Here at ION, we always encourage our new members to scale workouts until they are proficient in technique and have developed the strength required to competently complete a workout.
What happens when you have developed that strength and learned the movements?
When should you start to complete workouts as prescribed (RX)?
This isn’t as clear cut a question as it appears in every case, a few factors need to be considered:
Safety/Consistency with the movements
First and foremost the most important issue to take into consideration when debating between RX and scaled is safety. Sometimes, it’s natural for an athlete’s form to break down in a workout as they start to fatigue. We all have that competitive drive to do our best, but at what risk? You may have hit a muscle-up or two in practice, but if the workout calls for 10 each round, along with numerous other fatiguing movements, is it really smart to try and keep throwing yourself up on to those rings, potentially failing reps and causing damage? Should you really be doing 21 deadlifts at 90% of your 1RM at the start of a 10 minute workout? You want to challenge yourself, and we want you to be challenged, but at the end of the day it’s important that you leave the box in once piece and come back tomorrow ready to go again. Moving heavy weight inefficiently and inconsistently for repeated reps just to say you did RX is asking for trouble!
Intensity/Purpose of the WOD
We see it all the time, people get hung up about the idea of going RX as the goal of the workout, when that’s simply not the case. Depending on the workout, the intensity with which you can perform the workout is just as important, if not more so, than performing it as prescribed.
Remember when you used to train at a regular gym, standing for what seems like hours on end waiting for a certain machine to be available or reading a magazine while slowly pedalling on the stationary bike? Compare that to a brutal 12-minute WOD at the box, or think of the first CrossFit workout you ever did (the one that got you hooked in the first place). Which did you feel was more effective?
Let’s take the infamous “Fran” as an example. One of the benchmark workouts that we regularly test at ION —21/15/9 reps for time of thrusters (42.5/30kg) and pull-ups. The best CrossFitters in the world can do this workout in around 2 minutes. The purpose of the workout is to be a sprint, to achieve that metcon burn that will leave you on the ground, gasping for air. So if you find yourself taking 8,9, even 10 minutes to complete the same amount of work, do you think you have achieved the stimulus from the workout as it was intended? There is no point in going RX with Fran if you are going to be spending just as much time resting as you are working. You’ve lowered the intensity, and you certainly won’t be on the floor at the end of it.
We also see the opposite in classes, people over-scaling weights and smashing through workouts that are designed to take 10 minutes + in 5 minutes or less. Fine, it may still be tough and you can move faster with lighter weight, but it’s not quite challenging enough and the intensity is lost in another way. I get it, you feel that adding weight would slow you down considerably and add 5 minutes to your time. Well, there’s only one way to find out!
It’s about choosing your battles, just because you can RX, doesn’t mean you should RX. Equally, if you keep scaling too much and refuse to push the boundaries once in a while you’ll stunt your progress. There’s nothing wrong with picking and choosing different workouts and movements to RX, you may be able to manage 5 reps of 60kg power cleans for 3 rounds, but may need to scale down the 60kg power cleans for 15 reps at a time in a 20 minute AMRAP. Push yourself as hard as you can, as long as you remain safe and you can keep the intensity high. We’re always here to help and explain the stimulus each workout is designed to achieve, at the end of the day it’s your choice but we’re here to help guide you on what movements to scale and when to RX.