Scaled CrossFit: Why Bob sucks (and Sally doesn’t)

Written By Ben  |  CrossFit 

Scale Reps, not ROM. 

Meet Bob and Sally: 

scaled crossfit

They both really want to learn double unders

Here’s a picture of Bob the last time he tried doing a scaled WOD with double unders: 

crossFit weaknesses

Actual picture of Bob. 

Bob and Sally both get to the gym at the same time, about three minutes late for the 5:30pm class at CrossFit® McAwesome. 

As the coach issues their lateness burpee penalties, he starts to talk about the programming for the day:

Mmmkayy class. Today we have a spicy little metcon. 5 rounds for time of 20 thrusters, 30 kettlebell swings, and 40 double unders. The weight for Rx is 95/65 on the thrusters, and 53/35 on the swings – American, not Russian. Because I said so.

crossfit and scaling

As Bob wraps up his final penalty burpee, he kicks himself for forgetting to check the programming. “I should have taken a rest day! Double unders again? I hate whipping myself, and I already hate this scaled workout,” he mutters under his breath.

Sally, like Bob, isn’t very good at double unders. She still has nightmares from CrossFit Open WOD 19.2. However, despite her whip marks and frequent pee breaks, she wasn’t going to let double unders ruin her day. She thought to herself, “Today will be different.”

Scaling DU’s in workouts doesn’t have to mean single unders

Their coach went on to explain a few details about the workout. “Remember, if you can’t do double unders yet, just scale to singles unders 2-to-1. So that means each round you’ll do 80 single unders instead of 40 doubles, mmmmkay? Everyone, grab your ropes so we can practice double unders for the next couple minutes,” the coach said as he took a swig from his ‘healthy recovery soda’, eyes locked on his Instagram feed.

“How does he expect us to learn double unders in a couple minutes?!” Bob mumbled to Sally.

“I’ve been practicing on my own!” Sally said as she triumphantly knocked out a set of 5 unbroken reps.

“Awesome girl! How many can you usually do at a time?”

“Usually four or five, but the most I’ve ever done was eight! What about you, Bob?”

“I’m about the same – my best set was nine unbroken. It happened like three months ago and I’ve been in a rut ever since,” Bob said as he fumbled with his rope. “So…what the heck are you going to do about all these reps today? For scaled, 80 singles unders is a lot each round.”

Reps not ROM
no more single unders
scale reps not ROM
how to scale double unders

“You’re scaling reps not ROM? What are you talking about? Bob said as he put on his knee sleeves, wrist wraps, belt, headband, extra long socks, and olympic lifting shoes.

“I realized that if I ever want to get better at double unders I have to force myself to actually do double unders. Scaling to singles unders in WOD’s aren’t going to help me that much at this point – but neither would spending 2 hours on this WOD,” she continued.

“So what I’m doing is cutting my reps, but keeping the movement intact. Instead of scaling to 80 single unders, I’m going to do 20 double unders per round. This will make sure that I get a lot of practice – even if I don’t get to call it ‘Rx’.”

Before Bob had a chance to respond… the coach screamed “10 seconds!” which was just enough time for him to snap another coaching selfie.

“Can’t believe I coach people fitness for a living! #blessed #hardwork”


And they were off…

help scaling crossfit - single unders

Bob’s final score: 15:04 scaled, 2:1 singles

Sally’s final score: 18:03 scaled, 1/2 double unders per round

So, who “won” this workout?

Sally did, without question.

What lessons can we learn from this story?

Hear me out…

When you’re on the verge of learning a new movement – whether it’s double unders, muscle ups, HSPU, whatever – the only way you’re going to get better at game speed is to start practicing them in the heat of a workout.

Whenever possible, instead of changing or scaling the CrossFit movement completely, simply cut the reps in half (or to whatever you think is reasonable for you) and struggle through those reps.

Can’t string muscle ups together? Cut the reps, force yourself to at least do one per round, instead of choosing the scaled crossfit workout with the easier movement that you already know how to do.

Here’s another example. Let’s assume both Bob and Sally can do one or two muscle ups when they’re fresh. Both of them are nowhere near capable of doing the 21 reps that an RX “Amanda” requires.

“RX Amanda”

  • Ring Muscle Ups
  • Full Snatch
“Bob’s Scaled Amanda”
  • 18 – 14 – 10 Pull-ups & Dips
  • 9 – 7 – 5 Full Snatch
“Sally’s Scaled Amanda”
  • 3 – 2 – 1 Ring Muscle Ups
  • 9 – 7 – 5 Full Snatch

Without a doubt, Sally will emerge from this workout a more effective muscle-upper.

scaling crossfit

Let’s wrap up with the takeaway:  it’s time to stop taking the easy way out like Bob does. You are in control of your actions. Even if your coach doesn’t always suggest it, try to challenge yourself to scale the reps, not ROM.

Need further help and direction with attacking those weaknesses, and formulating a game plan to move from scaled to Rx? That’s where we come in.

WODprep has a variety of proven 8-week accessory programs that will help you improve the following skills:
  • Ring Muscle Ups
  • Bar Muscle Ups
  • Double Unders
  • HSPU
  • Shoulder Mobility
  • Strict Pull-ups 
  • Kipping Pull-ups
  • Butterfly Pull-ups
  • Toes to Bar
  • Handstand Walks
  • Functional Core
  • Nutrition

Below is the link where you can find the information about how our courses work, cost, programming, etc.

>>> Click here to check out our courses so that you can stop doing so many scaled workouts

Until next time, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite lyrics:

“Ain’t no elevator to success, I had to take the stairs. How you think I made it here? Climbing, climbing. How you think you’ll make it here? Grindin’, grindin’.”  – KYLE in his song “Doubt It”

What does scaled mean in CrossFit?

How are you going to start scaling REPS and not ROM? Leave a comment below and let us know! 

    • Excellent! I love it when gyms have this kind of thing figured out – it’s a very delicate balance between keeping control over the class (and everyone safe), and allowing athletes to really make progress on their individual goals!

  • Excellent article, one option our gym uses for scaling double unders is changing them to be a set amount of time instead of reps. For example, if you can’t do 100 of them, you do 90 seconds of working on them.

    • Yes! I use “ROM” as a blanket statement for changing the movement altogether, as most scaled options require this.

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