Modifications: The secret to keeping yourself strong during CrossFit workouts

Written by Jason Philyaw

Most athletes would like to improve their ability to Snatch or Clean more weight during workouts. There will inevitably be a point in a workout where you can no longer perform a Full Snatch or Clean with the RX weight for the day. It’s at this point where a little creativity can go a long way.

Scaling will always leave you “Scaled”

When you hit that wall, when your shoulders just won’t hold the overhead position at the bottom of a Snatch, when your arms aren’t pulling you under that heavy weight fast enough on a Clean there will always be a knee jerk reaction to scale to a weight you can do the movement properly with. I blame the mentality that can be ingrained in the CF environment. “If you’re not doing the full movement, it’s not RX…BRO!” God forbid you can’t press that beautiful, angelic “RX” button in WODIFY. What will people think? Will I be exiled?
Should I just grab a 45 lbs. bar and practice perfect Snatches? The answer is: Don’t worry what people think, you came here for YOU; No, you will not be exiled and your real friends will still be around long after the CrossFit workout; Stay heavy, but MODIFY the movement.

Modify the Movement

Instead of changing your 135 pound Squat Snatch to a 95 pound Squat Snatch during the middle of the workout, I want you to try something different…something really OUT THERE!

I want you to do Snatch High Pulls instead. “Wait, what?”. That’s right! Keep that 135 lbs on the bar and do High Pulls or Pulls – hell, even move to heavier Snatch Grip Deadlifts. This will allow you to practice proper pulling mechanics with heavier loads, thereby increasing your strength – so long as you can maintain good technique. I would argue that most of the issues you have when catching the bar overhead, are because you haven’t pulled that weight enough times in practice before. I would suggest taking advantage of that during the WOD and the side benefit is the INTENSITY either stays the same, or gets even harder. Which is the name of the game in CF, correct?

What would Rich/Camille do?

We forget that most of those amazing CF athletes do several different workouts per day; one of those involving pure strength or Olympic movements. If you don’t have 3 times per day to train you can still gain strength while perfecting your skill with heavier load. You have to be real with how much time you can put into your practice. If you only have 1 hour a day and 1 CrossFit workout to get better, make that CF workout work for you.

Coaches should be facilitators

A Coach understands what your goals are and can turn any regularly programmed workout into one that matches your goals. Your job is to make sure you communicate those goals so we can make the workout, work for you.


If you want to be an RX athlete, you have to take that leap and start using RX weight. That doesn’t mean you have use crappy full range movement and suffer injuries, you can start by using the RX weight for partial movements that match the movement pattern of the day. I challenge you to give this a try for 4-6 weeks and let me know what happens. I promise you, you won’t be getting weaker However, if you continue to Scale you are neglecting the very reason you stepped through the doors of your gym, which is ultimately to be stronger in whatever facet that is. Think outside the box people. Stay hungry and stay thirsty.

Have a great day.

Jason is the head coach at CrossFit Iron Legion and Swamp City Fitness. Jason has over 10 years of experience in the functional fitness and weightlifting community.

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