How To Scale Your Crossfit Workouts

strength training workout
I’ll teach you how to scale weights to fit the desired workout stimulus

Crossfit workouts and programming may seem random at first glance but there is a desired training stimulus that we as coaches are trying to get

our athletes to achieve.

Doing a workout at “RX” is not always a must either.

I have been personal training since 2008 and got exposed to crossfit in 2010 and have spent the better half of my training career working with

people who:

  • have full time jobs
  • previously played athletics and want to find that “challenge” within themselves again
  • but also don’t want to get hurt

I’ll break down in this blog how to scale crossfit workouts to get the desired training stimulus for the workout.

Want to get stronger, faster, and have a blast training? Check out our training programs.

CrossFit Gymnastics
High skill gymnastics is a perfect example.

Why Should I Scale My Crossfit Workout

It’s all about getting the desired training stimulus.

This is one thing that I love about crossfit. All of the strategy, pacing, and scaling that goes into a workout.

For you and probably for most you don’t want to have to think about it.

You just want to have a workout plan to execute.

If you want to actually get better, see results, and avoid injury then you should have these thoughts in your head.

  • scale the exercise that fit my skill level (I’ll get into examples)
  • scale the weight that fitness my strength level
  • scale the intensity that fitness my cardiovascular system

Let me give you an example:

Crossfit Diane workout:


  • Deadlifts
  • Handstand push ups

Barbell weight:

Men – 2225

Women – 155

deadlift correct form
Approach it like this

A lot of people/athletes may look at this and think to themselves “there is no way I could do that” and I might call that a fixed mindset.

But I want to challenge you to think differently.

Not every workout has to be done as it is written.

You just want to the desired training stimulus.

What Is The Desired Training Stimulus For Crossfit Workouts

Okay I keep talking about it’s not about doing the workout “rx” but about hitting the right training stimulus.

What the heck and I talking about.

Simply put as coaches we write workouts that should:

  • be completed in a certain time domain (sprint, heavy, threshold, endurance, etc)
  • have a certain feel to them (sustainable, challenging, or absolute death…bike sprints)

And if you go into every single workout and just try and send your soul, lift as much weight as possible, and kip on a pull up bar when your body

just isn’t ready for it…

…you are going to wreck yourself.

I would even argue that 80% of your training should feel pretty manageable and 20% of your training should have that sprint feel (zone 4 & 5) and

over the years the crossfit community is beginning to realize that.

Zone 2 aerobic base building is becoming a lot more popular and that is a good thing.

I came from an endurance background so these are things we have been preaching, teaching, and coaching our athletes to do for years.

Train hard. Recover harder.

K Squared Fitness
Tested, tried and true programming.

How To Scale CrossFit Gymnastics Workouts

Play the long game.

And build strength first.

Strength is the price of admission when it comes to building a workout capacity for any high level skills.

Don’t get caught up in trying to do the work fast just to get it over with.

Play the long games means:

  • Choose an exercise (skill) that allows you to build your strength endurance FIRST (think something you can do 15-20 times)

Do that for several weeks.

  • Choose an exercise (skill) that is slightly harder and challenges your strength a little bit more (think something you can do 12-15 times)

By doing this you are reverse engineering a skill and building your work capacity.

Let’s take something extreme like a ring muscle up.

muscle up progression
Reverse engineer it.

You aren’t going to get better or be able to do a ring muscle up just by trying over and over.


Reverse engineer EVERYTHING and week after week, gradually build up strength and technique.

Check out how we teach athletes to scale workouts:

This is how we deliver high level coaching at a fraction of the cost of personal training.

Pretty awesome right?

You can sign up for a free trial by clicking here (during your first week we will get on a call too so I can help set you up for success)

How To Scale CrossFit Strength Workouts (Barbell Met Cons)

Within crossfit workouts there is always an “rx” or prescribed workout that is recommended which is great.

But that’s not the holy grail.

It’s the goal.

Remember it’s about getting the desired training stimulus.

For example if you were to do a workout that called for:

30 Snatches For Time (Isabel)

Barbell weight:

Men – 135 lbs

Women – 95 lbs

But your max snatch is 155…

you will not get the desired training stimulus.

You would be doing that entire workout at 87% of your 1RM and that’s not wise.

So here are some suggestions for when you are scaling your crossfit workouts:

If The Workout Has 6 Reps Or Fewer:

I would recommend using a weight that is 80-85% of your 1 rep max and since this is a heavier percentage drop your barbell after each rep and do

not try and be a hero and touch and go unless you are a total animal (but still…be careful)

crossfit workouts

If The Workout Has 7-12 Reps

I would recommend using a weight that is 75-80% of

your one rep max and here now you can begin to sync a

few reps together.

Maybe trying to get clusters of three to four reps at a


When you are faced with moderate percentages like this

have a plan with your rest breaks:

  • look at the clock and make yourself go in 10,15,20 seconds
  • maybe you take 3,5,8 breathes and your back on it

Regardless stay focused and get back on the barbell

If The Workout Has 12+ Reps

I would recommend using 70% or less or your 1RM and now we challenging yourself to work on higher rep ranges.

Within our training programs we provide three different weight options.

Take a look:

Three different weight options to serve as a guide

That’s an inside look to one of our workouts within our programming.

We provide our athletes with different weight recommendations so that can choose a weight that best suits them right now.

How To Scale Crossfit Met Cons

This one is tough to speak broadly about this because this is so specific to each athlete but I’ll do my best.

We talked earlier about how different workouts should have different time domains:

  • easy pace
  • obtainable
  • challenging
  • threshold
  • sprint

Just to name a few right?

Even more specific would be a workout that:

  • is less than 2 minutes
  • between 4-8 minutes
  • 8-12 minutes
  • 20+ minutes
  • etc

When we write workouts we have those things in mind.

At least the good coaches do.

And my role as a coach is to set you up for success when approaching a workout so you don’t do what most people do

…crash and burn.

crossfit workouts
Do you know how a workout should feel?

We talked briefly about the importance of building your aerobic capacity and increasing your “work capacity” but that’s an entire different


If you want to improve your engine, that’s one of the many programs that’s offered within our platform.

Okay, okay so how do you “scale” to get the right intensity of a met con…

…well let me give you an example:

5 Rounds For Time:

  • Run x 400 meters
  • 10 deadlifts (moderate weight)
  • 20 x push ups

A workout like this is written with this in mind:

  • reps and distance are challenging but manageable enough to where you should not have to stop

So I would recommend you to adjust the entire workout IF needed to where you could get that desired stimulus.

(this all is about where you are in your fitness journey of course)

You might:

  • change the run to biking or rowing if you are not good at running
  • you might run not as far (a distance that challenges you but doesn’t make you walk)
  • you might adjust the weight of the barbell to allow you to walk straight up to the bar and complete all 10 reps without stopping
  • you might change the amount of reps for the pushups
  • you might do push ups on a box so you can do 20 in a row
  • you might do close grip dumbbell chest press with a weight that will allow you to do 20 reps in a row
  • or if you are an advanced athlete you might try and have negative splits on your runs each round

You see these are all the things that SHOULD take place within a workout to get the desired training stimulus.

And for most people they probably don’t think that much into it.

That’s why having a coach matters and having programming that open your eyes to that type of thinking.

As opposed to this…

…come out blazing on the first run, start the deadlifts and realize you choose to heavy of a weight and end up doing sets of 3, and then breaking

up your push ups into sets of five.

I do a DEEP dive on this same concept with the Murph Workout – the workout that requires a ton of pacing and preparation.

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I talked A LOT about getting the desired training stimulus and what that actually means.

Why playing the long game and building strength is the first thing you should be focusing on.

How tailoring workouts to meet you where you are at is extremely important to prevent injury and have fun training.

We talked in greater depth about:

  • how to scale CrossFit Gymnastics workouts
  • how to scale Crossfit strength workouts
  • how to scale Crossfit met cons

Go back and reference any of those topics that you want to educate yourself on any further and if you want to join our sweet programming then

click here to get your first week for free.

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Your coaches Kevin & Katie

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