Don’t have a pull-up? Don’t worry, there’s a scale for that. Not comfortable upside down for handstand push-ups? No worries, there’s a scale for that. Still working on your rope climb foothold? That’s right, we’ve got a scale for that too. No matter where you’re at in your fitness journey, whether it’s the beginning of the road or you’re a seasoned vet, every movement has a whole list of modifications. Here’s a look into how coaches break down these modifications to help give you a great workout.

When choosing the best scale, there are 2 major aspects we look at:

  1. Maintain movement muscle groups
  2. Maintain workout stimulus

When a coach goes through scaling options they are trying to find a movement that uses the same muscle groups to help build strength towards the actual movement, and looking to keep you within the goal of that given workout. So one day, you come into the gym and “Fran” is written on the whiteboard. 21-15-9 of thrusters and pull-ups, but you don’t quite have a pull up yet. Let’s find your best scale!

First step is to find movements that use the same muscle groups. The pull-up is a vertical pull and predominantly uses the back and biceps. Here’s an idea of some movements using those same muscle groups.


Banded Lat Pull Down




Bent Over Row


Banded Pull-up




Seated Pull-up



Now we have a list of possible options, let’s break down the stimulus. “Fran” is meant to be a fast sprint, with unbroken reps and quick transitions. We need to consider a scale that we can maintain these large sets and quick transitions with.

Banded Lat Pull Down: Great for strength building, large sets, difficult to move fast on
Bent Over Row: Great for strength building, large sets, horizontal pull
Banded Pull-up: Different band options allow for large sets, bands may slow transitions
Seated Pull-up: Easy transitions, great for someone close to pull-ups

From this list we can then decide which is best for each specific athlete. Is there a possible injury where the athlete can’t go overhead? Do they have 15 pull-ups but not have 45? When we have all the specifics, we find the right fit and we’re off to the races…literally.

So next time you’re in the gym, embrace the modification! It’ll help you build strength and proper movement patterns. Not to mention, you’ll probably end up with a better work out since you’ll be able to push the pace and hit the proper stimulus!


-Coach Zack