Scaling workouts. Scaling resistance of exercises.

We all have heard of the term “scaling”. It is a term popularized by Crossfit. However, the science behind it is not new: to cater the workout to the specific needs of the individual.

Scaling allows people of various fitness levels to train together – which helps build an inclusive community around fitness – a huge motivating tool for people to keep up with an active lifestyle. Long gone is the mentality that a certain workout is designed exclusively for advanced athletes or beginners.


With that being said, how can scaling be APPROPRIATELY applied?

Scaling is not just about making sure that EVERY single exercise in a given circuit is doable by the athlete; it is about achieving the training objectives of the prescribed workout/ session.

Take for example this workout below:

Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes:
5 pull ups
10 push ups
15 squats

You will need to identify the key training objective of this workout. For this instance, the workout listed above would be one of muscular endurance and increasing your general cardiovascular endurance.

Therefore, if you ONLY have a max pull up score of 5-9 pull ups, some scaling needs to be done in order to achieve the training objective above. If you do the workout as prescribed, you will end up being able to do the first 2 rounds in 3-4 minutes and end up having to spend the rest of the 16 minutes only completing 3 more rounds as you need to take long breaks to complete the set of 5 pull ups.

Your heart rate will not be elevated, there will not be sufficient repetitions to induce muscular endurance adaptations due to the long periods of time spent resting on the pull ups.

Yes you did the workout as prescribed.

BUT the training did not achieve its objectives.

If you had either:

A. Scaled down the pull ups to incline pull ups/ ring rows after you aren’t able to perform pull ups anymore OR

B. Just scale 5 pull ups to 10 incline pull ups from the get go,

you will be able to elevate your HR, get in more repetitions and achieve your training objectives.


Planning of workouts calls for another episode of training talk. The tips offered below will be useful in helping you scale your workouts effectively.

Metabolic/Endurance Workouts
Do make sure that the exercises used for such workouts are of light – moderate resistance TO YOU.

Strength is relative.

Some of who can do weighted pull ups might classify bodyweight pull ups as “light – moderate” but to someone who has a PB of 3 pull ups, “light – moderate” resistance might be scaling to banded pull ups/ incline rows.

A key tip would be to ensure that you are able to perform the exercise for the entire duration while keeping ur HR up and with minimal rest.

Strength Workouts

Again, strength is relative.

As you are aiming to increase your strength, do pick a weight which is challenging enough for you to feel the effects BY the last set. 

And the weight must allow you to do the repetitions with full range of motion and proper form.

Hope you guys find this useful!

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a personal message on my blog, Facebook or Instagram!

Train Hard!!