“Scaling” the Mountain of Fitness

Janice Ferguson
July 31, 2023
“Scaling” the Mountain of Fitness

By: Samantha Guthrie

Contributors: Nate Pardee & Janice Marie Ferguson

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t get a great workout because you didn’t want to scale it? We’ve all been there, so let’s dive into “scaling,” why Bandit coaches prescribe scaling, and what that may do to us mentally. The normal reaction for some of us may be that we feel inferior if we scale an exercise. There was a time I felt like this, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! I can only speak for myself and what I have gained by changing my mentality when it comes to “scaling”. I developed a greater understanding of scaling (or modifying) when I went to my Level 1 CrossFit Trainers course. This is where I first learned the roadmap to quality movement:

Mechanics ———- Consistency———Intensity

To understand this progression, athletes and coaches must have an understanding of all three concepts: mechanics, consistency, intensity.

Mechanics is in reference to how an athlete moves. There are certain movement mechanics that an athlete must have command of to perform a movement safely. Performing the movement safely, helps an athlete get the most out of the exercise, make the greatest gains and progress, and reduce risk of injury.

Consistency is in reference to the ability of an athlete to move with proper form or mechanics over multiple reps or over longer durations of time.

Intensity is moving as quickly as possible and with progressively heavier loads.

These concepts can better be explained in a pyramid diagram. Sound mechanics form the foundation of the pyramid. Then, consistency comes next. ONLY after both of those standards are met, should the intensity of any exercise be increased.

This is a hard pill to swallow for some, but it is exactly what we preach at Bandit. When you master mechanics, you can then start moving with consistency and not fall apart. It is here that you can start to really bring the loading and intensity to the movements. So, when we scale, we are either working on the mechanics or the consistency of an exercise. I will use myself for example. Last week I scaled some of my workouts…. in fact, most weeks I scale workouts. Recently, I had a workout with bar muscle ups. I knew that in order to get the intended stimulus from the workout, I couldn’t maintain the amount of bar muscle ups called for. Even though my mechanics are good, I just don’t have the “consistency” aspect. So, I scaled the reps to something I could be consistent with. This didn’t defeat me; it was actually a mental win for me. Because I was never standing still staring at a bar, or worse yet, hurting myself. If you can walk away from a workout and say to yourself, “I got fitter today”, you have won, scaling or not!

When Bandit coaches ask you to scale, it can be in a few ways. First, would be the movement itself. Have you mastered the mechanics? If not, we will scale the movement to something similar but less complex. Then we move to the consistency aspect. Is this a newly acquired skill that you are just getting the hang of? Are you consistent in this movement? If it is fairly new and you aren’t consistent, we will scale the number of reps. In some instances, we may also scale the loading.

I hope you guys can really see that through all of this, it is just your personal journey, nobody else’s. Every day you come into the gym, it is you against you and even the tiniest of victories are still victories. This is when we grow as an athlete, but more importantly as a great human being that refuses to give up!

Natalie Huschka never gets TIREd of tire flips: tire is shown to “scale”.

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