How to Scale “Diane” and Tame the WODs
by Jeff Kuhland of BreakingMuscle.com
The CrossFit standard workout known as “Diane” consists of:
21-15-9 reps of:
- 225-pound Deadlifts
- Handstand Push Ups
Diane is one of the many benchmark WODs named after girls. In addition to the girl workouts, there is also a group of unusually harder and longer WODs named after heroes such as fallen soldiers, firefighters, and police officers. These workouts form a common ground for CrossFitters around the world. So naturally, we want to see how we measure up against the competition. With these workouts, everyone in the nation is competing with the exact same rules and movements. This sounds like a fun way to challenge your friends, measure up at the gym, and see how you rank against the professionals, right?
Unfortunately people do not know their own limitations, so the girls and heroes turn into a traffic accident of terrible form, pushing way too far beyond limits, rolling around on the floor, and other negative consequences. Because of the importance attached to these workouts, people often don’t want to scale them, and even if they do, it’s a mad dash to the finish.
This is the wrong way to approach these benchmark workouts. You need to train appropriate to where you are in the development of your movement, conditioning, coordination, and mental ability, as well as your fitness and health level for any given day.
Four Steps to Success With CrossFit Benchmark Workouts:
- Step 1: Check your ego at the door.
- Step 2: Learn to scale properly.
- Step 3: Know your appropriate intensity.
- Step 4: Laugh next year this time when you have crazy results instead of injuries.
Step 1: Check Your Ego at the Door
Checking the ego at the door means you need to dial into your body. What you previously did on this WOD or any other does not matter. What is your body telling you today? Did you get enough sleep, have you taken in any water, or have you just rolled in from a marathon of work, twelve cups of coffee, and dealing with stress at home? Arrive to the gym early and have time to check in with yourself, rather than sliding in halfway through the warm-up and talking to everyone else.
Step 2: Learn to Scale Properly
Learning to scale for yourself is a skill. It requires understanding both the purpose of the workout as a whole and the purpose of the movements within the workout. Diane for the professional athletes is a sprint.
- Dan Bailey set a new world record in Diane with a 1:35 time.
- Kristan Clever set a new world record on Diane with 1:54 time.
If we compare these scores to running, these are competitive 600m times for a good high school athlete running a sprint. So this means Diane is a relatively all-out effort with almost unbroken form. This means the movements should be less than 80% of your 1RM, and probably less that 65-70% of your 1RM for you to blast through them while also maintaining good form.
- Men: To perform the workout as prescribed, you should have a 1RM deadlift of 325lbs (225 is roughly 70%).
- Women: To perform the workout as prescribed, you should have a 1RM deadlift of 200lbs (135 is roughly 70%).
As far as the handstand push ups, in order to do Diane as written, you should be able to do single set of twenty handstand push ups while fully rested. If you can’t perform that many, then you will really pay for it in the second and third round of the workout.
How to Scale “Diane”
First we scale load, and second we scale movements. This is a science and an art.
Scaling the Deadlift
If you can’t deadlift the required amount above, take your 1RM deadlift and multiply it by 70%. That should get your appropriate load. This is still going to be a difficult amount, but will allow you to move at a decent pace. For example, if your current 1RM is 185lbs, you should deadlift 130lbs for the workout. If your 1RM is 100lbs, you should deadlift 70lbs for the workout.
This is, of course, assuming you have a good deadlift to begin with. What if you are a beginner and this is your first week or month at the box? Well, you need to have your coach evaluate if your form is even good enough to perform high rep deadlifts at speed. If your form is not quite there, then you can substitute kettlebell deadlifts. If you can’t perform kettlebell deadlifts with a stable core and straight back, then perhaps you work back to bodyweight squats. Squats still involve hip extension, are primarily lower body and posterior chain, and allow you to achieve significant metabolic work.
Scaling the Handstand Push Ups
Handstand pushups are difficult, if not impossible for the average person. So we can scale in this order, from beginner to advanced:
- Incline Push Up – hands are higher than feet
- Push Up
- Ring Push Up
- Decline Push Up – feet are higher than head
- Handstand Push Up
The single most important factor in any push up variation is core stability. If you can’t hold a solid core and start to sag during the movement, then you should not do it.Developing strength and coordination takes time. If you’re not sure which movement to do, then go with the easier one. You can scale push ups almost infinitely by adjusting the angle, so find what works well for you and start to develop from there.
If your goal is to perform a benchmark workout and you can’t do it as written yet, then use your auxiliary work outside of class and workout time to help meet this goal. Work on your deadlift strength and endurance or spend time doing overhead lifts to build shoulder strength and stability. Only when your body is ready should you go at full intensity in regards to relatively difficult movements. And remember step four – laugh next year this time when you have crazy results instead of getting injured like others.