Common Substitutions and Scalings
Scaling For beginners
If a workout looks too hard, try cutting the workout in half, sometimes that might not be enough, in which case, try cutting it in 1/4.
For weights, do what you’re comfortable with. It’s better to do less weight, or sometimes no weight to learn the movement instead of overdoing it and hurting yourself. Crossfit’s suggestion is to calculate the percentage of bodyweight. For example, assume the average male crossfitter weighs 175 and the prescribed weight is 95 lbs. Thus, you’d pick a weight that’s approximately 55% of your bodyweight.
A word on numbers: It is better to reduce numbers than range of motion. If a workout calls for multiple rounds, cut out the numbers within the rounds, not the number of rounds so that it will provide a similar metabolic effect. If it is a workout performed for rounds, it is good to reduce the total time allotted.
Air squats: There is no sub. Work on your air squat.
Double unders: One sub is to do singles with triple the numbers, though this does nothing to actually develop the double under. Ideally you want to practice it after the substitution.
Handstand pushups: Static handstand holds for a specified number of seconds is a decent sub if you don’t have the strength to do a HSPU. Another good sub is incline pushups, done with feet propped high on a wall, side of pool, or piece of furniture.
Knees to elbows: Bring knees to armpits, chest, or as high as you can. Alternatively if you don’t have a pullup bar, you can do strict VUps or abmat situps.
LPullup: Do a strict pullup followed by a straight hanging leg raise.
Lunges: There is no sub. Work on your lunges.
Muscleups: Sub is 3 pullups + 3 dips. In order to develop the strength needed to complete a muscleup, a better sub is 3 chesttobar falsegrip ring pullups + 3 deep ring dips.
Pistols: Use a wall for balance. Hold a counter weight in your hand if it helps. If you cannot do a pistol, do air squats with a jump as high as you can on each one.
Pushups: Can be done on knees. It is better to lower the numbers and do them full range of motion rather than reduce the range of motion to get in the full number.
Pullups: Stretch bands can be used to assist the pullup for anyone who lacks the strength or technique for kipping pullups. Jumping pullups (standing on a box about 9 inches under the bar) can be effective. Doing slow negatives will also build up requisite strength. Stand on a chair that allows you to have your chin over the bar, hold onto the bar, lift your legs up, and slowly release as far down as you can. If you have a pullup bar that will support the swinging motion of a kipping pullup, work on your kip.
Ring dips: A good substitution is 3 bar dips for every 1 ring dip. If you don’t have dipping bars, you can use two adjacent chairs, or you can get on a chair to a pullup bar and do bar dips with a pronated grip. Static holds on rings can also be effective.
Running: Burpees, box jumps, singleunders, and doubleunders can provide a similar metabolic effect. Also rowing is a good alternative if you own a rowing machine.
Toes to bar: See knees to elbows.
Much of this content is from Shane Skowron’s Crossfit Bodyweight Workout resource v. 2.0. Shane seems like a really cool guy, and if he lived locally I would like to have a beer with him.