Trainer’s Talk – A How To Guide for Scaling WODs

So you come into class and the WOD is a 3 round triplet of 10 Deadlifts at 315 lbs, 10 handstand push ups and 10 box jumps at 30”. You know that you have done a max deadlift at 335, a max effort set of 5 handstand push ups and your highest box jump is 36”. You could conceivably do the WOD before the day ends, possibly even before the class is over but would this be a smart approach? The chances are unlikely unless you just cant get enough jostling around of your cervical vertebrae, the sound of snapping ligaments in your lumbar spine and a stream your life force leaking out of the miniature craters you have decorated your shins with.

As fun and exciting as that sounds, here are some guidelines for a more practical approach and useful guide to scaling.

For conditioning WOD’s, power output is key, this means your total power output over the course of a workout or the equation: power = work / time. For instance anyone who can run 100 meters, can run a 5 k but if it takes you a years worth of running 13.7 meters a day, your power output is exceptionally minimal. That is an exaggeration but it illustrates the idea nicely. A more relative example might be the one above where the weight is ~95% of the person’s max, which is typically doable for 2 reps in a max effort setting. Max effort lifts, either in weight or reps, take a long time to recover from, sometimes the duration of an entire conditioning workout, making this a poor choice to use for conditioning. Here are some general percentages and rep ranges to use for different workouts. Use a lower percentage in the range for higher reps and higher percentage for lower reps.

1.    For high rep workouts. Example: Several rounds of 20+ reps or a single time through of 40+ reps.
a.    Use a weight between 40-50% of your max or a weight you think you could do 30+ times in a set if you had to.
b.    If modifying the weight is not an option, ie. Bodyweight movements, modify the movement to allow you do the appropriate amount of reps in a sub maximal set.
2.    For moderate rep workouts with multiple rounds of 10-20 reps of a movement or a single set of ~40 reps.
a.    Use a weight or movement that you could probably do 20-30 times in a single set if you had to, about 50-60% of your max.
3.    For Low-moderate rep workouts with multiple rounds of 5-10 reps or a single all out set of 20-30 reps and moderate rep EMOMs (5-10 reps per minute).
a.    Use a resistance/movement that you could do 10-20 times in a set or about 60-75% of your max.
4.    For low rep conditioning workouts and low rep EMOMs 1-5 Reps.
a.    Use a heavier weight, 80-90% of your max or a weight you could do 5-10 times.

Hopefully that takes some of the confusion out of scaling workouts and allows you to get the most out of your training. Remember you are not fit if you are injured and unless your fitness is your livelihood or your life depends on it there is no need to rush it, it will come.

-C. Stricker 

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