Scaling Workouts

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Our 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.

The 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 profound.

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:

Keep 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.

Small 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.

Other Thoughts

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).