Published September 30, 2014

Welome to CrossFit! The workout today is Diane.  21-15-9 Deadlifts & HSPU.
It is day 1 after your fundamentals, or on ramp class.  You just learned how to air squat and how to set up for a dead lift.  Your affiliate loads up a training bar for you, and sets up 3 abmats against a wall.  3, 2, 1.. GO!  You start your dead lifts at 95#lbs.  You realize by rep 12 you’re gassed and your trainer keeps yelling for you to keep going, that its only mental, and to push yourself.  You get to the handstand pushups.  You’re able to kick up to a wall and you start to do what looks like inverted shoulder shrugs to 3 abmats.  You’re the last to finish at 22:13.  You start to feel some discomfort in your shoulders and lower back.  Your trainer high fives you and says you rocked it.  Day 1 comes to a close.
Did you really rock it?  Did you really get the benefit of the workout?  Or did you just ingrain improper mechanics?  Did you potentially set yourself up to hit a wall later on in your CrossFit journey?
Some will argue and say that even sub par programming, or sub par coaching will still yield effective results. I will agree with that.  Doing anything is better than doing nothing.
However doing anything, and doing it right, is better than doing nothing, or better than doing it wrong.  I will try to explain what scaling appropriately is, and why as a trainer if someone walks in wanting to try CrossFit you should have the knowledge to scale any workout for anyone who walks through that door, and also preserve the workouts intended stimulus.

First lets break down what scaling effectively means.  This information is taken from the CrossFit Level 2 Guide.
“Scaling workouts appropriately for one;s clients is an essential consideration to best increase their fitness.  This is not just a concept for beginner clients; an effective trainer progresses the most athletes towards completing workouts as prescribed across months and years.”
Scaling appropriately means you can increase someone’s fitness and not blunt it.  An effective trainer will progress most athletes to completing workouts as prescribed across months and years, meaning its not something quick.  I read an article recently that if CrossFitters viewed CrossFit as more of a practice they would treat it with more focus and find joy.  I quote the article,“Approach CrossFit as a practice, with no fixed endpoint. When you are reconciled to this fact, you will be able to pursue it with joy.” (

How do we scale appropriately then?  Let’s go back into the Level 2 Guide.
“To scale effectively, a trainer needs to review the original workout for its intended stimulus to include:
1. Movement Functions
2. Loading Parameters
3. Timeframe
4. Volume of Repetitions
This doe not have to be a formal process, but it helps identify appropriate scaling options”
Beautifully put CrossFit HQ.
As my friend Rick Burro, owner of CrossFit Marlboro, put it when I posted about programming on my Facebook, ‘”programming is an art – there is no manual to follow. You need to know your athletes, keep it simple, keep it fun and not overthink things. Why are you doing what you are doing? Answer that and its hard to go wrong.”

Further down the Level 2 Guide says,
“For beginners…a trainer needs to be primarily concerned with their adherence to the proper points of performance of the movements throughout the full range of motion.  Increasing the difficulty (via movements or volume) and/or pushing for greater intensity (via speed or load) are secondary to developing movement proficiency and new skill development.”
I will leave it at that, there is a lot more after this paragraph but this is golden.  I will break it down for you as easy as possible
Adhere to proper points of performance throughout the FULL RANGE OF MOTION.  There you have it, CrossFit expects that if someone is new, they  must adhere to full range of motion.  Increasing difficulty and intensity via movements, volume, speed or load are SECONDARY to developing movement proficiency.
Lets go back to the first example.  That trainer should have scaled the workout to make sure that the athlete could properly move through the dead lift as close to the standard as possible.  Scaling with an empty bar, or PVC, stacked on plates.  Handstand pushups would have been scaled to regular pushups, if the client did not have regular pushups, scale by increasing the angle of the pushup, (to plates, a box, bench)  If the athlete seemed like 21-15-9 would take longer than 15-20 minutes scale the the volume of the repetitions, 15-12-9.  There is a lot of different ways to have the athlete progress and hit the proper points of performance.  I would not have recommended a box handstand pushup, if the pushing mechanics in the pushup were not present.  Inverting a client adds load and intensity where there proper movement is yet not present.

As trainers we have a beautiful job and that is to bring fitness, and long lasting fitness to our clients. We need to realize that CrossFit is a practice.  There is a difference between desire and intent of practicing.  This quote was in the article I mentioned earlier about CrossFit being a practice.  It goes for the athlete as well as the coach.  “Desire is certainly focused and determined, but it is impatient and aware only of its own existence, and seeks its own satisfaction as quickly and cheaply as possible. Practice seeks mastery, where desire seeks domination.”

As trainers we need to realize that this is a journey and motor control, neurological adaptations, repetition take time.  There should be no rush to advance people.  The goal is to create health and wellness for a long time.  Scale people appropriately, they will love you for it.  Have integrity, do all the right things for all the right people regardless.

“If you insist on basics, really insist on them, your clients will immediately recognize that you are a master trainer. They will not be bored; they will be awed. I promise this. They will quickly come to recognize the potency of fundamentals. They will also advance in every measurable way past those not blessed to have a teacher so grounded and committed to basics.” – Greg Glassman

We have the best tools on the planet to make people better.  We need to adhere to that, it will make us and our members great.  It will allow whoever walks through that door to jump right into a class for the first time and feel like they got a workout.  Trial classes are great, Fundamentals are necessary, but have the skill and expertise to be able to accommodate everyone and you will see quickly how people will recognize you and admire you for it.

As for all my Facebook requests to scale workouts.
Joe Coates you wanted me to scale “Murph”  Here are a couple different ways.
Depending on the athlete and how new they are.  What is the intent of Hero WOD’s?  They are meant to reflect on the life of the Hero, and when the going gets tough to reflect more so and push through.  Someone new to CrossFit may not benefit so early on with mental toughness, therefore the intent of this workout for the deconditioned or new athlete would be to give them a great workout.  I would scale everything.  If they are new, I would like them to hit this workout hard, and at high intensity which is relative to them.  Do they have proper mechanics in the squat, pull up, push up?  Can they run without emptying the tank right away?
Scaled Murph could look like this:
Run 400m
5 or 6 rounds
5 Pullups (scaled to Ring Rows)
10 Pushups (Box Pushups)
15 Air Squats (Air Suqats to a medball)
then Run 400m
That might take the athlete 30-40 minutes, could be longer.  I would also enforce a time cap.  The goal for the new athlete is not to tire them out or fatigue them to the point they will not come back for a week.  This is why warm ups, and getting to know new athletes in important.  It will show me how to scale them.  In a proper warmup I could see how they move and how fast they move, how frustrated they get.  Always remember if they are not having fun, or they are getting Frustrated it usually will deter them from coming back.  There are more way to scale that workout, but thats a basic scaling for them.

Jill, for Clovis I would rarely program that as a hero wod due to its long nature.  I would only recommend that for people who really want to try pushing themselves and have a broad capacity already.  For a new person if that happened to be programmed I would most likely change the workout for them to give them a stimulus that makes more sense.  It would include Running burpees and pull-ups, just not in that volume.

Rich as for Backward Rolls, Im assuming you meant backwards roll to support.
If that were the skill or within a workout there are two different approaches.  For the newer athlete I would have them go back to the basics of the roll.  Hollow Rocks, or Candlestick Rolls, practicing those and adhering to proper mechanics, not breaking at the hip, etc.  It could be broken down 10 hollow rocks, 10 pushups, 2-3 rounds not for time, allowing proper focus on the mechanics.  If it were in a workout, just work on the hollow rocks.  For a more advanced athlete who has hollow rocks, and can support themselves on a pull up bar, I would then in


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