The word scaling is almost a naughty word within the walls of The Port and taking some weight off the bar or using a progression of a movement is the last thing we want to do. All too often we look at scaling as a lesser version of the workout. A way out. Or even something we are embarrassed by. When in fact you might be preserving the intended stimulus, achieving a higher level of intensity and doing more overall work.
Let’s look at Monday’s workout for example.
When looking at overall work being accomplished, the intensity of the workout is measured by our power output. Power can be conveniently calculated by using an equation introduced to you in high school. Thank you Mr. Magnar!
Power (intensity) = Force x Distance/Time
This means that the force you apply over the distance in which you apply it is the amount of work you accomplish and the amount of work you accomplish in the time it takes to do so is your power(or intensity). So for Monday’s workout Rx, you applied 155/105# of force from the ground overhead. Since I am going to show you how the weight on the bar significantly affects intensity, the distance will remain constant because based on your height and arm length, the bar will travel the same distance no matter how heavy or light the bar is. If we were using different people, the distance would change.
If we use me for example, when I move a 155# bar from the ground to over my head, about 7′, I accomplish around 1085 units of work. (155×7=1085)
Now if you increase the weight to 185#, my work increases from 1085 to 1295 (185×7).
However, if you want to determine overall work done and the intensity in which we did it you must take all of the work accomplished and time into consideration. Since Monday’s workout was an AMRAP, our time would remain a constant, 7 minutes. But everyone accomplished a very different amount of reps in that 7 minutes and here is where we can play with numbers.
Let’s say I did that workout 4 times. Each time I did it the goal of the WOD was the same, as many clean and jerks as possible in 7 minutes. The only thing I changed was the weight on the bar.
Workout #1 – use a bar at 135#
Workout #2 – use a bar at 155#
Workout #3 – use a bar at 185#
Workout #4 – use a bar at 205#
After each workout was done, reps were recorded and from that, work and intensity can be calculated. Here are the reps per workout.
Workout #1 – 40 reps
Workout #2 – 35 reps
Workout #3 – 25 reps
Workout #4 – 20 reps
Looking at the data, you don’t see anything surprising. As the weight on the bar increases, the reps achieved in the 7 min AMRAP significantly decrease. You might look at that and say to yourself, man, 25 reps at 185#, that’s awesome. But if we plug the data into our equation, the tale they tell might actually change your perception of what actually went on.
By taking the weight on the bar (force) and multiplying it by the total reps (distance) and then dividing it by time (7 min) you create a numeric value for the intensity you achieved. Here’s what I came up with.
Workout #1 – 771
Workout #2 – 775
Workout #3 – 660
Workout #4 – 585
Looking at those final numbers, you will see that the workout done at 155# achieved the highest intensity. Meaning I did the most work in the least amount of time possible. But there are few other pieces worth noting.
1. As you get to a heavier and heavier bar, the work and intensity greatly decreased. Even though I was strong enough to move a bar weighing 205#, it didn’t accomplish the goal which was to hold a high intensity throughout the entire workout. This applies to a great deal of us. We should be striving to reach the highest level of intensity possible based on our own individual abilities. Given we are all very different when it comes to strength, endurance and stamina, all of that should be considered when we decide what weight to put on the bar.
2. A lighter bar came pretty close in terms of numbers, but 155# clean and jerk is around 50% of my 1RM. That means if you have a tough time moving 155# consistently, you could pull 20# off the bar, preserve your technique and possibly achieve a higher intensity. Getting more reps in less time while still being a lot more safe about it.
I hope this makes sense. I hope it makes you think about your approach to a workout this week. But most importantly, I hope it changes someone’s perspective on scaling. It is not a dirty word, it is actually something we all should do more often.
When I walk around and give out high fives at the end of the WOD I don’t want to hear “yeah but I did it scaled”. I want you to be proud of the choice you made with the intentions that help you make it. This is just an example of how scaling can increase your accomplished work. This also applies to change movements like pull-ups or HSPU’s and changing rep schemes to keep moving and getting a few more rounds.