Scaling is not Failing
Scaling, modifying, adapting… these can all feel like negative words. But why? I hope by the end of this article, you’ll agree that the lack of scaling, modifying and adapting are really the failures.
Often we can think of fitness in a narrow way. For example, a pushup must be from the toes. When an athlete is unable to attain the press out, they will often lose their core position to finish out the rep. However, the better choice would be to lower the difficulty of the movement; do the pushup from the knees and be able to complete every rep with a strong core position. This is the positive effect of scaling. We can clearly see from a logical perspective that this makes sense. So why is there an internal battle that says, “I’m not good enough unless I do the prescribed movement”?
Change your Prescription
The solution is to change what you are prescribing. Instead of prescribing a result, you are prescribing improvement. Customize your own workout so that it moves the needle forward for you – and not just moves the needle forward in your immediate goals but in your long horizon goals.
That sounds great… but how exactly do we do that?
Moving well is foundational for any athletic pursuit and for injury prevention throughout life. If you can lift a load but engage the wrong muscles to do it, it’s better if you didn’t lift it. Movements originate with an engaged core. It’s for this reason that we start our AO1 Foundations course by going over the hollow body position in depth. To move well, it takes perfect practice. Every time you bend down, jump or lift an object, you are developing neural pathways – don’t develop the wrong ones!
Work your Weaknesses
The fastest way to move the needle towards your goals is to customize a workout to intelligently work your weaknesses. This is best explained by some examples but this list is in no way exhaustive.
#1 Weakness: Knees caving in while squatting – Customize: put a band around your knees and push it out every time you squat. Don’t go lower in your squat until your knees are pushing out habitually.
#2 Weakness: Top end power output is lacking – Customize: Turn your workout into HIIT (high-intensity interval training) with increasingly longer intervals. You would sprint out the listed movements of the workout for 30sec or a minute, then slow the pace or even rest for 20-40sec. Keep repeating this pattern until the workout is complete. Or you could pick a particular movement in a workout that you have a hard time giving a max power output and sprint every time you come to that movement and then recover on the other movements.
#3 Weakness: Deadlifts causing back pain – Customize: This is largely caused by poor movement mechanics. Going back to point number one, you need to learn to engage the right muscles for the movement. If your back is doing the job of your hamstrings and glutes then change the movement completely to a hip extension or glute fall down to be able to only target the hamstrings and glutes to get them to be strong enough to deadlift properly.
Know your Capacity
The best sign of a maturing athlete is an athlete who is aware of their capacity. A mature athlete can estimate fairly accurately how long a workout will take to complete, knows what so many reps at so much load will feel like and knows how many reps can be done with perfect form at what weight. Being honest with yourself about your capacity is exponentially beneficial. First of all, it causes you to check your ego at the door. When you are starting a new workout program, you often need to start lighter and slower than you expect. But it also gives you the confidence to try. You know that you have the full right and permission to customize the program to your capacity. Keeping track of your workouts really helps to monitor your increasing capacity. If you could do ten burpees in a row the last workout, then this time you might try eleven or twelve burpees without taking a break.
Fitness is accessible for everyone
Every athlete is unique. There is no one size fits all in fitness. Customizing a workout is the most effective way to move the needle towards your individual fitness goals. The foundation of all fitness is to move well. Start your customizing by finding ways to improve your core position and movement patterns. Next, tackle your weaknesses. Use some of the strategies listed above to intelligently work your weaknesses. Finally, be aware of your capacity and monitor your progress. Fitness is absolutely accessible to everyone! We need to be mindful of how it’s executed. In AO1’s Foundation Course we go over how to customize each workout for yourself in detail. In our ongoing AO1 Fitness and Mindset Program, we offer support to fine tune your customizing options.