To scale or not to scale

to scale or not to scale crossfit open

One of the most common questions people that are doing the CrossFit Open have is this: Do I scale? Ah, to scale or not to scale, that is the question.

If you are not familiar with the CrossFit Open it’s a world wide fitness competition where hundreds of thousands of people from across the world compete for the best score or time in workouts that aren’t known until Thursday of each week. The event lasts 5 weeks and athletes have from Thursday at 8 pm EST till Monday at 8 pm EST to complete the workout at a Crossfit gym or videotape the workout and submit their score and video to CrossFit HQ.

It’s really a lot of fun for those of us that are competitive.

I am doing it this year for the 3rd time and I compete in the masters 40-44 age group. I am in the top 600 out of over 20,000 people worldwide. I am happy with my results so far.

Rick Copley CrossFit Open 2016

Last year CrossFit created a “scaled” division. Basically it’s the same workout at the “Rx” or “as prescribed” division but the workout is easier and more manageable for people that may have strength, mobility, or perhaps injury issues. The scaled division is also perfect for someone that is new and hasn’t developed some of the more advanced skills.

For many it’s a clear choice. The workout gets announced and you know you can’t do one or more of the movements safely so you do the scaled workout.

So how does this work for the competition side?

Basically, if you do it scaled then you are placed behind EVERYONE that does at least one rep of the Rx workout.

If there are 20,000 people and 15,000 do the Rx (at least 1 repetition) then the best you can finish if you do scaled is 15,001.

While it’s a clear choice for many for many more the choice isn’t as clear.

The questions begs to be answered: Is it better to do just one rep of the Rx workout then to do the scaled division?

Honestly, as a coach and as an athlete, I didn’t have a definitive answer till yesterday and now it is crystal clear.

As long as safety isn’t an issue ALWAYS do the Rx. ALWAYS. 

Do your best

Why sign up for the CrossFit Open? You don’t sign up to get a good workout. You sign up to do your best and to see where you stack up. When you compete you need to fight for every place and point you can. That’s why it’s a competition.

You compete not to win but to finish as high as you possibly can. This brings out your best.

I want to share with you why this is now that way I feel.

CLICK HERE to download your FREE audio training: “The Fitness Mindset”

We have 9 athletes at our gym doing the Open this year.

CrossFit Open No Limits Fitness

4 of the 9 probably could have done scaled because the movements and weights were a little more than they are comfortable doing.

The first part of the workout was a 25 foot lunge walk with a barbell overhead. It was 95 pounds for men and 65 pounds for the ladies.

Melanie made an attempt with the bar overhead and it just wasn’t safe to try to get her to go the 5 feet which meant she would get 1 point. She made the correct decision and did the scaled division. The safety of the athlete is always first.

Tom is 53 with some knee issues. He had NEVER done lunges with any weight overhead. He wasn’t super proficient at it but he warmed up and he took a couple of steps. He made the choice to do the workout Rx. While his score wasn’t one of the best he ended the workout in the top half of his age group and accomplished something he had never done before. He lunge walked with 95 pounds over his head 25 feet not once, not twice but three times. Boom.

His decision to do Rx helped him to become better and do something he didn’t know he could do. This is why we compete. It brings out our best. 

After the lunge walk of 25 feet the athletes had to do 8 burpees. Burpees, while hard, aren’t a problem for most people. Then came another lunge walk of 25 feet. After the two lunges walks and burpees next came 8 chest to bar pull-ups. Regular pull-up are super hard. Chest to bar pull-ups are even harder. To execute one you need to bring your chest all the way up to and touch the pull-up bar. Not. Easy.

Gidget, as of 2 days before the workout was released, had NEVER done a chest to bar pull up. She did her first one the day before she was going to try the workout. Despite this deficiency she made the choice to do the Rx workout. Gidget completed the first round of 8…then got back to the pull-up bar and completed another round of 8…. and yes, she got back a third time and completed a THIRD ROUND of 8 chest to bar pull-ups.

The CrossFit Open brought out the best in Gidget. It made her better. She accomplished what she didn’t think she could accomplish.

Something very similar happened to Heather.

The day before the Open started Heather tried for an hour to do a chest to bar pull-up. She wasn’t successful so she did the scaled version of the workout.

On the last day that she could do the workout Heather decided to redo the workout but do the Rx version. When she got the pull-up bar she tried and tried but wasn’t having success. I told her to turn her hands around and voila, her chest touched the bar. She completed the entire round of 8 and even got back to the bar and completed ANOTHER round of 8.

Tom, Gidget and Heather would still be wondering, “what if…” if they hadn’t gone the Rx route.

Because they stepped to the plate and swung the back the each got a hit.

Always go for it if you have the chance. Win or lose, as long as you did your best you are a winner at the end of the day.


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