CrossFit Scaling Tips for Beginners

Shoot for the middle of the pack; you don’t need to win the workout to experience intensity.

Logan Gelbrich, CCFT November 03, 2016

When jumping into CrossFit for the first time, you’re going to be doing a great deal of scaling. While CrossFit is notoriously intense for beginners and advanced athletes, keep in mind that you don’t need to win the workout to experience intensity.

As long as you’re scaling the workout — whether it’s the volume, load or some other technical element — shoot for the middle of the bell curve. Unless you’re doing the workout as prescribed, finishing first is a guarantee that the scaling was misappropriated. Of course, challenging yourself with weight or movement complexity to the point that the class is waiting around cheering you for several minutes after everyone is done is a failure in the opposite direction.

The point of scaling, after all, is to direct the intended stimulus of the workout to everyone in the room regardless of their fitness level. While there are no bonus points for finishing the workout, the best prescription to level up your fitness game is to continue to challenge (in a relative way) what you’re capable of. In that sense, there’s no use in finding ultimate comfort in scaling to the point of whiteboard domination over your classmates.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a quality coach, he or she will help you scale by providing context. For example, you should choose a weight that you can perform two or more rounds unbroken with. If the fittest in the room are breaking up the work and you’re breezing past, your weights are (relatively) too light.

This is a juggling act that will take some refinement, but luckily you have plenty of data points for feedback in CrossFit. Finish first and you know you could have gone heavier or tried a more complex movement option. Finish last and you know you should have gone lighter or scaled the movement complexity.

Learn from your performances, especially as they relate to the students in the room. Until you’re the fittest in the room, the goal isn’t to win — it’s to progress what you’re capable of. After all, you’ll likely be flat on your back after the workout when you finish in the middle of the pack, too.


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About the Author

Logan Gelbrich, CCFT

Logan Gelbrich, CCFT

Logan Gelbrich, CCFT, is the owner of DEUCE Gym in Venice Beach, California and ORIGINAL Nutritionals, a CleanAthlete sports nutrition company. He's a four-year alum of the nationally acclaimed University of San Diego baseball program, as well as an ex-pro with the San Diego Padres as a catcher. In addition, he currently travels the world coaching the CrossFit Strongman Seminar.