Why “Rx” Exists

At Reebok Crossfit 306 we operate under “one program” for everyone who walks in the door. We don’t have a “scaled” option, just the same as we don’t have a “competitors” option.  The workout is designed as it is wrote on the whiteboard for our top athlete.  If you’re brand new to Crossfit, what is wrote on a whiteboard probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense anyways without knowing what any of the movements are or what “AMRAP”, “EMOM” and “RFT” stand for. If you’re familiar without Crossfit, the workout could seem quite daunting. Asking for 40 or 50 muscle ups through the course of a workout for example.  Rest easy my friend. This is where the amazing at 306 come in!  

The coaches at 306 will make sure that the workout is individually tailored to suit your abilities, skills and capacity. That is one of the primary reasons we are there. Whether an air squat is a feat for you or you have a 500 pound back squat, we’ll make the “ask” make sense for you; that you stay safe and that you get the desired stimulus.  We’ll make it “Rx” for you. 

If we are spending time tailoring a workout specifically for each person in the gym, why do we even have an “Rx” version?  Why not just have a list of movements and the coach address each person?  Well, for starters, the more specified a workout is given, the more dialled in and specific the stimulus can be.  I have been in Crossfit gyms before where this was missed. They had two options; “Rx” or “scaled”. You did one or the other. Because everyone is different, this blanket approach does not work. If a prescribed workout has 95 lbs thrusters in it for example, we know that means “go fast”.  An Rx athlete would move that weight with ease and it would be a “sprint” and “high intensity” effort. On the other hand, if the prescribed workout called for 225 clean and jerks, we know those are going to be “slow and methodical” thought out reps.  By having an “Rx” version of each and every workout we do, we are then able to reverse-engineer the workout to make sure everyone gets the same desired stimulus.

This then raises the question of “scaling by percentage”. Why not just have a workout wrote up as “50 double under, 10 burpees and 10 thrusters at 50% 1RM”?  There’s a couple reasons why this isn’t a good path to success. First, a lot of people don’t know what their one rep max for a lot of movements are.  That poses a problem and leaves an athlete guessing at where they should be at. People can more easily identify with “light thrusters” as being something they can move easily for multiple reps in the case of scaling Fran for example. Another key reason why the percentage method isn’t ideal is an athlete’s background. A weightlifter will get crushed by 75% of their one rep max for multiple reps in a short period of time because they are technically proficient, relatively very strong and can move large loads methodically. However, if we tell an endurance athlete to cycle 75% of their one rep max however, the story looks very different.  Being a relatively weaker athlete, they are likely going to be able to move that load with ease and do so in faster succession than our lifter. Lastly, giving a percentage to scale a benchmark wod won’t work because that percentage is going to change. If we were to tell someone to do Fran at 60% of their 1 rep max thruster today, when we go to retest it down the road, that 60% is going to be a different absolute weight. We want repeatable results so we can track progress. 

Going back to the “Rx” or “scaled” as our only two options. Most of the time this is going to leave athletes far missing the desired stimulus. We will pick one or the other simply because we “can” or we “can not”.  For example, if the workout was Grace. Grace is 30 clean and jerk at 135/95. If my one rep max clean and jerk was 165, it stands to reason that I can do Grace as prescribed. And I could. However, the desired stimulus from Grace is a sprint. All out, max effort, full send for somewhere south of 3 or maybe 4 minutes. An elite athlete will hang on for a few touch and go reps at the start and then cycle very fast singles without a break until 30. If this is example is what we are after, then I would never need to get a whole lot stronger than say a 185 pound clean and jerk. I can do all the named “girl” wods without problem if I can clean and jerk 185. If the desired stimulus is an all out sprint but my Grace time is 12 minutes, should I then stop getting stronger?  

Chasing the elusive “Rx” does not mean we stop getting stronger once we can move enough weight to do a benchmark workout. There may be a day programmed where doing 30 clean and jerk in 12 minutes is our goal. That desired stimulus is not intended to look anything like Grace. If we never get to that sprint, all out pace than we are missing a big piece of our fitness. Sometimes in my classes I will give an athlete a percentage to work off of. This is because I know that athlete and their abilities. It makes sense for them in that workout and going after that specific stimulus. There is a lot going on in a coach’s head beyond just “scale” or “Rx”.  Everything that I have talked about in this article goes into play. I will be the first to say, I am not perfect and sometimes I’ll miss the nail all together and bash my thumb. However, I have found myself more often than not, confirming my original scaling of the workout so that my athlete gets the desired stimulus and results.  Your coach is not trying to hold you back.  Not at all. We are setting you up to succeed in the long term. It’s a process. Trust the process. 

Hopefully this sheds some light on to why we have an “Rx” and why sometimes it’s looks like an impossible ask. There’s method to the madness. If it isn’t apparent at first glance, ask your coach to explain a little further and dig a little deeper. I was there when one of our regional athlete’s was asked by another regional athlete “what program do you do or follow to be as good as you are?” and the answer was quite simple. “The noon hour class.”