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Old 06-23-2009, 07:31 PM   #1
Chris Wood
Senior Member
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 392
Default Scaling/Relative Intensity

I thought I should post this here after posing this "question" on Dutch's blog. I'm frankly surprised that there hasn't been more discussion here on Pierre's article. Then again, many folks here train similarly to what Pierre recommends. I'd love to hear folks' thoughts on scaling and "Relative Intensity."


Thank you for your blog. I’ve been following it for a while, and I’ve found it very informative. Your recent posts have been very helpful.

I wanted to see if you have read Pierre Auge’s article on scaling and “relative intensity” in this month’s Performance Menu. He provides a compelling argument for scaling to maintain intensity while building one’s strength base. In addition, I wanted to see if you’ve seen Clea Weiss’ scaling article in this month’s CFJ. Although not as “scienc-ey,” she also makes an argument for scaling and maximizing power output.

In response to Weiss’ article, Tony Budding posted these thoughts on scaling:

"Absolutely not. If that were the case, then anyone with a Fran time over 6min would have to scale if they happen to workout with Speal, Rhabdo, Bionic or any of the other beasts."

"Scaling is very simple on the one hand (reduce weights, reps, and/or rounds), but extremely complex and subtle on the other. Scaling is about effectively improving the work capacity of your clients across broad time and modal domains. Sometimes you need to keep it light and fast. Sometimes it’s immensely beneficial to go as Rx’d and slog through it even though you’re the last one done by a long time."

"Be wary, be very wary, of simple rules, mathematical formulas, and catchy phrases. Human performance is immensely complex. There is no substitute for common sense, careful experimentation, and constant refinement."

"Anything can be a good idea for a starting point, but beyond that, any single approach is limited. CrossFit’s prescription for achieving fitness is constantly varied, functional movement executed at (relatively) high intensity. For optimizing a broad, inclusive fitness, we need to vary everything, including our approaches to scaling…."

"My position comes from an immense respect for the complexity of human performance. I don’t think we can know nearly enough to get really specific. Now, if you’re training a single athlete for a specific sport (say an Oly meet), maybe you can get really refined. But if you’re looking for an adaptation in GPP, it’s way too complex."

"For example, look at the Deadlift/Doubleunder workout from the MidAtlantic Regional Qualifier that was also used for the Last Chance Online Qualifer (talking 2009 CrossFit Games qualifiers here). The workout is 3 rounds for time of 10 deadlifts (275/185) and 50 Doubleunders. I think this is an excellent workout and wouldn’t hesitate to use it in my affiliate if I had one. Obviously, many if not most affiliate clients would have to scale this workout. Addressing your question, though, what is the specific purpose of this workout? I don’t think you can say. For someone like Eric O’Connor, this is a metcon-concentration (mental focus) workout because he’s strong and super competent in the DUs. If someone is super strong in the deadlift but struggles with the DUs, this workout becomes a skill-development session. For an athlete great at DUs but relatively weak in the DL, this becomes a strength workout. And, for someone good (not great) at both DLs and DUs, this becomes a grinder incorporating strength, stamina, endurance, skills, focus, etc."

"Honestly, I think this is all damn-near ideal. It’s brilliant programming that allows nature to determine much of the impact and outcome. In fact, if you had predetermined that this workout was to be “X” and scaled everyone such that their weaknesses were accommodated, you’d have done a major disservice to them. So much of GPP is being prepared for anything. The reality is that anyone who is capable of performing all the main site WODs as Rx’d, even with “mediocre” times, is very well prepared for the general demands of life (barring the extremes of course). Most of the typical clients who come to affiliates would benefit from improvements in all ten physiological adaptations (endurance, strength, stamina, etc.). Most of the main site WODs work most (if not all) of the ten. There are obvious exceptions of course, such as the 1RM strength workouts and the 5K runs. But they are and should be a minority of GPP training."

"Another piece, which perhaps more specifically addresses the question of when to slog through, is to look at your clients individually and see what they need. When I was one of the regular trainers at CrossFit Santa Cruz back in the day, I would often force our regular women to scale heavier than they wanted. Why? Because they were comfortable going lighter and faster (and they were already getting plenty of that). Their movements were sufficiently stable that they could handle going a bit heavier. And, their aversion to going heavier was an impediment to their overall fitness. Amy Tompkins above is an example of the other direction. She likes going heavy and needs to experiment with lighter and faster."

"Bottom line is life just isn’t that simple. Formulas and overly specific rules, in my experience, miss out on this robustness. Again, anything can be a good starting point, but there’s no substitute for the watchful eye of a caring and discriminating trainer."

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you balance scaling, intensity/power output, and when it’s advantageous to “slog through” WODs as Rx’d.
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