Sunday 10.07.12

Doing a workout "Rx'd", for time, and scaling

Handstand Push Ups "as Rx'ed"
Handstand Push Ups "scaled UP"

In a perfect world, everyone would have a personal trainer and a personalized program that is laid out specifically for your abilities and goals. CrossFit as done in a group setting is not perfect, but it works because it cuts down on the costs of a personal trainer and helps everyone in the group push each other to achieve goals they would not achieve otherwise.  It also leads to competition, which is healthy if used right.

RX'd:  At The Compound, we offer group sessions and everyone does the same workout either; “RX'd” or “scaled.” "RX'd" or "as prescribed" means completing the workout as it is written, without any adjustments, with full range of motion (ROM).  Scaling is very personal to each individual, and is nothing to be ashamed of. Scaling is what makes the program work for everyone. You will NEVER hear a Compound trainer telling you that performing the workout “RX'd” is the only thing that matters. You will NEVER see a Compound trainer trying to get a person to do a workout “RX'd” when the person clearly has no business attempting the workout that way.  You MAY, however, have a Compound trainer push you to try something RX'd when you fail to adequately push yourself (which means you're capable but just opt to make life easier on yourself.  You know who you are!).

Let's look at an example of a close, but not quite Rx'd workout:

Example:  Workout "Elizabeth"
                Reps of 21-15-9
                - 135 lbs Power Clean
                - Ring Dips

        You complete the workout with 135# Power Cleans for the first time with great form (probably because you have been kicking butt in the strength portion of the workouts and got your Power Cleans way up!).  But you're Ring Dips are shaky and you need to use a box to jump a bit, some bands to help stabilize, or your range of motion is not "full" (fully extended elbow to biceps touching the ring, back to fully extended elbow).  You may have completed the Power Cleans as Rx'd, but you did not complete the workout as prescribed and an "Rx'd" should not yet go by your score.

Time:  We time many of our workouts in an attempt to help you score where your fitness level is on a certain day.  We want you to do more work, moving heavier loads, as quickly as possible   But your development as an athlete is much more important than your time on a given workout.  If you shortchange your workouts to get a better time, you are just hindering your own progress.  Improvements in times that come from a reduction in form or ROM do not mean anything.  They just mean you’re not very honest or disciplined with yourself.

Remember, it will take at least 6 months of consistent CrossFitting before you can do the majority of workouts “as Rx’d”, sometimes much longer.  There may be a few of you that can do the workouts as Rx’d early on, depending on your strengths and weaknesses.  Don’t rush into trying to do all workouts as Rx’d.  If your Push Ups are weak, use a box until they get better.  That’s the fastest way to development.  Trying to cheat on your push-ups is not.   And this applies to Dip depth, Pull Up height, Squat depth, Wall Ball height, etc.

Scaling:  There are two generic ways we look at a workout with regards to Scaling: Scaling Up and Scaling Down.  We generally field questions and give suggestions on the best way to scale a movement down.  Scaling a movement down could mean anything from reducing the weight on the workout, adding assistance to movements, substituting an easier movement that works the body the same way, or dropping the number of repetitions on an exercise.  When we suggest that you scale down, we try to take into account three things in regards to the movements individually and the workout as a whole; 1) can you perform the movement with safety and full ROM, 2) will it help you get to Rx'd movements quicker,  and 3) will it help you complete the workout in the prescribed amount of time.

At times, when someone is progressing quite well, we will throw out a challenge to that person to Scale the workout Up.  Sometimes this means adding weight, changing movements for difficulty (i.e:  chest to bar pull ups or muscle ups), etc, we try to take into account three things in regards to the movements individually and the workout as a whole; 1) can you perform with safety and full ROM, 2) will it help your Rx'd movements improve,  and 3) will you complete the workout in the prescribed amount of time.

When we write a task-based workout, which is a workout where the amount of work is prescribed and the athlete controls how long he/she takes to complete it, we have a range of time we would like to see the majority of the gym get the workout done in.  If you attempt to do a workout as Rx'd or scale up on the weight or movement, we encourage you to keep improving.  But if you take a workout that should take 8- 12 minutes, and you are taking 17-20 minutes or more, than you are de-conditioning your body, becoming slower, and not receiving the benefits of the intensity level the shorter workout would require.  Doing "Fran" with 135 lbs instead of 95 lbs and taking 15 minutes instead of 5 minutes is a completely different workout.

Similarly, sometimes we program time-based workout, which is where you try to do as much work as you can in a given time.  For example, as many rounds as possible in 15:00.  Everyone will work for 15:00 regardless of how fast you move.  When we program a workout like that, we prescribe weights or movements we intend for you to be able to move at a certain speed.  If most people are finishing 8-10 rounds as RX'd, and you scale up and only get 3 rounds, you are not getting the benefit of the workout or any increased work capacity.  You spent most of your time resting, not training.

At The Compound we don't only train you for strength and conditioning with different movements, but also over "broad time and modal domains".  We are also training work capacity and the ability to efficiently operate in all three energy pathways.  Sometimes we will do a "heavy" workout that we plod slowly through, sometimes we prescribe a workout that is meant to be light and fast.  Going heavy across the board will not increase your overall fitness.

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