The misconception of scaling workouts recently seems to have come to an all-time high. Scaling is part of the beauty of our training. It allows our workouts and programmeming to be tailored to anyone’s ability no matter what experience, skill or fitness level. Ultimately if you get hurt striving to perform a movement than has been prescribed, or lift the suggested loading, you are not enhancing your fitness level. You are simply being irresponsible.
It is the coaches job to advise, prescribe and optimise movement patterns in a controlled setting first before we then add load, intensity, or complexity of skills. We all know that it is not smart to add strength to dysfunction, or it is bound inefficiency or possibly even injury. Scaling workouts is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not for the weak and the untrained and does not mean your workout was less worthy because you scaled.
If we take a look at the bigger picture, we are all constantly scaling in some way or another. More weight and or reps can always be added to a workout. Let’s look at the workout “Elizabeth” for example. The prescribed workout is 21-15-9 cleans and ring dips. The suggested loading is 62.5kg for the males and 42.5kg for the females. We could make this workout 100kg for males and 70kg for women, but this would sacrifice intensity and mechanics. We would see significantly slower times, and most likely athletes reaching technique failure at a faster speed leading to diminished work capacity. We are in a constant state of scaling. Let’s look further at a few other examples. Handstand Push-ups are a scale for Freestanding Handstand Push-ups. Muscle ups are a scale for weighted muscle ups. And double-unders are a scale for triple unders and so on…
Scaling is a means to prevent us from getting into a staring contest with the floor because the floor will win, as well as keep up safe and healthy. It is there to allow us to get the required stimulus and effect from that given workout. Just because single-unders may not be called for in a workout today, does not mean that they are not going to be programmemed tomorrow. We know a lot people who are amazing at double-unders, but have a hard time with single-unders. Does that mean that they are too fit….? Of course not.
Scaling is how you maintain quality movement with intensity and get from where you are now to where you want to be in the future. Using a lighter load, or another skill progression enables you to keep moving forward and making progress rather than staring at the bar for minutes at a time. Scaling is how you learn to move more efficiently and build confidence to eventually lift heavier loads. First learn and master the mechanics with proper techniques and consistency, and then add intensity.
Please don’t ever be ashamed of scaling and never write off your score because you scaled or didn’t do it “properly”. Be proud of where you are and happy that you are on the path towards becoming a better version of yourself.