programs gym photos nutrition videos

“Rx” is Arbitrary, Empty and Meaningless

In my years as a coach, I have seen countless athletes list their goal as: “To be able to do all of the workouts Rx.”

Now this is a perfectly reasonable goal, as long it is not a rush to achieve.  The athletes that can complete workouts as Rx have already spent years developing the skill, technique and strength to accompany such workouts, so don't expect to do it during your first 3 months! 

Because of this goal of some, I have witnessed many of these same athletes stubbornly and forcefully attempt workouts as prescribed when they had no business doing so, sometimes ignoring the advice of a coach or doing a workout on their own.


The result: These athletes end up lifting loads and attempting skills (usually during conditioning workouts) before they have achieved the prerequisite skill or strength, or at the very least, they end up missing the mark on the intended stimulus of the day. Either way, their performance and long term fitness suffers because of their sentimental desire to do workouts as prescribed.


(Be warned: I’m about to break your heart):


Repeat after me: “Rx is arbitrary, empty and meaningless!”


…Rx is arbitrary, empty and meaningless. Rx is arbitrary, empty and meaningless…OK, you get the point.


So… stop using the Rx version of the workout to guide your decisions! They are but guidelines and measurement tools!


Where did Rx come from anyway?


Essentially “Rx” was created so workouts could be measurable and repeatable, and basically so people could compete head-to-head against each other in CrossFit workouts. But as the Sport of Fitness has evolved over the last decade and a half, so too has the Rx line.


A workout like “Amanda,” for example—9-7-5 reps of 135/95 lb. squat snatches and ring muscle-ups—was considered heavy and high-skilled when it was first introduced at the CrossFit Games in 2010. Hardly any athlete, man or woman, finished the workout in the very generous time cap. Today, top athletes can easily sprint through Amanda unbroken in three minutes or less.



And here’s the other thing: I could create a workout that even the fittest athletes in the world would have to scale: Let’s say a version of Diane—21-15-9 of deadlifts and handstand push-ups—but increased to 550 lb. deadlifts for men and 350 lb. for women. Insane to even consider it, yes, but even Katrin Davidsdottir wouldn’t be foolish enough to try it (I don’t think).

The reason this would be ridiculous even if someone did attempt it, maybe Sam Dancer or Brooke Wells could chip through it, is that the intended stimulus would be WAY OFF.  When programming workouts, there is always a certain 'feel' that we are trying to create, whether it's muscular endurance with little heavy breathing happening, all aerobic like Running and Burpees together, or a good combination of both.  This also falls into the discussion of your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) as presented below.  For most workouts you should be between a 7-9.  Now choosing the incorrect weights or movements can drastically change this RPE, both up and down in a negative consequence. Although you may be working harder in each successful repetition, there would likely be a lot of rest time between each rep and movement resulting in a LOWER RPE and also intensity even though you chose a heavier weight.  Now this is not to say that you should not challenge yourself, but make sure your are challenging yourself in a correct manner, check with your coach you're not biting off more than you can chew. 

So then next time you get all sentimental about doing workouts “as prescribed,”—and you feel tempted to pout when we tell you to reduce the load on your bar—consider the idea that this “Rx goal” you’re chasing isn’t a real goal at all. It’s an arbitrary and constantly changing line that’s going to keep changing as the best athletes in the world become more fit.


Isn't it better to stop comparing yourself to the best in the world and focus instead on your own fitness?


In doing this, you’re more likely to select appropriate movements and loads that will help you continue to move forward on your personal fitness journey.


- Coach Terrence