When to Scale Workouts and Why

One of the questions I’m asked most often as a coach is, “How should I scale the workout?” It comes up almost daily with newer athletes and it has a multitude of answers. At CrossFit Bradenton, our workouts are designed to elicit a specific stimulus and to hit the three metabolic pathways (Phosphagen, Glycolytic and Oxidative) over the course of a week. This will give you a well-rounded routine and will make you more physically fit.  The Phosphagen pathway is used for short, high intensity workouts such as sprinting and one rep max lifts.  Glycolytic is used for 1-3 minutes of high intensity exercises, and the Oxidative system is used for longer workouts performed at lower intensity such as a half/full marathon.

One of the great things about CrossFit is that there are infinite ways to scale a workout so that any athlete, regardless of their fitness level, should be able to perform some version of the same workout.  Knowledgeable coaches should be able to tell you what the desired response of the workout is in order to help guide you in making your scaling choices.  Applying time caps to our workouts has helped our athletes decide what weights to use and if they should do the prescribed movements or scale them. Although an athlete may have the ability to do the prescribed weights and movements, the desired outcome of the workout may be missed if they choose that route. Our job as coaches is to help our athletes choose the proper scaling.  For example, the classic CrossFit benchmark, “Fran” is designed to test the Glycolytic energy system. Glycolysis is the breakdown of carbohydrates (such as glucose) to produce energy. Performing Fran in 10 or more minutes changes the desired response of the workout and puts it more into the Oxidative pathway at a lower in intensity.  

The vast majority of people who join a CrossFit Gym are looking to become healthier for the long haul and that’s what we strive to deliver. The constantly varied aspect of our workouts helps to achieve that goal as well as preparing you for the unknown and unknowable events that life will inevitably test us with.  By testing each energy system consistently, our metabolic efficiency improves and we will see those improvements in new personal records on our benchmark workouts.