As Crossfitters, we're all competitive and love to see that coveted "RX" next to our names on the whiteboard. But what if choosing to do the workout RX is actually hindering our ability to get fit?
Its safe to say that a majority of people are doing crossfit for the same reasons. To feel good and look good naked for as long as possible. It’s also safe to say that most people strive to become an RX athlete. Someone who can complete every workout as it is written, muscle-ups and all. The best way to become an RX athlete, get the most out of your workout, and prevent injuries is simple. Scale properly.
That may seem backwards since the goal is to not scale ever again. Not scaling for the sake of getting that RX tag will only slow you down in the end. Each workout is programmed a certain way and has a desired stimulus. Fran is meant to be max effort for 3-6 minutes and leave you in a heap on the floor. If you do single pull-ups for the whole workout and take 15 minutes, you are basically doing a different workout all together. If you had scaled and done it in 5 minutes you would preserve the desired stimulus and get that much closer to doing it RX next time.
Scaling can be confusing sometimes, especially if you are new to Crossfit. Here are some things to think about when deciding to scale:
- You aren’t comfortable with the movement.
This is the easiest consideration for scaling. If a workout calls for muscle-ups and you cannot do them, obviously you need to scale. When you do scale though, you want to pick something that will help you develop that RX skill/movement. For muscle-ups, doing sets of pull-ups and dips can help develop the strength components of a muscle up. Doing jumping muscle ups can help develop some of the skill requirements. Another consideration can be mobility restrictions. Some people can’t do a squat snatch and get below parallel. Obviously the scale would be to do power snatches. The important thing to remember is that you should do the power snatches as low as you can each time. Get to your end range of motion each rep and your body will adapt over time. If you just do muscle snatches, you will never improve the squat part of your squat snatch.
- The weight is too heavy.
If the RX weight is too heavy you simply need to make it lighter. The tricky part is how light. You need to pick a weight that you can use but will also preserve the desired stimulus of the workout. If you scale too light or too heavy you may change the workout too much. This is where your coach comes in handy. They will know what the desired stimulus of the workout is and they can help you pick a weight that will help you complete the workout in the desired amount of time. If the workout is Grace (30 Clean and Jerks for time at 135#) and your 1RM clean and jerk is 135#… you may need to do something lighter than that like 65# or 75#. Choose a weight that will allow you to finish the workout in 2-5 minutes.
- You are hurt/injured/sick/tired/hungover
This is where you should really lean on your coach for help. Let’s say you tweaked your calf yesterday and the WOD has double-unders in it today. This doesn’t mean you skip the workout. Work with your coach to come up with a substitute exercise that won’t further aggravate your calf. It can be tricky to preserve the desired stimulus of the workout but coaches can get pretty close. Instead of double under you can do small step ups onto a plate. It’s a short ROM movement you repeat rapidly to get your heart rate up. Again, not exactly the same but close enough that you can still get a lot out of that workout. You may also just be wiped out from life and an RX workout will only make it worse. Make it easier for today so you can workout tomorrow. NOTE: there may be some injuries that the coach will tell you not to workout at all. For the love of God, listen to them.
- You can’t complete the workout in the desired time range.
Every workout that is programmed has a time range that it should be completed in. Fran should be approx. 3-6 minutes. Filthy 50 should be 22-30 minutes. If you look at the workout and think “There’s no way I could finish in that time range” you need to scale accordingly so that you can. Let’s say there is a workout of 400m runs and Burpees. You can complete both of these movements RX but maybe not within the desired time range. You could do smaller sets of burpees and 200m runs instead. You miss out on an easy RX tag but you get the desired effect of the workout. This will help you become an RX athlete faster. It can be tricky for newer athletes to figure out since they don’t have as much experience. Ask your coach for help and trust their decisions.
The final note is to keep your ego out of the scaling process. We love being competitive in Crossfit but knowingly doing too much in the workout is only going to set you back. It’s very common to say things like “Oh I’ll be fine for just this workout” or “I’ll just be careful” or “I’ll just take it easy on this one”. You didn’t start doing Crossfit because you like to “take it easy”. Scaling doesn’t make you a worse athlete or less of a person. It means you are smart and are investing in the longevity of your Crossfit career. It’s a long road to become an RX athlete and there are no shortcuts. The tortoise and the hare analogy applies more to scaling than anything else in our sport. Be smart and listen to your coaches. Enjoy the process and before you know it you will be doing every workout RX!
-Coach Josh U.
-Coach Josh U.