Scaling Workouts

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workouts are designed around an average load and have an expected time value
for completion.  Our experience in
training literally thousands of workouts each year helps guide our clients to
get the most out of their training. The workouts often have prescribed weights,
loads and equipment profiles. The prescribed load is a guideline to what a
normal, strong and in shape person should be working with based on our
experience. There are some underlying assumptions.  The loading is based on an average weight of
the client and the percentage of bodyweight. Another assumption is the client
has the mechanics to do the exercises correctly.

expected time value of the workout is based on empirical data from our
training. When we put together a WOD that has certain components, we know that
on average it should take people x time in which to do it. Most exercises have
an expected cycle time that can be used to map out a theoretical minimum time.
If someone is efficient in transitioning and has the work capacity, then noise
(rests, stumbling around, cussing etc and so forth) is also minimized and the
theoretical genetic potential of that particular WOD is realized.

Someone who
is new and/or somewhat deconditioned and using a lighter load may finish in
double the time of a seasoned veteran or may or not finish at all. Modifying is
okay and actually a good thing and expected. If someone cannot handle the
intensity of the workout, then they should strive to master mechanics and do
what they can as they develop a base of conditioning THEN raise the intensity
level: Intensity being increase loading and/or faster completion. Premature
intensity is a cause of grief.

The concept
of training work capacity is the cornerstone of what we do. The goal of what we
do is to increase how much work you can do with great mechanics. If you start
out lifting a PVC pipe and develop to being able to lift double body weight,
you have increased your ability to do work. If you move more weight faster,
then your work capacity and mechanical efficiency is better. That is good.
Score one for the home team.

First and
foremost, your mechanics have to be good. Striving for perfect mechanics under
intense load is the Holy Grail.  If your
mechanics on any particular exercise are not good, then scale, learn and
practice. The idea to push the edge until form begins to break down is the edge
of intensity you can tolerate. The dance between high intensity and perfect
mechanics are summed up by the song “Sometime you lead, sometimes you follow.”
If your form is beginning to suffer, slow down, maintain full range of motion
and keep your integrity to the ultimate goal – good, strong, functional health.

On many
occasions, before they reach this point of breakdown, people stop and catch
their breath.  The psychological failure
point is usually far below the physiological tolerance. In other words, you
break mentally before you break physically. Another good thing; breakdown keeps
people from doing dumb things.

Scaling is
how you advance your training. If you are below prescribed weights, the slowly,
incrementally increase load as your times drop. Baby steps, baby steps.  Increasing loading slowly allows for
adaptation. Adaptation is getting stronger. Adaptation is going faster. Another
effect of training is the learning curve. The more exposures you have to an
experience, the more efficient you are at the movement, the faster you can do
the movement without breakdown in technique. If physical work capacity
increases, mechanical efficiency increases, and the psychological impact is

If you are
modifying, you should be struggling to finish the workout in the maximum
allotted times. If you are modifying Fran and finishing in three and a half
minutes, something is wrong. If looking good by posting a time or score that is
impressive is your goal, you are in the wrong place. Intensity for intensity
sake is like driving a nail though your hand to prove you are tough. You are
tough and stupid.

Thoughts on
Practical Scaling:

records: Post on our training forum. How do you know how much to lift is you
can’t remember what you lifted last time?

Listen to
your body: If you didn’t sleep, been traveling for the last week on business,
or have had some other conflicts where you are not at your peak, scale. It is a
fine line between scaling and ****ing out. Error on the side of common sense.

increases in loading: If you scaled Fran with just the bar and the next time
you are setting up with #95, maybe you should consider a smaller increase.
Don’t just consider it, be sensible.


Our goal is
to produce the most broadly capable people we can. Your broad capabilities are
as individual as you are. Striving to be able to handle many different
settings, situations and loads is part of training our clients to reach as much
of their potential as they can. Systematic exposure to diverse training
situations help people become resilient and capable. Scaling allows people to
adapt over time rather through cataclysm. Consistent small adaptations lead to
strong species; cataclysm leads to extinction (or at least many fewer species). 

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