Glen Burnie Fitness and Nutrition CrossFit Glen Burnie

The Difference Between Scaling and Modifying in CrossFit

We hear these two terms a lot and we often think of them as the same thing but they are completely different. Whether we scale or modify, the goal is to hit the right stimulus. 

What is Scaling? 

Scaling a movement in CrossFit means keeping the majority of the movement the same and only changing the weight, range of motion, distance, height or number of reps. Remember that scaling can be up or down depending on the athlete.  

Scaling is our go-to for learning and improving on the movements we want to get better at.  

What is Modifying?

Modifying a movement in CrossFit means replacing it with a different movement altogether.  This usually occurs when there’s an injury or mobility issue. 

Modifying is our go-to when we need to work around something and make sure someone is getting the best workout for them and hits the right workout stimulus.  


Movement Examples:

Power Snatches at 95/65

Scaling Options:

  • Here you can change the weight down to 75/55 or scale it up to 115/75.  
  • A newer athlete might even do Hang Power Snatches to keep the movement simpler with a shorter range of motion.


  • Using a dumbbell instead of a barbell. 


Box Jumps at 24”/20”

Scaling Options:

  • Drop the height down to 16”/12” or stack a couple of bumper plates to jump on.  


  • Step-ups on the box or another cardio movement like biking, rowing, running, etc.


Toes to Bar

Scaling Options:

  • If you have toes to bar but can’t do 20 every round, drop the reps to 15 or 12 so you can spend a little more time resting and hitting the bar each time.
  • You can work on getting your feet as high as possible or doing hanging knee raises.


  • Usually for those who struggle to hang from the bar they can do abmat sit-ups or candlesticks.


Squat Cleans at 95/65

Scaling Options:

  • Lower the weight 75/55 or up to 115/75.
  • You could do Hang Squat Cleans to simplify the movement or even break it up by doing a Power Clean then pausing and setting up and doing a Front Squat. 
  • A newer athlete might just do power cleans or just do front squats. 


  • Usually poor front rack or wrist mobility, we can use dumbbells or a med ball for these.  


Strict Pull-ups

Scaling Options:

  • If you have a few but not many, you can cut down on the number of reps each time.  
  • We want to hang from the bar here so banded pull-ups make the most sense for scaling. 


  • Ring rows or bent-over rows with a barbell or dumbbells. 
  • (Note: kipping pull-ups and jumping pull-ups won’t fall into a sub-category of strict pull-ups.) 


Wall Balls at 20/14 and 10’ target for guys and 9’ target for ladies

Scaling Options:

  • Drop the weight to something lighter that allows you to hit the right target height.  
  • If you can always hit your target you can increase the weight and aim for a lower target until you can start throwing it higher.
  • A newer athlete might do med ball squats or med ball thrusters.
  • If needed, you could scale to just air squats or even squat to a box with or without the med ball.


  • Grab one or two dumbbells or a barbell and do thrusters.  



Scaling and modifying is what CrossFit is all about.  It’s how we keep people safe and always learning with the right progressions and making sure everyone gets a good personalized workout that fits their needs and ability level.  


P.S. If there are any other movements you want scaling options and/or modifications for, please reach out and let us know!

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