To RX or Not to RX, THAT is the Question.
“I RX’d Fran for the first time today, only took me 25 minutes!” Congrats right? Sorry, but no bro. While you could compliment the pure determination to fight through those 90 reps in 25 minutes, the whole point of what Fran is supposed to be is completely missed. Obviously this is a very drastic case of some poor scaling or regression and otherwise completely made up, but the point is simple, scaling or regressing a work out is necessary for most athletes. The topic for this week’s blog is when to RX (or NOT RX) a work out and why.
The basic definition of CrossFit (for those who haven’t seen the shirts every Level 1 Trainer gets) is Constantly Varied High Intensity Functional Movements. The goal (found on the back of that same shirt) is to Increase Work Capacity over Broad Time and Modal Domains. What does it all mean?! In a very simple way: we as coaches, trainers, and WOD programmers want to make you move more efficiently over periods of time and the hope is that weight loads will also increase as well as volume of reps. The way in which we want to garner these results is to throw an array of movements at an athlete and have them perform these movements as fast as they can (HIGH INTENSITY) with good form, i.e. CrossFit.
The biggest obstacle I have as a coach and programmer is to be able to accommodate all levels of athletes at the box and for each class. While programming may sometimes seem very scattered and completely without cause or reason, it’s very much the opposite. Each WOD or cycle of WODs has a purpose and a reason. That reason may be because the group as a whole lacks a certain skill or strength, or it could be in preparation for upcoming events i.e. the CrossFit Open. Either way, each WOD has a focus, a time frame, a quality of reps and weight, a goal. The goal is not to just complete the work out, while that may be a goal occasionally; the goal is to garner a positive change, to have our bodies adapt to the physical stresses so that we can slowly improve our overall fitness.
The easiest way around this obstacle of coaching athletes of different levels at the same time is to program for the “elite” athlete and then scale from there (work your way down). Hence the “RX” or “Prescribed” weights and volume of reps for each workout. Elite may mean different things from box to box, as good programming should reflect the level of athletes in each box. The fact is that in each box there may be very few or no “elite” athletes, and that’s ok. The point of CrossFit is not to RX every single WOD, the point of CrossFit is to improve overall fitness. The way we have found to get the best results is to maintain high intensity and slowly increase load (weight) and volume of work as form becomes consistent and capacity for work increases.
With all of that being said, let’s get down to what everyone can see coming, like it or not. Scaling a work out is most often, as in 75-80% more, beneficial than constantly RXing WODs. Why?! Scaling a workout to your level of fitness will:
- allow you to get a much better work out, benefiting both anaerobic threshold and strength increases
- allow the programming to be more effective and flow more smoothly for you. Like I said before, the programming has a rhyme and reason, so staying within the ideal time frames or getting the correct work in the WOD will exponentially increase results and also keep your body fresh and more equip to handle to week.
If you’re worried about looking weak not RXing a WOD, don’t worry you’ll look even worse struggling to get through a 5 min WOD in 20 minutes. It should be pretty obvious if you need to scale, and if not, ask your coach and listen to what they think. If you don’t want to hear the answer, well then you pretty much answered it yourself.
If you’re worried about getting stronger faster, stop! Strength increases happen slowly, ask anyone who is a serious power or Olympic lifter. You will get stronger, and that’s why we build in strength or heavy days. If you’re worried you won’t cool on Wodify or while you’re doing the WOD, stop! Check your ego at the door push yourself at your capacity at your level and you will get better. Then one day RXing something won’t be such a big deal. We do CrossFit to improve our overall fitness level. We sprinkle a little bit of competition in there to push you harder, but that shouldn’t stop you from scaling a work out and getting the most out of each WOD. Let’s get better every day, the right way!