“Did you Rx it?”
Fewer phrases have simultaneously created as much pride and frustration within the world of CrossFit. With each workout having a designated working weight or movement standard, the overwhelming desire to complete a workout “as prescribed” has consumed us all at one point or another.
On one hand, the Rx standard creates a goal to strive for. Every time I’m forced to scale handstand walks or back off the weight on a clean and jerk, I’m reminded just how back I want to hit the standard for those movements.
On the other hand, “Rx above all else” creates an unhealthy mindset that ultimately can sabotage an individual workout either causing you to break form or drastically reduce the intensity.
Today, let’s talk about the ideas behind “as prescribed,” when they help and when they hurt. Let’s also talk about when scaling is a smarter option.
Why even have an Rx standard?
Why do we say 53/35# for KB Swings? Why don’t we just say “21 KB Swings at a heavy-ish weight”?
For one, a consistent Rx standard creates consistency between workouts and between CrossFit boxes. There’s a reason that 53/35#, 95/135#, and 65/95# are such common weight groupings. If you go to any CrossFit gym around the country, you’ll find KB weights at 35#, 53#, and likely at 72#. That’s the standard we’ve all agreed to stick to. This same standard also creates consistency between your workouts. If you do a workout with KB swings on Monday and then repeat the same workout in a month, you have a standard weight to go off of that allows you to measure improvement.
Load is the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about doing a movement “as prescribed.” We think about doing Fran at 65/95# or Isabel at 95/135#. We don’t think about the other aspect of completing a movement “as prescribed” – technique. Greg Glassman eluded to this in his open letter “Virtuosity:”
There is a compelling tendency among novices developing any skill or art, whether learning to play the violin, write poetry, or compete in gymnastics, to quickly move past the fundamentals and on to more elaborate, more sophisticated movements, skills, or techniques.
Yes, weight is one aspect of a workout prescription. Technique is another. Are you able to complete Fran with 95# while still hitting full depth on each squat? Can you hit 30 clean and jerks on Grace with a great lockout at the top?
We often think of load on the bar “as prescribed,” but technique and movement mastery is just as if not more important.
Something to strive for
I’ve never done Isabel (30 snatches for time) at the prescribed weight (95/135#). Knowing that there is a standard to hit forces me to work on my overhead squat and my snatch technique. It pushes me to work harder knowing what is possible.
Your CrossFit journey shouldn’t be consumed with trying to hit Rx on every workout that comes across the whiteboard, but have an “as prescribed” standard does create a motivating force that pushes you to go farther, faster, and harder than you otherwise would have thought possible.
And yes, a bit of competition
There’s no denying many CrossFit athletes have a competitive streak somewhere deep down. When you first walk into class, chances are you glance at the whiteboard just to see the times and weights everyone else is hitting. Can you go faster? Can you go heavier?
Having an “as prescribed” weight and movement standard levels the playing field for some healthy competition. We can compete against one another knowing we’re all following the same rules.
When Scaling is Better
Remember a few weeks ago when the workout was 100 overhead squats for time? How could you forget? That one hurt! I remember loading my bar with 95# before eventually dropping back down to 75#.
Can I do overhead squats with 95#? Definitely.
Could I do 100 overhead squats at 95# at the intensity the workout demanded? Not a chance.
Every workout we program has a set intensity and expected time frame in mind. When you see Fran on the board, the goal should be to go unbroken and to move as fast as possible. With the 100 overhead squats, the goal was to break out large chunks, not to hit 10 reps at a time.
If you’re chasing the Rx weight just to say you did it but you miss the point of the workout in the process, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Our coaches would much rather see you scale to an appropriate weight, nail the intensity and technique, then work on your strength so you can attempt a heavier weight next time.
Doing Fran with 75# and jumping pull-ups in 3:30 creates a much better training stimulus than doing it Rx in 12:00. The former hits the intended target. you’re pushing your lungs to the absolute max. The latter ends up being more of a strength workout with an elevated heart rate.
Scaling isn’t anything to be ashamed of. When done appropriately, scaling is the smart choice.