A long time ago, at a CrossFit gym far, far away, I started my journey toward becoming fit. At the beginning it was purely aesthetic, with a secondary goal to increase my longevity. But, that’s how it starts for most of us, right? It was tough starting, and pull-ups were the bane of my existence. I hated running (still do), could not do a single overhead squat, and I had a front rack that would be considered “non-existent”.
What I’m saying is I wasn’t good. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But what I was, and will always be, is competitive. Every single day that someone beat me at a workout I hated it. And I put it into perspective – of course I’m not going to beat a Games athlete, or any of the multi-year CrossFit vets. But when I can’t even do the workout as RX’d? What kind of “athlete” did I think I was? Not a very good one, obviously…
Hindsight is always 20/20.
The gym I started CrossFit at used the Main Site for programming. The Main Site explicitly states that they program for “the best in the world”. Because – and this is a MAJOR criticism of CrossFit – if you program for the best and scale appropriately everyone should be able to improve. I agree with this idea, but the key is scaling appropriately. I didn’t know how to do that on my own, and when left to my own devices I would often go too heavy in workouts, or do too many bad reps, or put myself in dangerous situations because I “had to do it RX’d”. And by this point I had already had 11 years of weightroom experience. What I’m saying is, I was doing it wrong. But I didn’t know it then… and there was no way for me to know. I spent most of my first six moths of CrossFit doing it alone at the gym of the school I was working at at the time. Red flag.
So what is RX’d anyway? On the Main Site, its the numbers to shoot for. If you can do the Main Site programming RX’d everyday, then you are likely very experienced in CrossFit, and have worked out all of your kinks with major goats and mobility issues. Remember – its meant for “the best in the world”. With that having been said, I don’t know of too many gyms that use the Main Site for programming anymore.
This leads us to the big question… what does RX’d mean at CFG? Well, we take a similar approach to the main site. We program for the best athletes, and expect our coaches to help each person scale appropriately. But we don’t program for the best athletes in the world, because none of those athletes go to CFG… yet. We program for the best in the gym. That demographic does not typically include our coaches. We are thinking of you. So we get both sides of the argument when it comes to programming at the gym: 1) I don’t feel like I’m doing well because I’m not doing it RX’d; and 2) I feel like I need to scale up the workout to get better results. I will address both of these concerns.
1) As coaches, we expect a healthy amount of scaling. Every person is different. You may be able to do 45 unbroken push-ups, but not a single overhead squat or vice-versa. That is, by a wide margin, the most common scenario for a typical CrossFit athlete. What is important is that we choose the weights and movements that are best for you. Don’t worry about everyone else, check your ego at the door, and trust in your coaches’ ability to make you better. Nothing makes us happier than when any of you PR, reach a goal, or do something you never thought was possible. And we want to help you get there. Help us help you.
2) Can you do every single workout that CFG programs RX’d? Think really hard about that question, because we know each and every one of your strengths and weaknesses. If you can’t, then please go back to the point above. I don’t mean to sound crass, but if there are holes in your game they need to be addressed. Remember, CrossFit is supposed to make you a well-rounded athlete.
If you can, then we have RB scale-ups. And if on some days you can’t do RB weights and movements, then you have more indications of what holes you need to fill in your skills. The RB program is designed to help round us out at a quicker pace than the regular programming. If you choose to do the RB skills, it does not mean you have to or need to do the RB weights in the metcons. Each of you should think of those weights as a goal, especially if you want to be Regionals Bound.
What I’m saying is, RX’d isn’t everything. It can be used as a measuring point for skills and strength, but you shouldn’t feel discouraged if you can’t do it. I promise you that every CrossFitter in the history of ever has scaled workouts. It took me a long time to realize that, but you don’t have to suffer that same way I did. Who knows how much better I could be now if I had spent more time working properly. How many reps I didn’t have to waste, and how many days I didn’t have to feel like crap. Set some goals, be realistic, and talk to your coaches. We want each of you to succeed, that’s why were here.
In 2011, while stocking bananas at Trader Joes, I saw a guy wearing a Crossfit t-shirt. “What’s Crossfit?” “What are you doing tomorrow? Come in and check it out” “Ok see you then”. It wasn’t too hard to get me through the door. It’s the classic Crossfit story. My first WOD put me on my back, my first question was “where do I sign up?”. I wasn’t there to get in shape, I wasn’t looking for any type of competition, I was just bored and looking for something to do. And for a long time that’s what Crossfit continued to be for me, just something to do. As time went by I felt like I was improving a lot and starting to give some members a run for their money. Competitive seeds were being sown. After a month or so someone finally explained to me the idea behind what the little letters that were SOMETIMES (more like rarely) written next to my score. I noticed that some athletes had Rx written next to every score they put up. I thought that was cool, I wanted Rx written next to all of my scores too.
Now in high school I suffered a rather serious cartilage tear in my shoulder and the corrective surgery left me with some major mobility problems. Despite this I was still able to learn most of the Crossfit movements until I met the overhead squat. The overhead squat was and continues to be my arch nemesis to this day (I contend that I have improved a lot at it though). Not only was I unable to get into the position to perform an overhead squat but there was no way I would be doing it with anywhere near the prescribed (Rx) load. But I wanted Rx written next to all my scores, remember? So what did I do when I saw a WOD with OHS posted for the following day? I shamefully admit that I would just not show up that day. I made up excuses, no one seemed to notice, and funny how I never got better at them. I was so caught up in doing my WODs Rx’d that I was completely missing the point. Nobody was encouraging progress, quality movement and solid training for a purpose to me, or if they were I was too immature as an athlete to hear it (maybe more of the latter). Rx’d was all that mattered. Looking back now, I can so clearly see the error of my ways.
So what does Rx mean to me now?
Becoming a coach and writing blocks of programming has given me a new perspective on the topic. I now believe that Rx is a coach’s tool for expressing a desired level of performance for what they believe to be the majority of the population that they program for. Now that might have been a little wordy so I’ll break it down some. Sometimes Rx is set a little higher than what the majority of people can efficiently navigate. In this case Rx is being used to give people a little push to expand their capacity. Sometimes Rx is a ceiling. “Hey coach the Rx weight is 95#, but my max is 300#….shouldn’t I use more weight?” “No, I want you to use the prescribed 95# and go as fast as you can”. Rx is being used to communicate the purpose of the workout.
Now Rx also has an important meaning that remains constant. To truly earn Rx next to your score requires a few things:
1. All prescribed movements were performed to the exact standard that was explained by the coach. Example: Chest-to-bar pull ups, performed without the aid of a band. Example: Power cleans, the weight that is written on the board is the weight that is loaded on the barbell. No movements are scaled up or down.
2. ALL reps of the prescribed movements are performed to the exact standard explained by the coach. To earn Rx it is expected that an athlete will receive one mid-workout warning with that rep still counting for score, upon a second correction it is expected that the athlete will not count that rep.
3. If a time cap is established and an athlete does not complete the workload in that domain then the score will not be considered Rx.
So what should you take away from this?
Rx isn’t everything. Can you not Rx workouts and still be competitive? Of course you can. Can you train for competitions and not Rx every workout? Most definitely, you’re reading the words of a guy who can’t Rx every workout on the program he is on. Coach Ronnie and I could both write for days on end on this topic. Neither of us included everything we wanted to say. Rather, we were trying to get the highlights across. If you still have questions, ask us in person. Don’t see us in person? Post a comment on here or the RB facebook page. We will get back to you I promise.