This is Part Two of a two-part series on the question “Should you scale or Rx your wod?”. If you missed Part One, go read that first. In Part Two, we will address more factors that weigh in on the decision, and then we will turn to actual numbers to see if scaling yields a more effective CrossFit workout than sticking with Rx.
In Part One, we covered safety and intensity. Below are two more points to consider regarding your CrossFit wod.
While I could make ability and skill each their own topic, they are close enough related that lumping them together makes sense. Here, ability refers to your body’s capacity to correctly perform a movement through proper range of motion. Skill is being able to properly execute the mechanics of an exercise.
Ability can be interpreted as mobility as well. Are your lats too tight to raise your arms overhead without arching your back? Do you have mobile enough ankles to maintain proper squat posture? (I can’t wait to get my L1 and be able to help coach these!)
An inability to execute a full range of motion movement can lead to injury, plain and simple. I know I have the tendency to arch my back on a heavier press, and I’ve been working to correct this. For me, I will scale heavier overhead weight for that fact more than a potential lack of strength. Working my full range of motion with a lighter weight not only reduces the chance of injury but also helps ingrain proper form and mechanics.
Speaking of proper form, one needs to take their skill level into consideration as well. Do your toes-to-bar look more like a vertical attempt at the fetal position? Can you get one double under but none strung together? Do you reverse curl a barbell more than you clean it? (My hand is raised!)
I recently discovered that my cleans become horrible with weight above 135. So, I’m forcing myself to go no higher than that weight until my technique improves. As discussed above, only bad things happen by forcing myself to compromise form for weight/reps. I don’t want to practice poor skills, and neither should you! However, if you are somewhere in between, like T2B for instance, do as many quality reps as you can before scaling to something else. That way you get good practice in, plus you can complete the wod in an appropriate fashion. That’s a win-win there!
The final consideration point for scaling or Rx-ing a wod would be your individual goals. Is your goal to get stronger first and foremost? Perhaps you are focusing on conditioning in preparation for a Memorial Day Murph?
While CrossFit, at its heart, provides a general all-around function fitness, sometimes we choose to bias our training a certain way. If that’s the case, perhaps going a little heavier and taking longer on a wod would be in your best interest for strength. If you want to bolster your conditioning, maybe select a lighter weight and push yourself to a faster time? This is not to say that your goals won’t be met if you don’t alter the wod; it’s just something to consider. Also, I apologize for the triple negative.
One last point to keep in mind… scaling isn’t a “bad” thing. There shouldn’t be a stigmata associated with scaled. Don’t be too proud to scale! And sometimes, scale just for the heck of it and see how fast you can go! I bet you’ll be sucking wind on the floor no matter how “light” of a weight you use.
The above Rx/scale elements, as well as those from Part One, are all subjective. They are factors to consider and make a decision accordingly. But… what if you’re like me and you have an above average love for numbers? What if you want actual data to help determine your wod scaling dilemma? Well… check this out!
This amazing calculator from Catalyst Athletics will compute work and power output for certain wod movements! You put in your measurements and then the weight and reps for the wod and you’ll generate numbers you can use to evaluate your workout! Let’s run a sample case right now.
Of course, we will use Fran for our example. Using my most recent Rx attempt, I got a time of 9:56. So that’s 45 reps of 95# thrusters and 45 reps of pull-ups with no weight added. That gives me work output of 55891 joules and a power output of 93.75 watts. (Don’t worry about the units, just make note of the numbers but do make sure you use the same units when comparing!)
Now, let’s run a theoretical scaled Fran, because I don’t want to do Fran just for the sake of science. I’m going to use 85# and finish 30 seconds faster. Entering that in, my 9:26 scaled Fran yields total work of 53550 joules and power of 94.61 watts.
I did less work because I moved less weight in the exact same workout. Work does not take time into consideration. However, power does have a speed element and my theoretical scaled Fran produced more power. (For argument’s sake, we will assume perfect reps each time.)
Well… yes and no. Ultimately, I just need to do the same exact workout at a faster time and therefore I will have improved my fitness, at least in the CrossFit sense. And this requires no fancy calculation. In fact, a higher power output doesn’t necessarily mean a “better” workout, but it’s a good place to start. CrossFit is always supposed to be measurable, so we can build towards constant improvement over time.
One point I want to make is to not obsess over the numbers… which I tend to do sometimes. The CrossFit Journal has written about power output and its application to CrossFit and basically said what I just stated – improve your times and disregard extra calculations. A better use of the power output would be to chart different workouts over time, a way to see if you are constantly improving or not. But, again, this is a tool one could use to help decide between scaling or Rx-ing a wod.
That’s it for our discussion on whether you should Rx or scale your CrossFit wod. Go through the four factors with honest answers, and you should arrive at an informed decision you can be comfortable with. Rx, scaled, whatever – just get your wod on and push yourself to your best possible workout! My friend Barbara said it best – evaluate your goals, place safety first, and kick your own butt as frequently as possible!
Your Turn -> What’s your number one factor when deciding between doing a wod Rx versus scaling?