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The difference between scaling and cheating.

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As someone who travels quite a bit, and who gets to see a decent cross section of training methods and styles, I feel that I have gained a little knowledge about this subject.

Standards are just that, they are standards. They are a given way in which an exercise is supposed to be performed for it to count as a full repetition. These standards are adhered to during most sporting competitions. Do the exercise movement the best, fastest or with the most weight, in the prescribed manner, and you win. If you fail to do the exercise correctly, your attempt is disqualified and you lose.

Scaling is a reduction to any of the individual components of a workout or exercise so that a person who could not do either as prescribed, can accomplish it.

Scaling is not an alteration to form but a reduction in time, weight, reps or distance.

For example, if a new athlete needed to scale a two-mile run because the distance was to great, you would shorten the distance. Proper running form would still be adhered to, but under a far lesser distance. Eventually, over time, the athlete would improve and would be able to do the prescribed distance, without scaling.

Another example would be a workout that requires 20 pull-ups. If the athlete has trouble doing a full 20, either the number of reps could be scaled to a lesser amount, or a band could be used to assist the athlete in achieving the goal. In both examples, the proper form is still applied during the exercise.

That being said, I have been annoyed lately by what is passing online for “RX” versions of exercises. This not only applies to large competitions, but smaller competitions and even individual workouts posted online. It seems that quality has taken a back seat to quantity.

Athletes or trainers that allow this to happen are doing themselves a total disservice.

The Athlete.

We all want to excel and let’s face it, more than likely if you’re involved with CrossFit, you’re somewhat competitive by nature and can’t stand to lose. You try and excel at everything you touch and nothing is going to get in your way. That sometimes means fudging your form a bit to get that last rep in.

The problem is that you’re doing yourself a disservice if your doing an exercise incorrectly just to get numbers. First, your body is not reaping all of the benefits it could be getting when you cheat. Second, by not using proper form you have a greater chance of injury. And third, you’re not fooling anyone, because eventually when you do decide to enter a competition, which actually follows standards, you’ll be given a “No Rep” and left wondering what went wrong.

The Trainer.

This shouldn’t require any explaining, but it happens. I’ve come up with four possible reasons why a coach would let form slip.

1. Because they’re too busy to notice. If they have to many athletes at one time, they can’t watch everyone.

2. Because they’re poorly trained and have no clue as to what they’re doing.

3. Because they’re afraid to correct a paying customer. They wouldn’t want to offend them and risk the chance that they might take their money elsewhere, so they let it slide.

4. Worst of all, they allow it because it’s all about the numbers. Posting large scores online makes it seem like their gym and athletes are exceptional. Their gym is the place to be if you want results.

Regardless of the case, these coaches aren’t doing anyone any favors, including themselves.

How this can come back and bite them?

Just imagine an athlete who posts huge numbers online, shows up at a competition, then bombs the thing with “No Rep” after “No Rep”, all along they’re wearing your affiliate t-shirt. Not a great advertisement about your gym or your coaching abilities.

Heck you don’t even have to imagine it, just think about the athletes in the past who’ve posted huge numbers during the Open, showed up at Regionals, then bombed with “No Reps”, talk about a negative advertisement.


So what can you do as an athlete?

Do your research; don’t automatically trust someone you’re paying for all the answers. Sorry to say, but there are trainers out there that have about as much fitness knowledge as my grandma. 

Basically, know what you’re buying, ask questions and gain knowledge. Look online to the experts, and if you’re being taught something different, ask why. In the end, it’s your health and wellbeing you’re looking after.

A knowledgeable trainer will be able to answer your questions and explain the how and whys, and if they don’t know something, they’ll find the information for you.

Once you do have the right information, it’s up to you to use it correctly. I promise, the only people who are going to be impressed by your sub 30 second Fran time is you, because lets face it, outside your box, we all know you’re full of it.

So step back, perform each rep as it’s supposed to be performed. Forget about the numbers and scale the WOD if need be, until your form is impeccable. Ask your trainer for input and correction (if your not getting it already), and learn how to take criticism. Also don’t be afraid to ask your trainer for advice, it’s what you’re paying them for.


Watch what your athletes are doing. If they can’t do a movement correctly, correct them. Scale them if you have to, and make them do it right. In the end, you’ll have a well-rounded athlete, who is less prone to injury, is able perform the movements properly and who might even make you look good some time down the road.

If someone gets offended because you’re correcting him or her and they decide to leave, who cares, show them the door. It is your name and business on the line. All it takes is some bad publicity to ruin what you’ve been working so hard to accomplish.

Of course this article is only my opinion of how I see things. Any reference made to an individual or affiliate is purely coincidental and I’m not attempting to single any one out. 

But if you feel guilty, maybe you need to reevaluate your methods.

Remember, the only one you’re cheating is yourself and it only counts if you can prove it.

See you in the hills.



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