Injured shoulder on thruster day?  Try 1 arm DB thrusters or 1 arm KB snatch on snatch day.


Athlete can’t squat due to injury?  This has many forms.  How severe and to what ROM can they work?  Find some variance of the squat to have them work; box squat, light weight, no weight, pistols, lunges, etc.  Get creative, you can find something for them to do.


Keep the scaling options as close to the original movements as possible, but understand that sometimes you just have to change the entire thing to get the athlete some work.


Consider this…. The desired adaptation is achieved by a very intentional stimulus.  That stimulus is predetermined by the WOD you created.  How do I change the WOD in order to maintain the intended stimulus and move towards the desired adaptation?


Keep it simple and ask yourself these two questions:


How long should this take?

Is this light moderate or heavy?


Assess the athlete in question and create something that puts them in the desired time/rep range with a load that is light/moderate/heavy relative to their capacity!


So how do you know if you scaled correctly?  Take a look at the board after class, the answer is right there.  The times should be within several minutes of each other across the board.  The rounds/reps should be +/- only a few.  If everyone is getting scores that are relatively close using a host of weights, reps and modified movements you’ve done well.   Huge deviations in scores tell us that the athletes aren’t scaling properly and ultimately not getting the same intended stimulus.


Don’t be afraid to scale down, you are only helping people understand how CrossFit works.  It takes practice so get creative and try to come up with as many variations of scaling options as you can.


Keep training hard and hit your weaknesses,