INTENSITY VS SCALING
“Mechanics, Consistency, and Intensity” – courtesy CF Verve
Let’s talk MCI. Not Mass Casualty Incident (even though after some WODs it looks like one in here, you know what I’m sayin’?), but rather Mechanics, Consistency, and Intensity. CrossFit is defined as “constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity”. Before intensity though we want to see that movements are performed mechanically sound consistently. This is why we drill movements with PVC, and after PVC comes light weight. As we are able to consistently maintain good form we can begin to add more weight or add complexity to movements, thus increasing our intensity.
This is why we scale WODs. Scaling is not meant to be a blow to anyone’s ego or to stint your progress, it is meant to do just the opposite. We scale for several reasons of which include:
1) Maintaining the stimulus of the WOD. An example of this is when we as trainers say this WOD “should take you around 10 minutes”. We provide scales to keep you in that time frame, because taking 20 minutes to do a 10 minute WOD robs you of the stimulus of the WOD. Your body was no longer trained to push hard for 10 minutes but instead trained to take several long rest breaks in between short work cycles.
2) Maintain mechanics in the movement. I would like to use an example outside of one involving a barbell. Let’s talk pull-ups. When a WOD shows up with 100 pull-ups in it and you as an athlete have been working on your kipping pull-ups but are not sure if you have a 100 in you but you are ready to give it a go. At some point in this workout you are no longer linking pull-ups but have instead gone down to singles, a single throw of your body in full effort to get your chin over the bar. For every giant kipping swing you have also begun to rip your hands. You have lost the mechanics of doing a pull-up. You have lost the mechanics of active shoulders, explosive hip extension, and a tight midline. You may get through all 100 pull-ups but you have not increased your training or capacity in doing pull-ups.
Scaling does not decrease your intensity. That is a myth perpetuated by no one who has scaled and seen the benefit of doing it correctly. Intensity is relative to your abilities. I have had people come up to me and complain when I scaled their WOD with lighter weights, “that’s too light, it’s not hard enough for me”. Can you guess my response to this athlete? “Then move faster and rest less.” You can make a workout as hard as you want to. If I scaled a weight or rep scheme and you finish in the intended time domain then I know I have scaled appropriately for you as an athlete. I know you maintained the stimulus and the mechanics, I know that you will walk away stronger. The key is for you to know that as well.
As you progress through your CrossFit career and you push yourself with new challenges, ask yourself “do I have the mechanics, do I have them consistently?” If the answer is yes then increase the weight, increase the reps, increase the rounds, and move at a level of intensity that matches your abilities. You will be stronger then yesterday.