Cues and Scaling: It’s More Than an Adjustment.
Updated: Feb 26, 2019
It’s 7:03pm on a Sunday evening. The soreness of the week is gone. You’re feeling good and ready to attack the new week. Your phones lights up. It’s a SugarWoD notification. Tomorrow’s workout is a triplet of Handstand Push Ups, Power Cleans at 100/70 kilos, and Bar Facing Burpees. You don’t want to admit it, but the wind in your sails has turned to a calm breeze. “Whelp, here’s another day of Pike Push Ups, and scaled loads,” you say to yourself, “At least I can Rx the burpees.”
Although that may be true, let’s shift the perspective a bit. But before we do, let’s discuss what "Rx" actually means. When these workouts are written, a standard measure is set against a prototype athlete. That athlete fits the mold of someone competent in all common functional movements and has a capacity of:
1RM Back Squat: 130/85kg+
1RM Deadlift: 160/120kg+
1RM Power Clean: 110/70kg+
Max Kipping Pull Ups: 15+
1 Mile Run: Sub 6:45
2k Row: Sub 8:00
That’s a lot of buy-in. Unless you've been exercising (specially the way we program) for a long time, those numbers may not be realistically where you are at. If thats true, then what we care about is your potential and your continued progress across the board to reach it.
What’s wonderful about CrossFit is that, no matter your age or current capacity, you can always find something to improve.
The perspective shift is simple. Rather than perceiving it as a workout you have to scale, think of it as a workout that will guide you closer to your potential. When you are given a scaled version of a movement, it’s a stepping stone toward the prescribed movement. Not only that, it’s your bespokeworkout. Even in a large group, we as coaches aim to give each athlete a similar experience and stimulus.
Understanding the Stimulus:
For this given workout, the Power Clean is at 100/70kg. For the “Rx” athlete, it’s near 90% of the 1RM. You could choose your 90% and get a similar intended stimulus. For the Handstand Push Up, we want to help you along your way to improved vertical pressing strength and comfort being inverted.
Still, to be considered, are your specific training goals and injury history. We want you moving safely in the direction you desire. We take pride in providing that experience for you.
Understanding the Cues:
Whether you find yourself doing the Rx or scaled version of a workout, you are all hearing, seeing, or feeling cues. These are to help you move safely, effectively, and efficiently. Even the elite olympic weightlifter and gymnasts are drilling the basics. Proper grip and stance. Tight midlines (or 'core musculature'). Knees tracking over toes. Proper movement patterns. Etc.
When given a cue, we’d love if the movement fault were corrected perfectly right away, but know that is sometimes unrealistic. It may happen with a few reps, but if it’s a limitation of range of motion or something that requires drilling, drilling, and more drilling, we understand. What’s important is that YOU understand that. Finding the proper kip swing can take hundreds of kips. Avoiding an early arm bend in an olympic lift can take thousand of intentional reps. It’s all part of the journey!
When a cue is given, make sure you understand it, then remember it each time you find yourself performing that movement. If you are intentional, I promise you’ll improve. If you know you have a bad habit, say, pike-kicking during a double-under, those power-singles are meant to teach you a higher, relaxed jump.
Fitness is a journey. The constantly varied functional movements we perform are at a “relatively” high intensity. That’s relative to you and your movement, metabolic, and neuromuscular capacity!
Outside of the competitive athletes, your journey of fitness is a low trajectory toward a distant horizon. We want you to be able to say, ten years from now, that you are healthier and more fit than you were 10 years ago. And that “prescription,” is best served with great mechanics, then consistency, then speed and load.
Stay the course! And everyday, you’ll find yourself a bit better than the day before.