The Purpose of Scaling


One tenant of CrossFit is scalability: the ability to create the same training stimulus for any individual, regardless of skill level or current physical condition.

We scale movements, reps, or loads in order to accommodate the needs of each athlete while still achieving a beneficial training session. Each training session is designed with a stimulus in mind. This stimulus trains the metabolism to be more efficient or trains the body for growth and development. This is also known as looking better, feeling better, getting stronger, gains, etc.. Preserving the stimulus means we are making our training effective.

Our ultimate goal is long-term health. This approach means we are looking to a distant horizon, and we are moving steadily upwards towards it. Preserving the stimulus and scaling for our current level of fitness allows us to move in the right direction.

So we now know why we scale and why it is important. But do we act accordingly?

When we look at the whiteboard, we look at the workout as a benchmark. The prescription is used to create a baseline for the workout metrics. Inherently, the movements, loads, and reps have purpose. The workout is made with a training goal in mind.

What tends to happen is we have a desire to complete the workout as prescribed simply because we want to. We revel in doing the workout as prescribed, and we feel more affirmed in our training. Our ego gets inflated.

What happens if we are in a situation in which we need to scale? We end up seeing scaling as "weakness." Whenever the thought of scaling comes up, we think of things like "quitting," "giving up," or "failure."

Scaling has a bigger purpose: to keep us healthy and to make training effective. When we scale, we are adapting the individual to the training goal, which in turn creates a better training stimulus. Better stimulus means better progress.

So when we need to scale but resist it, we are actually resisting results. By not scaling when we need to, we are rejecting the training goal and potentially limiting our ceiling of adaptation. We are lowering the effectiveness of training.

Why would we do something to lower our results?

There are times for challenging the prescription. There are times to attempt the workout as prescribed when we are challenging newly acquired skills or newly developed movements.

But if there is a legitimate reason to scale, we need to. We need to do everything we can to make our training as effective as possible. And scaling, when needed, does just that.