Scaling Weight and Scaling Workouts

What is Scaling Weight and Scaling Workouts?

Scaling weight and scaling workouts is the idea that in certain workouts you are given a movement or weight and you find that it is too heavy, or too hard, for you to do as it is given.

For instance, you are asked to do a muscle up in a workout and you cannot do a pull-up. In this case you would need to scale down the workout, or modify it, to make sure that the workout is appropriate for you. To continue with the example, if you cannot do a pull-up but the workout is asking for muscle ups, you might scale down to ring rows or to jumping pull-ups.This is because if you were to try and attempt muscle ups during the workout you would not be able to complete them and you might injure yourself while doing them.

First, How do you properly scale weight or scale your workout?

  • ​Examine the workout, movements, and exercises and compare to your previous attempts
  • ​If you have easily completed similar setups, consider increasing weight or difficulty
  • ​If you have struggled with similar setups, reduce the weight and/or difficulty to a level that you consistently hold your technique at
  • ​If you are unsure, reduce the weight and/or difficulty
  • ​While performing the workout, constantly monitor yourself and if you feel yourself losing proper form, stop, lower the weight or difficulty
  • If at all in question, ask a coach or trusted friend to watch your movements for guidance

Quick Guide to Scaling Weight

Workout As Written (m/f)










PVC Stick













55lb/35lb DB




What is the Goal of Scaling Weight and Scaling Workouts?

The goal of scaling weight and workouts is to find the best workout for you, one that will keep your intensity high while keeping your movement and technique safe. Sometimes this actually means more weight if you happen to be a superhero, but most of the time scaling your weights or your workouts means finding an easier modification with an end goal of keeping you safe while giving you a good workout

Examples of Scaling Weight and Scaling Workouts

Some common examples of scaling weight and scaling workouts might be to lower the weight of the bar by decreasing the amount of weight you add to the bar. For weightlifting movements, scaling normally entails lowering or increasing the weight of the bar with some athletes switching a weight lifting movement to a body weight movement while others might simply be taking 5 or 10 lb off the bar weight, so that it matches more closely with your established athletic level.

For metabolic movements, like rowing or running, scaling might mean that you decrease the distance or intensity level that you attempt. normally, a  metabolic movement scale the intensity Naturally based on the athlete’s Fitness level.

For bodyweight movements, scaling normally entails the assistance of a large rubber band for the shortening of the movement. For instance, a scaled push-up from the knees as opposed to the toes, with the knees resting on the ground. a scaled double under could be double under attempts, or two single unders, for every double under called for in the workout.

Just remember, the goal of any scaled movement is to increase the strength and endurance of the muscle groups until they can perform the required movements without scaling

When Should You be Scaling Weights and Scaling Workouts?

You should always assume you will need to scale when beginning or attempting a movement for the first time. There are very few people who will be able to successfully complete most intense movements when they begin. Also, the need to scale heavily depends on the number of repetitions and the difficulty of the prescribed movement for you.

If a lift is asked for in a workout and it is 70% of your 1 rep max, and the workout calls for 50 reps of this movement., you should strongly consider scaling in order to make sure you do not injure yourself as the workout continues. While you will be able to perform the first few reps flawlessly, the later reps are likely to be much more of a struggle and that increased struggle can put yourself in danger of injuring yourself.

A good rule of thumb is to always scale a movement if at any point you feel like your form will degrade while performing the movement. So if during the first half of the workout your deadlift looks perfect, but with each additional rep they decrease in prettiness until at the end it looks like you might die, you should scale that movement from the beginning. The goal is to keep intensity high and perfect technique throughout the workout.

You can also choose to decrease the intensity of a movement mid-workout if you suddenly find out that you are performing poorly or that your technique has degraded. Sometimes it is hard to know if your technique is worsening so ask a coach or trusted friend to spot-check your form. In most cases, they will stop you from lifting poorly before you even realize you are lifting with poor form.  

The Dangers of NOT Scaling Weight or Your Workout?

So what could happen if you choose not to scale a movement that is too difficult for you? Chances are you will end up with a workout that is low intensity, slow, does not stimulate your body to respond, or leaves you injured. Your body needs and likes intensity. When it feels like it is working hard it responds by rebuilding capacity during your resting periods. if you are not working hard, your body will still respond but not at its full potential.

Alternatively, you can injure yourself pretty badly by attempting weights which you are not prepared for, or movements that you are not proficient in. With your body, it is always best to exercise caution until you know your own capacity. However, once you do know that capacity, feel free to start pushing it in measured and appropriate steps.

What is Intensity?

Intensity is the level of work that your body experiences while performing a movement. It is extremely subjective and what is intense for one person may be a walk in the park for another person. Rich Froning may not break a sweat with 10 sets of 225lb back squats while a new athlete might find it literally impossible.

Intensity is the main reason why scaling is so important; because it allows every person to find a level of work or intensity that is appropriate to their fitness level.  The reason why you want your workout scaled to your level is because the most intense, and safe, workout will result in the fastest positive results for your strength and endurance.

Simply put, when you are pushing yourself in a very intense and very safe manner you will reach your fitness goals faster.


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