Relative Intensity: The True Beauty of CrossFit – CrossFit and Fearless

Relative Intensity: The True Beauty of CrossFit


Relative Intensity: The True Beauty of CrossFit

Hi Fearless Family,

CrossFit by definition is “constantly varied functional movements performed at a high intensity.” There is one other part of this definition that is not strictly defined but is heavily implied. The definition with the implied part is “constantly varied functional movements performed at a (relatively) high intensity.”

What does this mean? What is Relative Intensity? The answer to both of these questions can be found in scaling workouts. Scaling a workout means to change either the weights or the movements in a workout to your fitness level in order to maintain the intended stimulus of a workout. A couple examples of scales:

  • Substituting ring rows for pullups because you cannot do pull ups yet
  • Using dumbbells instead of a barbell due to a wrist injury
  • Biking/rowing instead of running

The list of scales is extremely long, as workouts can be scaled up as well as scaling down. A few examples of what scaling up looks like:

  • Doing 8 reps per round instead of 6
  • Adding a weight vest for a workout with running and air squats
  • Using a heavier barbell than prescribed

Scaling and scaling up allows us to maintain the level of intensity that is desired in the workout regardless of fitness level. With these options, we can coach a group class with a range of skills from never-done-CrossFit-before to members that have been around for 3 years.

Let’s take a look at a very common CrossFit workout as prescribed and how it can be scaled to be done for someone who is new to CrossFit:

Fran (Rx)                               Fran (Scaled)

21-15-9                                  15-12-9

Thruster (95/65)                 Dumbbell Thruster (20s)

Pull Ups                                Ring Rows

Fran, as prescribed, is 21 thrusters, 21 pull ups, 15 thrusters, 15 pull ups, 9 thrusters, 9 pull ups. This workout is intended to be an all out sprint, which means that these moves should be something that we can relatively keep moving the entire time through with minimal rest. To maintain the stimulus for someone who is newer to CrossFit, this workout can have a few changes made: less overall reps and less-taxing movement patterns. In the example above, I lowered the overall rep scheme as well as taking the barbell out of this workout and replacing it with a pair of dumbbells.

Image result for thruster

The ability to maintain a desired level of intensity, regardless of what the workout is, is the definition of Relative Intensity. This is the main reason that ANYONE can do CrossFit; it is infinitely scalable (to maintain relative intensity).

Whether you are looking to make a workout harder, make it easier on your sore knees, have never done a workout before, or just want to get a great WOD in, you can find the intensity you need for the day. That is the true beauty of CrossFit.

Coach Derec

Instagram: @derec.thompson

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