Intensity in CrossFit: Should You Do It RX’d?

Drew Kastelic - CrossFit Unrivaled

You RX’d that WOD?  BEASTMO… wait.  Should you have even done it as prescribed?  Back the fuck up.  CrossFit is intensity and intensity is relative to our individual physical abilities.  I saw you snail through “DT” and you had no business doing push jerks with 155 pounds on the goddamned bar.  That’s why you started the WOD clean shaven and yelled, “DONE!” with a full beard.  Congrats on writing RX’d on the whiteboard, but no one saw it because you’re the only one left in the gym, Rip Van Wodkilla.

Ye Olde Whiteboard sayeth- "Amanda": Rip Van Wodkilla - 520 fortnights RX'd

Intensity is probably the most recognizable of CrossFit’s charter which includes mechanics and consistancy.  Since intensity is relative to what you are capable of, don’t get ahead of yourself and try to do something that is going to slow you down to the point of not bringing the fucking lumbuh.  According to Pat Sherwood in the CrossFit Journal:

Intensity, as we define it, is exactly equal to average power (force x distance / time). In other words, how much real work did you do and in what time period? The greater the average power, the greater the intensity. This makes it a measurable fact, not a debatable opinion. Intensity and average power are the variable most commonly associated with optimizing favorable results. Whatever you want from exercise comes faster with intensity. It’s not volume or duration or heart rate or even discomfort. Do more work in less time (without overdoing it), and you’ll get fitter faster.

So why are you resistant to scaling?  Pride and ego.  Those two things are the downfall of many.  Ask yourself this: “Who am I competing against everyday in the box?  The monsters that finish everything RX’d faster than those who scale?  If that isn’t you, don’t be retarded and try to use loads that will slow you down and impede your progression. You are competing against you.  Intensity is a truth only you will know, based upon your output.

"Mr Khalipa, when you finish this WOD, would you mind, um... getting my wife pregnant?

First of all, there is nothing wrong with scaling.  Everyone needs to check their egos.  I sit up on my high horse and talk about BEASTMODE, and truly want to inspire you to flip your fucking switch.  If that means you bite off more than you can destrominate and take too long to finish the metcon (or worse- do stupid shit), you are missing the point.  You’re not elite because your T-shirt says so.  You are elite because you bust your fucking ass.

Really, coach? Do I have to scale it?

Intensity demands you identify the ranged time domain based upon your coach’s intentions in the programmed WOD.  Knowing your capabilities (with guidance from your coach), select loads that will allow you to complete the WOD at full intensity relative to the intent.  That’s why coaches like WODs with time caps.  If it takes you 3 hours to complete “Eva”: stop, punch yourself in the genitals and go train for marathons instead.

"Yeah, son! Marathons have way less poods!"

This shit goes both ways.  There are athletes who, when a coach suggests they should go heavier on a WOD, choose to do it RX’d instead.  I have been guilty of this.  I want to do it as RX’d so I compete on a level playing field with everyone else in the box.  Unless it’s an actual competition, that is dumb.  Listen to your coach.  You can do a metcon anywhere, but you can only get CrossFit coaching at a CrossFit affiliate.  I pay for the coaching, not for the workout. 

Either way, when a coach suggests you scale and you don’t like it (because you want to do it RX’d): do what they say anyway.  They know what they are talking about and they know your capabilities.  If you want to prove them wrong, mouthfuck that WOD at the weight they told you to use and do it with a level of intensity that will make the coach say, “Damn.  I should’ve let them do it RX’d.”

  1. #1 by Andy G. on August 4, 2011 - 11:30 AM

    Epic….thank you

  2. #2 by sean on August 4, 2011 - 11:37 AM

    If I could I would print this out and make everyone read before every WOD. Intensity is one of the hallmarks of Crossfit and what makes it so effective yet routinely I see people try and prove how big their nuts are and go rx’d.

    A formula that works for me is I look at the best times for a mainsite WOD where they post the spealler/froning/holmberg times before hand and add 50% to their time. That is the range I shoot for and adjust the reps and weight accordingly.

    The goal in training should be to improve not be rx’d. Rx’d comes with focused training and humility.

  3. #3 by Justin on August 4, 2011 - 11:40 AM

    Great topic.

    First time I tried Fran, I rx’d in 10:24; I was all excited just to have finished, didn’t realize I should be scaling down.

  4. #4 by timmy on August 4, 2011 - 11:41 AM

    E-money!!! You hit the nail on the head with that last paragraph!!! Check your egos at the door!! Great stuff and keep it coming!

  5. #5 by John Lohry on August 4, 2011 - 12:36 PM

    Outstanding and very appropriate article, Epic. This is definitely something I’ve wondered about numerous times in the past. At first, I would seek out any available coach for guidance and go with their recommendations. Now, based on that past advice, and taking into consideration any progress I’ve made with a particular movement/weight, I try to scale on my own only if necessary.

    There are days, however, where I feel I can handle the prescribed weight…to grind it out without taking too much more time. For example, there have been some WODs where I knew I could handle the prescribed weight at lower reps, but possibly not 3 rounds at 20 reps…and form probably going to shit by the last round. I figure, though perhaps incorrectly, that it’s probably best to choose a weight that allows me to complete only a few at a time in the later round(s) in order to push my body to progress than to choose one that’s too light and allows me to fly through each round unbroken.

    I’ll admit, I’m guilty of it from time to time…checking out someone else’s scores for comparison and to gauge how well I’m progressing. At times, it’s quite disconcerting…but I know I’m still new and have a long way to go. Plus, I try to use those scores posted by the firebreathers to inspire and motivate me even more. I’m always looking to improve and am always open to advice.

    • #6 by EPIC on August 4, 2011 - 6:26 PM

      “There are days, however, where I feel I can handle the prescribed weight…to grind it out without taking too much more time.”

      I think that is not a problem at all. Every once in a while, you can do a heavy/difficult WOD RX’d while maintaining intensity even if it takes a bit longer. Just make sure you account for the time domain. If it fits in with the intent of the coach – fucking go for it.

      Just make sure you know your limits. I would absolutely love to say I can do King Kong RX’d. But let’s face facts: at a bodyweight of 150lbs, I will NEVER be able to do King Kong RX’d. There is a ceiling to capability. I scale the fucker. There is no ceiling to intensity.

  6. #7 by Gabe on August 4, 2011 - 1:27 PM

    I totally agree….Im an example…I was doing a Wod one day that had numerous HSPU me being 240 pounds I took pride being able to bust out sets of 4 rxd….this wod called for sets of 21-15-9-6 by the time I got through the first set half the gym was yelling time while my retarded but was chasing a fake RX…anyone can RX something if it takes a day….like you said brother check the stupid ego….rxd is the like the beast in the dark…when he steps in the light you gotta be ready

  7. #8 by Carol Hawkins on August 4, 2011 - 1:49 PM

    Wow, that makes me feel so much better about everything at the gym. All the CTO coaches have been preaching this especially Sean and Ryan (because I do AM classes). I usually try and only compete with myself but to be honest it does get discouraging to always be last and do less weight than the rest of the class. I just need to re-focus my efforts on improving and forget about doing it rx’d for now…maybe always. I really just want to get stronger! I have no ego but I do have some pride :). Thanks Erik for another great blog!!!

  8. #9 by Jason on August 4, 2011 - 4:19 PM

    Once again, great article Epic! Keep them coming, the boys at Crossfit Dunedin love it.

    • #10 by EPIC on August 4, 2011 - 6:31 PM

      Maori Proverb- “Kaua e mate wheke mate ururoa.” (Don’t die like a octopus, die like a hammerhead shark)

      CrossFit Dunedin in New Zealand is a gathering of DESTROMINATORS.

  9. #11 by Bella on August 4, 2011 - 4:34 PM

    Erik – You are popping these articles out faster than they can build Starbucks nowadays son! Keep ’em coming 🙂

    Just my two cents – the meaning of “rx’d” is equivocal to many people, and I think it is often mistaken that doing workouts as prescribed automatically makes you a badass or signifies that you have reached some sort of higher status. The way we define ourselves in regards to our performance is widely subjective. Personally, for me, showing up to the box and throwing all your effort out in a workout is b.a. enough!

    We all have to start somewhere, and ultimately, have a goal we all would like to reach, be it doing workouts “rx’d” or whatever. I would rather use a modification that is challenging but allows me to maintain proper form, and at the same time, enables me to workout with enough intensity to finish in a respectable time frame. Easier said than done, sure, but for me, it’s all about the journey to reaching your goal. Rx’d is nicer to savor when you know you’ve put in the time and effort to perfect your form, find a rhythm that allows for maximum intensity, and uncover your work capacity.

    • #12 by EPIC on August 4, 2011 - 6:34 PM

      Another one of those comments where I be hatin’ cuz you made a point I wish I would’ve thought of for the post. Well played, Bella.

  10. #13 by Carol Hawkins on August 4, 2011 - 4:49 PM

    Bella, you need to start a blog…..well said!!

  11. #14 by Judy on August 4, 2011 - 10:32 PM

    Epic, your words could not have hit more on the bull’s eye like they did today! I normally get upset when the coaches have me scale reps on WODs, but today where I scaled almost the entire reps of the WOD by 50%, I felt accomplished and not down on myself. I completely understood where Coach Sean was coming from and I embraced his suggestions. =)

    On a different note, I have visited 2x this week “Epic’s box” during lunch and the guys there are great! Tom was awesome on helping me today learn techniques for kipping pull ups (which I still can’t get down, but strict…blehhh!) and MUs. Neither of which I master and hope this month to accomplish UNO. Here is to hopeful wishing! =)

    • #15 by EPIC on August 4, 2011 - 11:03 PM

      Glad I could help out a bit, keep charging. I wouldn’t call CrossFit Dominance “Epic’s Box”. All I did was design the logo. Christ, I haven’t even had a chance to WOD with them yet cuz of the achillies. We have nicknamed it “TomFit”.

  12. #16 by BOYCE on August 4, 2011 - 11:28 PM

    Witty, with a touch of confidence. I like it bro. I learn more from your articles everyday. KEEP IT UP!


  13. #17 by Trinity on August 7, 2011 - 1:27 PM

    I know I’m no where close to doingmoat WODs rx’d and I’ve always been ok with it. I know it will take sometime to get there with the big guys or gals but I’m gonna have fun and enjoy it all the way there.

  14. #18 by Liz Higgins on September 29, 2011 - 7:04 PM

    Good post! When I first started CF, I had just gotten my pull-ups when Murph came up as the WOD. I was determined to Rx it no matter how long it took me… which was 71 minutes! Idiot! 🙂

  15. #19 by Jackie Li (@jackie__li) on September 30, 2011 - 7:30 PM

    hmm. I find it pretty ironic that for my box its usually the other way round. my coach would be doing the ‘Go heavier’ shenanigan instead of the trainees! The theory from the coach’s point of view is that “you have to get use to the heavier weight before you can go faster”. Not sure if I totally agree with that though! Cos as you mentioned, the wod losts its desired intensity when the loading is too much to handle! Any suggestions how to help my coach to see the light?

    • #20 by EPIC on September 30, 2011 - 10:55 PM

      Yeah, have him read this post. Then he’ll laugh because I have yet to spend 1,000 dollars on a Level 1 T-Shirt. I’m not a certified trainer, but I wrote this post by request from some legitimate coaches who were sick of their athletes going to heavy and missing the point of the intended programming. Perhaps he should talk to some HQ trainers who would agree with both my post and fucking logic before he ends up hurting one of his clients. He could look up Sara Wilkinson or Chris Russell (both CFHQ trainers) and they’d set him straight.

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