One of the best things about CrossFit is its adaptability. It can modified and scaled to fit ANY athlete of ANY ability. People with cerebral palsy, elderly people, and people from all different backgrounds and body types have been successful at CrossFit workouts. All it takes is a little determination and a lot of hard work.
However, knowing how to modify correctly is an essential skill that can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. Here, we’ve tried to compile a quick reference guide for modifications for the most common movements.
If you have an underlying medical issue, always consult with a coach and/or physician before attempting to scale or perform a movement. If you’re confused as to whether or not you should be modifying a movement, check out our guide to knowing when to scale a movement here.
Please remember that there are dozens of CrossFit modifications for each movement and everyone has a different opinion on which way is best.
For Olympic lifts, the easiest way to modify is to use lighter weights. Your coach can guide you on the exact percentages based on what he or she wants to accomplish with their programming.
27 CrossFit Modifications for Athletes at Every Level
- Rope Climbs
- Beginner Modification: Lay on the ground underneath the rope with your shoulders flat against the floor. Grab the rope and pull yourself into a seated and then standing position. Try using mainly your legs to do this.
- Moderate Modification: Wrap the rope around your foot (check with your coach to confirm you’re using the correct wrapping technique) and pull yourself into the hanging position and hold it as long as possible.
- Advanced Modification: Climb the rope as far as you can and lower yourself back down using proper form and technique.
- Ring Rows
- Beginner Modification: Grab the rings and pull yourself to them, pulling the rings to the outer edges of your chest. You should be standing upright or inverted only slightly with your feet out in front of you.
- Moderate Modification: Place your arms through the rings and invert yourself at a 45 degree angle beneath the rings and pull yourself to them.
- Advanced Modification: Place your arms through the rings and invert yourself to where you are almost parallel to the ground and pull yourself to the rings.
- Ring Dips
- Beginner Modification: Do dips using parallettes. The parallettes should be positioned shoulder width apart and your feet should be straight out in front of you. If this is too difficult, bring your feet in until you can touch your bottom on the ground and push yourself back up again.
- Moderate Modification: Using the rings or the handles on the back of the GHD machine, practice holding yourself up off the ground in ten second increments.
- Advanced Modification: Do ring dip negatives. You can also use the handles on the back of the GHD machine to perform these negatives.
- Push Up
- Beginner Modification: Do push ups against the wall. Stand far enough back that your body is at an incline, making it relatively difficult to push yourself off the wall.
- Moderate Modification: Do push ups on your knees. Focus on keeping your back flat and your core engaged.
- Advanced Modification: “Snake” your pushups, bringing your shoulders up before your bottom. Remember to keep your core tight and before long, you will gain the strength to move your entire body up and down in one movement.
- Pull Up
- Beginner Modification: Practice hanging from the bar and doing shrugs, or pulling yourself as high as possible. Remember, keep your core tight and don’t swing your feet.
- Moderate Modification: Do ring rows, using your body placement beneath the rings to make it more or less difficult.
- Advanced Modification: Use a band to put your foot in to perform assisted pull ups. Start with the easiest band and graduate up to the most difficult band. Be careful — use the bands to assist you, but don’t rely on them to carry your weight. This is ineffective and will not help you build strength.
- Beginner Modification: Start by holding on to the rig and performing pistols, or lowering yourself as much as you can while still using the rig for support.
- Moderation Modification: Try doing pistols free-standing, but fold your “pistol leg” behind your other leg instead of straightening it out for more stability. During this movement, focus on balance and keeping your core and glutes tight.
- Advanced Modification: Put a 12-inch box beneath you and practice doing pistols onto it and standing back up to build strength in your legs.
- Hand Stand Push Up
- Beginner Modification: Sit on the ground with your legs straight in front of you. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and press them straight up, keeping them in line with your shoulders. Bring them back down and repeat.
- Moderate Modification: Using a jump box, place your knees on the top of the box and lean over the side, bracing yourself against the floor with your arms straight out. Make sure you are high enough off the ground that you can align your shoulders and your hips. Practice lowering your head as far down as you can and pushing yourself back up.
- Advanced Modification: Do hand stands against the wall with three abmats underneath your head. Once you are consistently lowering yourself to the third mat, remove it and start working towards touching the second mat and so on until you are able to do a full HSPU from the floor.
- Box Jumps
- Beginner Modification: Start with step ups on a 45 pound plate or a 12 inch box. Focus on stepping as quickly as possible and taking as few breaks as possible.
- Moderate Modification: If you’re comfortable with jumping on a 12-inch box, but not quite ready to move up to a 20-inch box, add bumpers on top of your box to create more height.
- Advanced Modification: Use the prescribed height for your box and perform step ups as quickly as possible.
- Toes to Bar
- Beginner Modification: Grip the bar with your arms shoulder width apart. Hold on for as long as you can to increase grip strength.
- Moderate Modification: Practice keeping your core tight while hanging on the bar while slowly lifting your knees to your chest.
- Advanced Modification: Combine a kipping movement with lifting your knees to your chest.
Finding all these terms a little confusing? Check out our Ultimate Guide to CrossFit Terms for clarification.