Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Scaling Up a CrossFit Workout - part II

In the first part of this series, "Scaling Up in a CrossFit Workout - part I" (I know, original titles) I talked about situations where you or a client might want to scale up and some general expectations about that person's performance. Here, we're going to dive into the "how to's" of scaling up. Just as there are an infinite number of ways to scale down a workout, there are also an infinite number of combinations for scaling up. Let's take a look.

1. Increase Resistance/Weight - This can be an increase of weight on equipment (think loading the bar with more weight) or it can mean increasing body weight (think wearing a weight vest) or it can mean using bands creatively to create resistance at certain parts of an exercise. If I take a beginner and teach them the clean, I am going to give them very light weight to focus on form. At the opposite end, once that form is dialed in, we are going to increase that weight sufficiently to cause challenge and adaptation from that challenge. The increase in weight should not change the range of motion or performance of the actual movement outside of the scope of the workout.

2. Increase Repetitions - The first thing that comes to mind when scaling up on "Angie" is to wear a weight vest. But what about doing "Angie x 1.5"? Increasing the reps preserves the same motions, but may create a more level playing field for finishing times. It also could help prepare athletes to go out of their comfort zone if they've never done over 100 pull ups, push ups, etc. 

3. Increase Difficulty of the Stimulus  - By using different equipment, you can keep the weight/reps/and range of motion the same, but increase the difficulty of the movement. Examples: do ring push ups instead of regular; thick bar deadlifts instead of regular; run uphill for the same distance, etc. Getting out of your comfort zone will better prepare you for future battles.

4. Increase Range of Motion of the Stimulus - this is different than #3 in that the distance traveled by an athlete will vary, while maintaining use of the same basic set of muscle groups. For example, have your athlete do strict or chest to bar pull ups instead of kipping; instead of handstand push ups, do them on parallettes and go below parallel; instead of situps, do GHD situps.
We saw this increased range of motion scale play out in the 2011 CrossFit Games when one event had athletes using smaller metal plates for deadlifts. This forced the athlete to start lower to the ground than they were used to and it devastated their backs.

5. Delay the Start - this is more of a mental scale, but if you find you play the "rabbit" role (people are chasing you), why not switch it up? Let others start a few minutes ahead of you and then chase them doing the same workout.This will help keep a mental edge especially towards the end of the workout when you really need to push the limits in finishing.

- These scales are by no means the be-all-end-all of scaling up (or even down) a workout. They are merely five methods that I thought of from coaching experience and my own experiences. You can combine these methods to create a "super scale up" if you want, but be careful in knowing your limits. 

- For the most part, you're going to want to consider the stimulus and try to maintain that. Don't do completely different exercises unless there is a reason for the substitution.  

-Also, scaling up a timed workout will almost surely cause a your time suffer. This is fine if it's a few minutes, but not 20. You still need to preserve that intensity.

- Unless you're a firebreather, you probably won't be scaling up in every workout. But if you know a WOD comes up and you're particularly good at those movements, go for it. 

- Similar to folks who might scale DOWN only one part of a workout, you might want to scale UP for only a part of a workout. For instance, if a workout calls for heavy deadlifts and pull ups, but you can hang on that pull up bar all day, change them to chest to bar, but keep the deads at a Rx'd weight. 

- Be careful when working out in a group. Don't brag about scaling up or focus too much attention on it. It can come across as being a d-bag if you do.

Tyler Hass talks about different ways to scale up using rings in a CrossFit Journal article

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