“How to Avoid Scaling All Your WODs: Why Going Rx is Preventing You From Going Rx” by Chris Norman

“How to Avoid Scaling All Your WODs:  Why Going Rx is Preventing You From Going Rx” by Chris Norman

Have you ever decided not to post your score after a workout because you had to scale or modify the movements?  Do you feel that due to the scaling, you aren’t doing the “real” workout?  Are you ready to start posting Rx times on the board?  If you answered “Hell yeah.” to any of these questions, then this article is for you.

As Prescribed

If you’ve made it this far and you’re still unaware as to what “Rx” even stands for, look no further than the heading above.  Some athletes make going Rx look like a piece of cake, and some even scale up, making the workout more difficult than what was prescribed.

Are they doing something you’re not?  Nope – they’ve just accumulated enough strength and skill work over time to be able to handle Rx workouts.

If you’d like to start going Rx on your WODs, you need to:

  1. Get stronger

  2. Practice your skills

  3. Stop going Rx

You can, and will, Rx.  Here’s how.

Stop “Saving it for the WOD”

Most gyms have figured it out; you can’t JUST do WODs (see:  metcons) all the time without any separate, dedicated strength training, and expect to see continued progress.  You frequently see cross training facilities, or people who choose to engage in mixed-mode training, do some sort of strength work prior to their metcon.  This is a good idea!

A problem arises though, when the athlete decides not to put their all into the strength training component of the workout because they are “saving it for the WOD.”

This is a big mistake, because the stronger you are, the easier the WOD will be.  Let’s look at the WOD “Fran” for example.  Fran Rx’d is 21-15-9 reps of thrusters and pull-ups at 95 lbs. for men, and 65 lbs. for women.  If you can front squat 225 lbs. for 5 reps, then doing 95 lbs. thrusters for 45 reps is going to feel much easier for you compared to the athlete whose 5 rep max front squat is 110 lbs.

All too often, I’ll hear an athlete say they don’t want to lift heavy during their strength workout so they’ll be fresh for the WOD.  This idea actually does seem pretty intuitive at first; however, it isn’t going to dramatically affect your performance during the WOD (if at all) and will only slow down your overall progression towards going Rx.

While you most certainly can and become stronger by prioritizing the WOD, that isn’t the goal.  The primary role of the WOD is metabolic conditioning – not strength accumulation.  The time and place to increase strength is during separate, dedicated strength training.

You’ll never obtain the strength you’re after if you don’t lift heavy.  If you are front squatting for a 5RM and you never get to a weight where the 4th and 5th rep were a grind, then you aren’t lifting heavy.  Every time you fail to lift heavy, you leave a lot of progress on the table.


Work on Your Goats

A “goat” is an exercise you dislike doing, or a movement you’re weak at.

Sometimes your inability to perform a workout as Rx has nothing to do with the weight prescribed, but the movement itself.  You’ll always scale handstand push-ups if you never practice just getting into a handstand.

Maybe doing them makes you nervous, or you just struggle with them, and therefore they aren’t much fun… whatever the case, if going Rx is something you really want, then tackling these “goats” should be a priority.  A great time to work on your goats are during your warm-up or on an off day.

Quit Going Rx

Last but not least, going RX when you’re not ready to do so is only hurting you.  Sometimes I wish there wasn’t even such thing as “Rx”, as it can be the cause of many headaches while coaching.  Why do we prescribe Rx weights anyway?

The Good

  • Having an “Rx” keeps a lot of athletes motivated.  It gives them something to strive for, something to accomplish, and satisfaction when completed, knowing you performed the workout exactly as it was intended to be performed.

The Bad

  • It makes some athletes feel like they aren’t getting a good workout when scaled.  This is far from the truth.  With the exception of a few genetic freaks, everyone scaled at one point; it’s how you get better.

The Ugly

  • Rx can have the inverse effect and be a motivation-killer.  If you are a guy and can’t perform the WOD using the prescribed women’s weight, it can surely mess with your ego.

What To Do About It

It’s easy to fall into the “Rx trap” – that feeling that you need to do it Rx or you’re not really working out, or that you shouldn’t be proud of yourself.

The fact of the matter is that regardless of what the Rx is, you should pick weights and scale in such a way that it challenges YOU.  Everyone is different, and everyone is at a different point in their fitness journey.

Priority #1 should be safety (your technique).  If you can’t perform a movement/lift a certain amount weight with good technique, then you should scale.  Seriously!

Priority #2 is consistency.  Can you maintain good technique for multiple reps?  If not, you may need to scale.

Finally, priority #3 is intensity.  If you find yourself continually putting down the weight or stopping, then you should be scaling.  Select a weight and modification that allows you to stay moving.  Your conditioning will greatly improve this way.

Going Rx with bad form is only a quick road to injury and no progress, and stopping after every other rep is really counter productive to the entire purpose of metabolic conditioning.  Don’t be “that guy”.

As I mentioned earlier, we get stronger doing separate strength training, and we do our conditioning during the WOD, so don’t look at scaling during the WOD as a missed opportunity to get stronger.

By focusing on lifting heavy every chance you get, working on your “goats,” and scaling appropriately, going Rx is most certainly in your future!

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