Should you scale a workout?
By a show of hands, how many of you when you first walked into the doors of your first ever CrossFit gym and said: “you know Coach/Owner/Person, my goal in this new world of CrossFit is to RX every workout out there.” Show of hands, how many of you? Ok so I can’t see the hands but I’ll assume the hands raised are slim to none.
RX stands for as prescribed and in all my years of coaching CrossFit, it has to be the most annoying phrase in CrossFit. Very few people even knew what those words meant when they got into the CrossFit world, let alone cared about it, so why do we care so much about it now?
This workout should be performed well under 5 minutes and it is a testament to an athletes fitness and conditioning level, hence the reason so many firebreathers love to measure Fran times up against one another. The intensity level from a sub 3 minute Fran is devastating on the body and often leaves the athlete on the floor gasping for air for about 3 hours (exaggeration). This effect, however, can be replicated with less weight and modified movements if performed under the same time domain. Hence the reason your coach is not impressed with your 10 minute RX Fran time!
1 Clean and Jerk 155
1 Round of Cindy
2 Clean and Jerks 155
1 Round of Cindy
3 Clean and Jerks 155
1 Round of Cindy
4 rounds, 5 rounds, …… 10 rounds
Goal Time: Sub 18 minute
This WOD was programmed this week for us at Forward and we capped the workout at 25 minutes. In retrospect, I should have placed a 20 minute time cap in order to drive home the intended stimulus of the workout. The intensity level experienced from completing the workout in the RX time domain is going to yield better results to your system than completing the work with the RX weight in 25 minutes. So this brings up the question and I’ll paraphrase from Chris Spealler this past weekend at the Icon Athlete Seminar. “If you RX’d the workout but finished it in two days, is it still RX?”
Fitness as defined by CrossFit: work capacity across broad time and modal domains. In short, how much work can you accomplish in varying time domains? How much power can you generate in a short amount of time? How much power can you sustain over a long period of time?
So let’s go back to the Clean and Jerk + Cindy workout.
Scenario A: Jim attempts the workout as prescribed and is time capped at 25 minutes and has only made it to the third clean and jerk in round 8.
Scenario B: Jon attempts the workout with a decreased weight of 115 and manages to complete the entire workout at 17:22.
So who is fitter and who is getting more out of the workout? Jim lifted heavier weight, right? Jim went RX! Jon scaled so he can’t be getting as much out of the workout right? How about some numbers to simplify this?
Jim used the RX weight at 155 pounds and completed 7 rounds of the prescribed work plus an additional 3 reps. So that’s 35 pull ups, 70 push ups, and 105 air squats. Go ahead and total the weight clean and jerked in that time 25 minute time frame and you have 4,805 lbs moved. That’s a lot, pretty impressive too to see somebody do that regardless.
Jon, however, finished the prescribed work at a modified weight of 115 pounds. Jon did less work, right? Wrong! Jon performed 50 pull ups, 100 push ups, and 150 air squats in 17:22 and to top it off did 45 clean and jerks at 115 pounds. That’s 5,175 pounds of weight moved!!! So Jon completed all the body weight movements and lifted 370 pounds more than Jim did with a time of 7 minutes and 38 seconds faster than Jim’s.
Who is fitter in this situation? “Work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” Who did more in less time? Jon did, and he is going to reap the benefits of strength and conditioning far more than Jim will in this example.
Bar facing burpee
Goal Sub 16
Scenario A: Jane does the workout with prescribed weight and finishes at 24 minutes. Jane moved 13,020 pounds of weight in 24 minutes with the 84 burpees.
Scenario B: Jenny does the workout with scaled weight at 115 and finishes in 14:30 minutes. Jenny moved 9,660 pounds of weight in 12 minutes and performed 84 burpees in the process.
Who is fitter in this situation? “Work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” Jenny moved only 3,360 pounds less than Jane overall, however, she did it 10 minutes faster than Jane!!!! In 14:30 Jenny has accomplished all the body weight work while Jane still has far more to go.
10 Squat Cleans 95/65
10 Chest to bar
Scenario A: Bob does 8 rounds scaled at 75 pounds and uses a band to accomplish standard pull ups. He performs 80 squat cleans totaling 6000 pounds in 10 minutes with 80 pull ups. (one band will not hinder your gains BELIEVE ME in my best Trump voice).
Scenario B: Bill does 5 rounds plus 5 squat cleans RX. Bill moved 5,225 pounds of weight and performed 50 pull ups.
Do I need to get into the who did more work spiel again?
Scaling is a necessary tool guys and it must be utilized more often in order to achieve the end result you are searching for. How many of you have been sitting at the same numbers and weights for the longest time? You don’t seem to get stronger and you don’t seem to get any faster. Perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at the goals and intended stimulus of the workout and make sure we get the most out of it. Perhaps it is time to take a look at our own goals and remember what we are here for.
We as Coaches also owe it to you to give you the best chances of success and I will do my best to make sure you guys are provided with the best possible scaling options in order to maximize your success in the gym. Please trust us and trust the process!