This donkey should have scaled.

This donkey should have scaled.

You're staring at the whiteboard trying to figure out what weight to use for the WOD.  The prescribed weight is 135lb cleans, but this is your third week CrossFitting, and your second time ever doing cleans. So what do you do? Start loading up that bar to 135? Easy there, tiger.

The prescribed (Rx) weight for a workout is really just a guideline for you to use. If you're a seasoned CrossFit athlete who has great technique with the particular movement, attempting the Rx weight is likely a good idea. If you're a super badass who can lift a car, maybe it's time to think beyond the Rx weight and choose something a little more challenging.  But for many athletes, it's time to learn how to scale.

How to scale based on the prescribed (Rx) weight

The first and best thing you can do if you're unsure how to scale weight for a workout is ask your coach. Our answers will be different depending on the type of workout.  If it's a metcon, we're going to have you go on the lighter side so you can get more work done.  If it's a strength piece, we can help you warm up to a suitably challenging weight.  The next best thing is to educate yourself.  Watch other athletes in class, ask them about their choices, and take advantage of the CrossFit Journal articles on the subject.

There are some common errors that people make when choosing weight. Here's what to look out for:

But It's On The Whiteboard

You're a whiteboard monkey who will do nothing less than what's on the whiteboard. 6 rounds of 10k row and 30 500lb deadlifts?   Who cares if its ludicrous - <strong>it's on the whiteboard - it must be done!</strong> No.</p>

Impressing the Hotties

Yes, you work out with some bodacious, studly foxes. But please don't try to impress them by using a weight you can't handle. Nothing is less sexy than bad form, or worse, injury.

Copping Out

Otherwise known as "I'm Comfy Here" syndrome.  Does your weight feel comfortable? BZZZZT. You shouldn't feel comfortable. Comfortable is for lying in bed, eating doritos, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix. You should feel challenged!  Take into consideration the number of reps you need to complete when choosing your weight, but don't use it as excuse to stay too light. The only way to get stronger is to get uncomfortable and increase that weight.

Living in the Past

There was a time when your deadlift was 455lb.  That time was before you broke your arm falling off a mountain bike.  Your doctor has just given you the go ahead to lift weight again, and hot-damn, 1RM deadlifts are on the whiteboard! Do you start warming up for a repeat of your old max? Of course not. Your current capacity for deadlift will be significantly lower while you work yourself back up to your former glory.

PR Hungry Like the Wolf

Some of us are so PR hungry that we ignore our current physical conditions when choosing weight.  Assess your body first. Are you sore, tired, hungry, maybe getting a little sick? Give yourself a break and don't push for more today. Stick with what you know you can manage and pursue more when you feel better. And guess what, Rambo? Not every day is a PR day. PRs are precious gifts from hard work, not a daily occurrence. Don't get greedy.