Achieving The Intended Stimulus
Whether you’re new to Crossfit or you’ve been throwing weights around shirtless for over a decade, you’ve definitely heard of the coveted ‘Rx’. It is the Prescribed Workout (Rx) that many athletes aspire to perform and be on top of the leaderboard with their name next to it. As an amazing tool that it is for maintaining a standard in crossfit, it has lost its actual meaning in many boxes and athletes’ minds along the way.
Coach Glassman stated years ago, “Program for the best and scale for the rest.” This piece of wisdom can be very helpful when followed adequately, which unfortunately is rarely the case. When a trainer is creating a program, Crossfit or otherwise, she has in mind an intended stimulus rather than a movement requisite. When programming for one athlete, Rx and the intended stimulus will be identical. This is because only the athlete that is being programmed for is taken into consideration, so the workout meets the athlete’s abilities completely.
When programming for a group of people with various fitness levels, it can get a little bit tricky if not everyone is on the same page. The trainer would consider “the best” (fittest athletes in the group) and write the Rx workout for their capacity and ability while considering the intended stimulus in order to deliver it to all fitness levels. For example, take a classic benchmark workout like “Fran” (21-15-9 thrusters and pull ups), where the original intended stimulus is testing an athlete’s pulling, pressing, and leg endurance at a high intensity level. A high level athlete today will finish this workout in under three minutes, and with unbroken (or very close to unbroken) sets on each of the movements. In order to meet the stimulus an athlete must scale up or down depending on his/her fitness level. One example is, 15-12-9 Thrusters and Jumping Pull Ups, adjusting the weight as needed. Athletes ideally will be finishing the workout in about the same time and feeling about the same way, miserable (kidding, mostly).
The problem comes when the athlete believes that the written workout is the Rx of the workout. For example, just because you CAN do 21-15-9 Thrusters and pull ups doesn’t mean you should. You might be able to complete Fran, in 10 minutes, this is no longer Fran as it was meant to be. It is more of a strength session than anything, a crappy one most likely too. A true Rx workout will meet the intended stimulus for the athlete. Doing the workout as prescribed means nothing if the prescribed effects were not achieved.
Everyone will have a different Rx and that’s okay. Today’s Rx is different from 2010’s Rx and it will be different in 2034. Crossfitters are getting fitter year after year and pushing the standard higher each time. This is good. We don’t want to stay the same, that’s why we decided to stick to this training regimen. We’re in it for the long haul, and enjoy every moment of it, as painful as it might get.