Scaling - A Whole Can of Worms
Usually, when you see an article about scaling, it’s encouraging athletes to scale movements to meet time domains and maintain intensity. But you guys know I’m not “usual,” so this article is headed in a different direction. Today we will be discussing stepping away from scaled movements and toward the “RX” zone.
I would estimate our gym is 60/40% scaled to RX. Meaning, we have more scaled athletes than we have RX athletes. Now this is fabulous because it means you are beginners learning the correct way to move and you are slowly but steadily working toward better health and fitness. I love this metamorphosis. I love watching beginners develop into skilled athletes.
Development is the word I want to concentrate on for this article. What is development?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines development as, “the process in which someone or something grows or changes and becomes more advanced.”
As you begin your CrossFit journey, the first couple months is spent learning the terminology, the movements, and how the general class flows. You become aware of the movements you need to scale and you learn your limits with weights, cardio, and gymnastics.
As you progress in the following months, you become proficient with those scaled movements and your specific weights. You start to move without thinking so much about technique, because your body has been trained to move in the correct way. You start to think more about strategy, how are you going to break up your reps to get the best time or the most rounds/reps. You start moving smoothly with fewer rest breaks. You begin to finish the WODs first, and are able to watch everyone else fight for those last reps.
And now, it’s time to change.
You can not develop as an athlete and never change.
You can’t stay at 45# on the barbell and do knees to chest for a sub every workout AND develop.
You can’t always be comfortable and develop.
You can’t set up camp in the beginners zone and develop.
If you don’t feel a little apprehension before you start the workout, if your weight doesn’t scare you just a little bit, you know it’s time to change things up.
It’s time to take a step toward “RX.”
I’m not saying to take a running jump off a cliff, I’m saying a step.
This is my main point in writing this article.
Many of our members have become comfortable at their current level, and are content to sit down and stay a while.
This will not advance your development!
We have to take the step toward “RX.”
Now, this means a couple things are going to happen…
#1. You will not be comfortable in your workout.
When you add ten pounds to your bar, it is going to feel heavier. It is going to be heavier. This is going to wind you. It is going to, perhaps, slow you down a bit. You may not be able to do all ten reps unbroken, like you could before. You may have to do two sets of five.
What bothers me about this, is when I set people up with a bit more weight on the barbell, or a more difficult sub for a gymnastics movement, they will do it the first round, and then revert back to the old weight and/or sub in the following round.
They are uncomfortable.
They are winded.
They give up on development!!!
It’s supposed to be hard. You are supposed to feel uncomfortable.
That is how you develop!
#2. You may need to scale reps.
This is tough for some people and a welcome relief to others. If you are learning a new gymnastics movement, let’s just go with toes to bar. You were really good at knees to elbow, and it’s time to take that step. The workout calls for 15 reps. Depending on your level of skill, I may ask you to do anywhere from 7-10 reps instead. Some people may need to start with attempts, some need to work on consistently making contact with their feet to the bar.
Is this a bad thing? Are you not doing all the work? Are you cheating?
NO! You are developing!!
Sometimes, in order to develop, you have to take a step back, slow down, develop, then move forward.
#3. You won’t always finish first.
I think this is the biggest obstacle for some people, especially if you are a bit competitive.
Advancing and developing movements may slow you down…AT FIRST.
Yes, you might not finish first. You will probably finish in the middle of the pack. (You shouldn’t finish too far behind the pack, or we didn’t scale appropriately.)
Does that mean you aren’t developing? Are you not working as hard as before?
NO, silly. It means that your are smart. You are taking the time today to advance your skill level. You are slowing down as your body adjusts to a different strain or load or movement. It means you are DEVELOPING!
I love beginner CrossFitters, I love scaled CrossFitters, I love RX CrossFitters. I just love ALL CrossFitters.
If I approach you, and suggest a higher weight on your barbell, or a more advanced sub on your gymnastics movements, please understand that it is for your development. I am constantly watching your movements, your times, your overall performance in the gym. I am not going to suggest something to you that I am not completely sure you can complete.
Will you always like my suggestions?
Am I open to hearing your concerns or apprehensions?
Am I always in your corner desperately wanting you to advance and develop into an awesome athlete?
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Is your core weak?
We have been participating in the Core Challenge this month, and as I have been researching about core strength, I have discovered some interesting facts related to the topic.
Would you care to join me in a little experiment?
Can you stand up from a seated position without using your arms?
Let’s start with getting up to a standing position from a kitchen chair?
Try getting up from the sofa without using them.
How about something harder?
Can you get out of bed with out using your arm?
Can you roll over in bed without the use of your arms?
Congratulations if you passed the assessment!
Did anyone have to use your hands to help push yourself to standing?
If so, this is an indication that your core muscles are not bracing (your glutes may be weak as well) and you do not have adequate core strength.
Next, let’s imagine we won a trip to Disney World!! After many hours at the happiest place on earth, you begin to notice some discomfort in your lower back.
Your core muscles are are always on the job. They never get a vacation, especially not in Disney World. The core is actively supporting your spine and is generating core to extremity power with every single movement. If your core muscles are not strong, your spine is forced to pick up the slack and has the potential to become overworked, which results in muscular strain and tension in the lower back.
Here’s one that pertains to us directly while we workout. Have you ever been in a workout and realized you have been holding your breath? Guess what is at fault? That’s right, a weak core.
The diaphragm is located deep inside your core and is your main breathing muscle. If the core does not possess the stability to engage during exercise, the diaphragm will contract to pick up the slack of a weak core. This can make it even more tricky to get through a difficult workout.
Another important job of the core, is to resist movement and stabilize, so your shoulders and hips can move around it. The obliques in particular, which are located on the sides of your trunk, should be strong enough to maintain control of your torso. If the obliques are weak, the pelvis will drop to the side, which results in a rocking motion. That sway is sometimes interpreted as a “sexy” walk, but we know the real reason, it’s the result of a weak core.
Posture is an obvious sign that your core is weak. Take an assessment of your body right now, as you read this article. Are your shoulders rounded forward? Is you head extended out and forward? Does your lower back have it’s natural curve? A strong core is crucial in creating good posture.
As you can see, the core is on the job 24/7! With every move you make, the core is called into action. My intension with this article, is to shine a light on a few reasons why the core is so important and to hopefully encourage you to actively work to strengthen it.
What is more important, looking strong or being strong?
This month @ CFIR, we are doing a Core Challenge.
What exactly is the core?
The core is made up of all the muscles in the abdomen, hips, lower back and pelvis.
These muscles wrap around and are deep within your body.
You could think of the core muscles like a big, strong hug, completely enveloping your trunk.
If you take away your head, arms, and legs, all that is left is your trunk.
This is the core.
I heard a few members chatting the other day about the core challenge. One member is participating in the challenge and the other isn’t.
They were joking around about if his 6-pack had arrived yet.
One guy says, he wasn’t doing the challenge because, “abs are made in the kitchen,” which is true.
You can have a six pack covered in abdominal fat and doing a few ab exercises will not eliminate that belly fat.
It takes aerobic activity to burn abdominal fat. Aerobic activity, together with a healthy diet, is how the illusive “6-pack” is developed.
But our pursuit here, developing a strong core, far surpasses a superficial 6 pack. We are striving for something more.
Why, exactly, are we doing a Core Challenge?
The answer is: to make your life safer, more comfortable, help eliminate pain, and to help you crush your workouts.
Ddaily activities become easier if you have core muscles working together to form a strong, stable midline.
Any activity, ranging from specific sport to everyday life activities, will become easier with a strong core.
We can all use a strong core when it comes to heavy lifting. Maybe you are moving furniture, lifting heavy boxes, or bringing in the groceries.
Maybe you are a weekend tennis player or golfer. Agility and strength are only improved by strong core muscles.
What are the benefits of a strong core?
Balance and stability - In CrossFit, we use the term, “core to extremity movement.”
This simply means that movement originates in the core, or from the trunk. Your trunk can be stable (strong) or unstable (weak). You ideally want all movement to be generated from a strong, stable core. This will create improved balance, which is crucial in everyday life in order to complete daily activities. Standing, walking, and sitting are all things we may take for granted, but are highly dependent on balance and stability. Chores around the house, lifting, and bending are also things we do that rely on balance and stability.
Decreased Risk of Injury - Without balance and stability, we are more likely to sustain injury. Athletes will sometimes wear belts around the waist if they are squatting heavy barbells for a bit of extra stability. If we develop our core, we will have the advantage of a built in weight belt around our trunk, which will safeguard us from injuries as we go about our daily lives.
Better Posture - For many, our day jobs include sitting at a desk or in front of a computer. Poor posture can often lead to an achy lower back. Posture is improved with strong core muscles. When correctly engaged, proper posture can alleviate fatigue, stress, strain, and pain in the lower back. Forward head tilt, rounded shoulders, and so many other issues could be resolved through strengthening and developing the core.
Better workouts! - Speed, strength, agility, balance, coordination, accuracy, cardio-vascular endurance, power, endurance, and flexibility are the ten general characteristics of CrossFit. We train, develop, and improve some or all of these characteristics each time we come to class and complete a workout. A strong, developed core is only going to help us along, as we strive to become physically healthy, reach our goals, and develop our mental and emotional strength.
Some years ago, I stepped away from figure competitions because they focused on aesthetics instead of internal health and fitness. I developed some bad habits and thought processes by trying to attain a particular physic.
I want to live a long life full of activity and movement. I want to experience new things, try new sports, and be as independent as possible for as long as possible.
I don’t want to look like an athlete, I want to BE an athlete.
And athletes have strong cores.
Having a pretty little six pack is not the end goal with the Core Challenge. Developing our bodies into a definitive state of physical health is always the goal behind any challenge we host at CFIR.