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Scaling CrossFit Workout Part-Vl


Application in Competitions


Increasingly, fitness competitions (including the CrossFit Games Open) have “scaled” divisions. Scaled divisions draw athletes who qualify as beginner or intermediate.


Common errors when programming for competition scaled divisions are:


  1. Reducing load, time or complexity but not adjusting the total rep count or total potential rep count—If you reduce loads and/ or modify movements but keep the rep count and time domain unchanged, you are likely to increase risk for less experienced athletes. You must consider total rep exposure. Remember this when developing chippers and AMRAPs, too. Have realistic boundaries for rep count based on athlete experience. For example, we could say that a workout needs adjusting for beginners if it exceeds 30-75 cumulative reps for upper-body movements or 50-100 cumulative reps for lower-body movements. These are not recommended numbers; they are just examples of boundaries to consider when developing workouts for scaled divisions.


  1. Not considering the cumulative effect of multiple workouts over the course of the entire competition—For beginner or intermediate athletes doing normal training at an affiliate, three to five workouts a week is likely the norm. Exposing them to multiple workouts over the course of a day or weekend has a compounding effect on their ability to recover and their motor control in challenges later in the competition. As a rule, rep count and loads should decrease over the course of an event for scaled divisions. Ending competitions with a long chipper might have a margin of safety for very experienced athletes, but it’s not responsible programming for less experienced athletes.


Appendix 1: Forecasting a Workout Time or Rep Window


A helpful scaling tool to determine the intended stimulus for time domain and metabolic pathways is forecasting a completion window based on the programmed movements, reps and loads. This window is a time (for task-priority workouts) or a total round/rep count (for time-priority workouts). Armed with a completion window, the coach has a better idea of the target metabolic pathway and can scale appropriately. Below is one example of how to estimate a completion window.


Don’t get stuck questioning the estimated times for each movement; remember that an “experienced” athlete does not imply he or she is Games level. Focus on the process and apply it to your own workouts to test your accuracy.


3 rounds for time of:

10 wall-ball shots (20/14 lb.)

15 kettlebell swings (70/55 lb.)

Row 250 m


A single wall-ball repetition, scaled appropriately, will generally take 2 or 3 seconds. For an intermediate or experienced CrossFitter, little or no pause between reps is required. For a beginner, slower turnover or a brief pause to set correct body position between reps may increase time per rep. For our first round, 10 reps scaled appropriately will take roughly 20 seconds (most experienced) to upwards of 45 seconds (beginners). As fatigue sets in, we’d expect less conditioned athletes to require more time per rep or to break up the reps. We’ll factor in a 10-second break for the second and third sets for beginners.


We can now estimate that over the course of the workout, athletes will spend 1:00 (experienced) to 2:35 (beginners) on wall-ball shots. We can estimate an average of about 5 seconds (experienced) to 15 seconds (beginner) of transition time between wall-ball shots and kettlebell swings. This creates 15-45 seconds of transition time over the course of the 3-round workout. We use the same approach to estimate times for heavy kettlebell swings. We’ll use an average of 2 seconds (experienced) to 3 seconds (beginner) in Round 1 (no breaks). This equates to 30-45 seconds spent on kettlebell swings. Over the remaining 2 rounds, we’ll assume beginner athletes require breaks. A 15-second break in each of the remaining 2 sets adds 30 seconds total. We’ll apply 10-20 seconds of transition time to get strapped into the rower. This is 30-60 seconds over the course of the workout.


Finally, we’ll estimate a 45-second 250-m row for an experienced male athlete (keeping in mind time is dependent on the weight of the athlete). For a lighter, shorter beginner-level athlete, the row may take upward of 1:20. Allow for 30-60 seconds of cumulative transition time (10-20 seconds per round) from the rower back to the wall-ball station.


We add the times to get a completion window (see Table).



The completion window of 5:50-11:30 is an estimate. Some athletes may finish quicker and some may take slightly longer. But if an athlete takes less then 3 minutes or more than about 15 minutes to complete this workout, than you likely scaled reps, load or ROM incorrectly.


About the Author


Jeremy Gordon, CCFC, was the head coach and CEO of CrossFit Hampton Roads from 2008 to 2015. He began CrossFit in 2005. Jeremy coaches at CrossFit Hampton Roads and provides online coaching for competitive-level CrossFit athletes. He is the proud husband of Nicole Gordon (CrossFit Seminar Staff) and parent of two phenomenal kids. He is a 17-year veteran fighter pilot flying with the Virginia Air National Guard.


Reference: CrossFitJOURNAL