Ah, scaling. The holy grail of CrossFit. Finding the right mix of movements, weights, and skill levels are what creates intensity. As we know, intensity is directly related to results and gains. But how do you know which level to choose?
I like to relate Rx / L2 / L1 to skiing or snowboarding. On a ski mountain, trails are marked by difficulty. There are bunny hills to learn on, there are green circle trails which are for novice skiers, blue circles are for intermediate levels, and black diamonds are for experts. Then there are the Olympics and X-Games which feature professional athletes doing amazing feats. Everybody is skiing, but each skier needs to choose their trail difficulty wisely or they risk being bored on a trail that is too easy or going so slow on a trail that is too difficult its not even really skiing anymore, its survival. Same goes for CrossFit.
Here is a quick breakdown of scaling:
First, how are scaling levels created?
When I create a workout, I have several things in mind. The time domain (how long the workout will last), the priority (task or time), the volume of reps, and the weight and skill of the exercises. All of this creates the prescribed stimulus of the workout. I create all of this with the top performers of the gym in mind.
Second, what should the scaling bell curve look like?
Third, here are some general guidelines:
Rx has heavier weights, more complex and advanced movements. Meant for those doing CrossFit for over 2 years and interested in competition.
L2 has moderate weights, and introduction of more complex movements. Meant for those doing CrossFit for 1 to 2 years.
L1 has lighter weights and no advanced movements. Meant for those just starting CrossFit or those interested in maintaining health and functional movement as they age.
As an important note, some gyms have other labels instead of Rx/L2/L1. Sometimes people think L1 is easier than L2. But if we remember to scale for the stimulus, everybody, regardless of Rx/L2/L1 should have the same stimulus from the workout. Other gyms might call it Performance/Fitness/Health. Some people have no desire to ever reach Performance. They do CrossFit to keep up with their grandkids and doing Health everyday suits their needs and that’s totally cool. Not everybody is expected to increase from L1 to L2 to Rx as they do CrossFit. Like the ski analogy, find a trail difficulty that is challenging but doable, as well as fun! This is what creates longevity in CrossFit.
Scaling workouts correctly is a skill. It takes time to develop. You need to know your ability, and you need to be able to judge the stimulus of the workout to the prescribed weights and exercises. New members should always start at L1 for at least a month to get a feel for the demands. Only then, if they feel good, should they increase the scaling to some L2 workouts. One of the biggest mistakes we see from new athletes is going up in scaling too quick. There’s no rush. Fitness is a lifelong pursuit. When in doubt, always ask the Coach his opinion on how you should scale, we are here to help!