When Should You Go Rx?
By Erik Castiglione
Greetings Relentless Family! This week’s blog post is in response to a question I’ve gotten a lot recently in class, and it’s one that makes me very happy. The question is some form of “I can do (insert movement here), but at that (insert Rx version of said movement), it may take me a little longer to do the workout. Should I go Rx?” The truly awesome thing is that in many of these cases, the athlete ends up doing the workout as Rx’d and still crushes it, finishing within the desired time domain. What happens if you’re going to take a bit longer? Is it still okay to try? In other words, when should you go Rx?
This is always a tough question to answer, and as with everything in the fitness world, the blanket answer is “it depends.” It’s going to depend on the workout, the volume and weights of movements involved, and your current ability. We are fortunate here at CFR in that we have a fantastic group of coaches who not only understand the intent of each workout, but are able to articulate it to our members and help them find proper scaling options. That being said, at some point, you’re going to have to push things a bit more if you want to make progress. Let’s look at a couple different workouts we’ve done recently as examples.
On Wednesday 08/23, we had this monstrosity (WARNING – this may trigger flashbacks):
As Many Rounds as Possible in 15 Minutes:
4 Hang Power Cleans (135/95)
8 Front Racked Lunges (135/95)
12 Toes to Bar
The goal of this workout was to help learn how to pace yourself when cycling a barbell. Naturally, most people’s first inclination was to scale the weight, and they didn’t give much thought to the lone gymnastics movement. In any case, the goal was for people to finish 5-7 rounds. Now, let’s say that the Rx weight was doable, but you knew it was going to be challenging. You did the workout with it, but you only finished 4+ rounds and didn’t make it to 5. Is that okay? YES! You pushed yourself and fell a little bit outside of the goal. That is going happen when you first start doing prescribed weights at the volume specified in the workout. Eventually, you’ll be able to handle them a little more efficiently, and you’ll make your way to and past the goal. Now, let’s say you went Rx’d but you only finished 2+ rounds. In this case, you finished way outside of the goal range, which means that the weight was too heavy. A little outside is okay, a lot is not.
For our next example, let’s look at our workout from Monday 8/28:
Overhead Squats (95/65)
This was a shorter workout, designed to be done in under 8 minutes. The weight was on the lighter side, so the limiting factor here was the high volume of the pull-ups (especially given that 40% of them showed up in the last round). If you’re able to do some unassisted pull-ups, but knew that 50 was going to be way too many, a good way to scale this would have been to limit the volume. NOTE: This is a great scaling method even with barbell movements, and it is one that is often lamentably overlooked. By doing the prescribed movement for a reduced number of reps, you still get to practice it, and eventually you can increase the volume. Now, we had a couple ladies who considered this approach, and then toughed it out and did the entire workout. Again, the goal was to be done in under 8 minutes, and in some instances, they went over by 30-90 seconds. This too, is okay! The time was not that far off from the goal, and the only way to get better at high volume gymnastics movements is to increase the volume over time. Now, had an athlete attempted to do the full workout as Rx’d, and it took 12 minutes, this would be an issue. You don’t want to be a Rip Van Wodkilla.
The bottom line is, if you can absolutely crush a workout while scaling it, then it’s time to choose a more challenging scaling. You may end up slightly outside of the goal, and that’s okay, you’ll get there eventually. If you’re so far outside that a sprint turns into a marathon, then you’ve chosen too difficult a scaling. Remember that both weights and number of reps (volume) can be scaled, and different movements/workouts lend themselves to different scalings. Listen to your coaches, and continue to push yourselves. After all, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
Until next time, stay relentless!