Why You Can (And Should) Scale Pull Ups: The METCON Version

At times it seems like there is nothing more powerful in the gym than the 'RX' button on Wodify. We all crave it, we seek it, we want to press it, but should we really? Do we deserve to all the time?

jump pull up pic 2.png

That’s right, you know its true.

SO MANY athletes want nothing more than to walk into their box saying “Hell yeah, I’m RX-ing this workout today!” (For those who are unaware, completing a workout RX’d, or as prescribed, means you complete the workout as written by the programmer, without any alterations or scales). I’m sure as you read this there are images flashing through your head of members of your gym who make a big deal about this, or hey maybe that’s you too.

Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to RX your daily WOD. In fact, the push to consistently RX a workout is fantastic intrinsic motivation for any athlete, a means of pushing them harder each day so they can one day be in that place.

But what ends up getting overlooked here is the process.


The RX button has become such a benchmark for success that people can consistently be caught up in achieving that goal. The problem with that is athletes are willing to sacrifice the purpose of the workout to achieve an RX workout. In other words, an athlete that can barely do a pull up, for example, will take lots of time resting like crazy so they can complete one pull up at a time. Are they working their pull-ups hard? Of course.

Are they getting a good workout, an appropriate workout?


I will tell you a quick story from my past, my first attempt at the workout Fran, a CrossFit benchmark workout that athletes know well. This WOD calls for a couplet of thrusters at 95lbs and pull-ups performed in a 21-15-9 rep scheme. I had no idea what scaling was, could barely do a pull-up, and it took me 40:00 even.


Sure I worked hard and felt accomplished, but I had done a disservice to my growth as an athlete. Fran, like many workouts, is supposed to be fast and wicked intense. The weight should be light and moved at an unfortunately fast pace, and the pull-ups should be done in huge chunks fast, if not unbroken. The result is a workout that should take anywhere from 2:00-6:00 minutes and leaves you feeling like you got mauled by a bear. That intensity and that push is what will help me grow and improve muscularly as well as cardiovascularly. (Is that even a word?)


In hindsight, I should have used a scale like the one pictured in the video. A jumping pull-up is a fantastic scale to develop your pull strength while SMOKING your lungs at the same time. The first 5 or 6 won’t feel like much, but when you are in the middle of a big set your muscles will be crying for sweet mercy. And while it’s good to hang your hat on a moral victory of RX-ing a WOD once in a while, its important to understand that it isn’t a TRUE RX until you complete the work as prescribed, in the WAY IT IS MEANT TO BE PERFORMED.


Keep using scales like this, and other scales we will be throwing your way in the next few weeks. You will get to have an insane workout, and your pulling strength will go until you are banging out WODs RX every day and twice on Sunday.

Follow us on YouTube as we go over scales, movements and more each and every week. And don't hesitate to email me with questions at: marc@voyedgeRX.com