You RX’ed that WOD…Congratulations you are less fit for it…WHAT???

Really, is that possible?  So you have worked up to being able to come in and do most of the workouts on the board at the prescribed weight.  It is slowing you down, but you get to put that big fat RX by your name on the board and check the box in Zen Planner when you log your results.  Did you know that you can actually slow down your progression and decrease your fitness level by doing the RX weights?  Well, you can and I will explain why…

I know that at times workouts seem random, maybe thrown together or unplanned.  However, I can assure you they are not.  Every WOD has a desired time frame or volume and resulting work capacity output on your part.  We work within three basic domains; 3-5 minutes, 8-12 minutes, and 20+ minutes.  The workloads and exercises in the workouts should be such that you can perform the workout at the proper pace to achieve the desired time range or volume of the WOD.  Okay, so what?

The work capacity of your workouts can be measured using some good ole fashion math.  In fact, Coach Glassman’s theory of fitness places the highest importance on this math, and we can measure your fitness by measuring your work capacity or power output.  The formula for doing this is F(orce) x D(istance) / T(ime) = P(ower).  So why does this matter?

Lets take today’s workout, do some math and I can show you.  Today we did a 5 minute AMRAP with 3 Thrusters at 135lb and 5 Burpees over the bar.  For most of us in the gym that weight gets pretty uncomfortable pretty fast.   As that discomfort and fatigue sets in we tend to slow down.  This is where it gets important to figure out whether it makes sense for you to do the weight prescribed or not.  Lets say you can do the 135lb, but you know you will slow down a good bit.  You also know that if you scale the workout back a little bit to say 115lb that you will be comfortable and be able to keep moving.  What do you do?  Lets use some math and see what that looks like.

We will assume a bar path of 3′ from squat to overhead.  Could be a little more, but does not change the outcome.  So if we move the bar 3′ for three reps at 135lb we get a force of 1215.  If we say a 165lb athlete moves about 6′ while doing the burpee for five reps we can calculate a force of 4950.  So we can say that one round in the given workout has a force output of 6165.  If we do the same math for a 115lb bar we come up with a force output of 5985.  With that we can calculate FxD/T and find our Power output for this workout.

Lets go back to the 135lb bar slowing us down and say that the athlete in question can complete 5 rounds of this workout in the given 5 minutes or 300 seconds.   Using the Power formula the math for that looks like this:  (6165*5)/300 = 102.75.  So our athletes Power output for this workout is 102.75.  Now lets have this athlete go in at a more comfortable weight at 115lb and see what happens if he is able to crank out another round because the thrusters become much more manageable.  Here is what that looks like:  (5985*6)/300 = 119.7.  Hmmm….what does this mean?

What this means is that the athletes average output would be about 15% higher at a lower bar weight!  If you understand that our measurement for fitness is power output, this is a very big deal.  Why?  Because if you are constantly chasing that RX beside your name you are hurting your fitness overall and you will not make progress as quickly as you would if you had scaled!  Thats a BIG DEAL.  Our goal is to increase our fitness…that’s what we do every single day in the gym. When you insist on not scaling weight you may actually be setting yourself back and preventing yourself from making your long term goals.

Another point that should me made here is that the workout is actually harder in the above scenario at the 115lb.  Why?  Because the athlete’s power output is HIGHER.  That sucky, terrible feeling that you have once in a while after a workout…not every workout, but you know the one.  The one where you can barely move, your dizzy, you feel like you might pass out.  That is peak power output!  That means you got it right.  You have those other workouts where you are tired, but you got so fatigued because of the movement or weight that you just never felt really maxed out?  That’s when you should have scaled.  Thats when your work capacity should have been higher than it was.

So, how do you know?  Ask your coach.  We can help you figure out what makes the most sense for you.  Many times by scaling just a little bit we can improve your work capacity by a large amount.  Over time that will equate to better results and a higher fitness level.

There is another argument in this scenario for competitors who are trying to adapt to the GPP needs of competition.  GPP is General Physical Preparedness and argues that we need to be able to do whatever is thrown at us in reason.  While there is benefit in this idea, you should not always train for this.  You need to train for work capacity.  Feel free to ask if you want to know more about this idea.

And one closing point, don’t say “Yeah, but I scaled”!  If you understand this concept you will realize that your workout was much more difficult and more effective because you scaled.  Keeping this all in the right perspective will help you immensely in your journey through this thing we call CrossFit.