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If You Want to be a Better Athlete, Train Like the Better Athletes at Your Gym

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Is your scaling…or lack there of holding you back? Allow me to explain myself.

In my humble opinion, good programming is more than just well rounded in terms of movements performed, but also includes a well thought out stimulus for each workout. A good coaching staff should layout that intended stimulus each day and help guide you to scaling appropriately.

While there are different thoughts on how to program for the general population of each gyms members, my approach (not uncommon) is to program to have the “Rx” version of the workout challenge the top 5% or so of athletes and have everyone scale from there to maintain the proper stimulus.

This is where things get tricky. To often a mindset of “I can, therefore I should” takes priority over proper scaling. If the board says “135# Thruster” and I can perform one, I should perform thrusters at 135# even if it means I hit the time cap or end up with half the rounds of the gyms top athletes.

Wrong! (IMHO)

If you have a coach who stresses “Rx-ing” a workout over anything else…I’d find a new coach. Why? Cause your’e not training like the athletes you are chasing, and if you keep doing so, you won’t catch them.

Let me put this into a real world example where your gyms programming follows the thought process of “Rx” programming for the top 5%. Now let’s use a simple AMRAP to illustrate the example.

AMRAP 15

10 Thrusters 115/85

10 Box Jump Overs 24”/20”

10 CTB Pull-Ups

If you have some pretty good athletes at your gym, the top results would likely be in the 7-8 round range. The top dogs are going to perform the thrusters mostly unbroken, move through the box jumps quickly, and probably do the CTB unbroken as well.

So, if a top athlete hits 8 rounds its going to equal:

80 Thrusters (9200/6800# moved)

80 Box Jumps

80 CTB

Then take an athlete who can do that thruster weight (having to break multiple times), give them the box jumps being fairly equal, but will have to break the CTB in doubles or even singles by the mid-way point of the AMRAP.

So said athlete ends up with a score of 4+22 equal to:

50 Thrusters (5750/4250# moved)

50 Box Jumps

42 CTB

That’s equal to:

  • 30 Thrusters (- 3450/2250# moved)
  • 30 Box Jumps
  • 38 CTB

Significant differences right?

Overtime (given this type of result is consistent daily), that person you are chasing on the leader board is not only beating you, but doing significantly more work than you are (weight wise and metabolically). How exactly do you plan on catching them when they are putting in more work?

Now take the same workout and scale it appropriately. Realize you should probably drop to a 95/65# thruster, stick with the box jumps, but perform regular pull-ups you can do in larger sets if not unbroken (work those CTB on the side).

In this case said athlete ends up with a score of 7+16 equal to:

80 Thrusters (7600/5200# moved)

76 Box Jumps

70 Pull-ups

Compared to the earlier example with the athlete who did not scale:


50 Thrusters (5750/4250# moved)

50 Box Jumps

42 CTB

Pretty significant differences right? On top of the numbers, the athlete who did not scale was taking significantly more rest during the WOD due to having too much weight on the bar and having to break the CTB so often. Meaning the metabolic stimulus was reduced for them.

Sure this is an over simplified example, and there are many factors that could affect the “proper” scaling of any certain WOD for any certain athlete, but hopefully you get the point.

I get it…you want to show off that new movement in a WOD, load up the bar, and get that “Rx” next to your name on the board. But are those two little letters worth it if it means compromising long term progress? I think not.