What is RX?

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So, you’ve just started CrossFit, you’ve finally built up the courage to surrender your soul to this cult of amazingly strong and skilled people. You’ve heard that CrossFit, and all of its constantly varied functional movements, are not only performed at a high intensity, but are also scalable to all levels, abilities, and age groups. This is what attracted you in the first place!


Your first class comes around, you stand at the board, listening to your fate, surrounded by an array of varied level athletes. You hear a few murmurs about ‘RX’ing this workout’ and have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what this means.


‘RX’ is actually a medical term. It means ‘as prescribed’. And RX is a very sought-after achievement within the CrossFit world.

In the box, RX means to do every required repetition of each movement, through the full range of motion expected, in the exact prescribed order of the workout. 

So, to RX ‘Fran’ for example, you would need to complete 21 repetitions of a thruster at 42.5kg for males and 30kg for females, ensuring your hip crease goes below parallel, and you fully extend under your bar; hips and knees locked out. Then complete 21 repetitions of pull ups, starting from full hang to your chin coming clearly over the top of the bar, without any assistance. Then 15 of each and 9 of each to finish. If at any point, any of these movements fell below this standard, you decreased your weight on the bar, or you changed any of these movements during your workout to suit, the workout would no longer be being completed at an RX level.


This is where ‘Scaling’ comes in.

Scaling is changing a workout to fit in with your abilities. A pull up could be scaled by adding a band to the bar to assist with some of your body weight or using a ring to control yourself backwards and forwards, working similar muscle groups. A push up could be scaled by doing the movement on the knees, or even resting on the thighs. And scaling is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Pretty much all of us start off as scaled athletes, and over a period of time develop our strength, co-ordination, skill and execution of movements to move towards being RX. 

Scaling enables a huge variety of people to access the same workout, and get almost the exact same stimulus from it, regardless of their experience as an athlete.


At CFNS we use a level system to enable our athletes to scale according to ability. Level 1 is usually a beginner’s level, the base scale of a movement. Level 2 is usually a middle ground, for those of us that have those base level skills or strengths, but have developed and refined them, either becoming more efficient, or increasing to a more difficult movement. Level 3 is our RX level. The level used to do the workout as prescribed.

For ‘Fran’ our level system would go as follows:

            L1 – Thrusters at 27.5kg Male/20kg Female, Jumping pull ups
            L2 – Thrusters at 35kg Male/25kg Female, Band assisted pull ups
            L3 – Thrusters at 42.5kg Male/30kg Female, Unassisted pull ups



            But just because you can ‘RX’ a workout, does that mean you should?

CrossFit workouts are designed to be completed at a high intensity. And sometimes our egos get in the way of this intended stimulus. For example, the workout ‘Grace’ – 30 Clean and Jerks for time, was originally intended to be completed in under 5 minutes. The RX weight for males is 60kg. If your 1RM Clean and Jerk was 70kg, it wouldn’t be a smart idea to attempt the RX level for this workout despite being able to lift the RX weight for more than one repetition. It would be near impossible to finish this workout within a 5-minute time cap when you are that close to your 1RM for 30 reps. And so, you would stand resting for a very long time, or fail lots of times. Required intensity lost. Bear this in mind when deciding which level is suitable for you for any given workout, and if unsure, you can always seek guidance from your coach!


I started off CrossFit roughly 4 years ago, a lot heavier than I was now, unable to do a strict pull up, push up, squat to required depth or move fast enough to get anywhere near the top of any leader board. It’s taken an incredibly large amount of dedication to working hard on my strength and mobility and taking extra time to develop the skills I didn’t have. I scaled pretty much every workout I did until my second year of CrossFit. I earned my RX badge and then some. I also developed my integrity and awareness of my own body to know that I’m not always going to hit every single repetition perfectly, and that’s fine. I no rep myself and do it again. Some days RX just isn’t possible, because I may lack in a particular skill still. And that’s also fine, I do my work out anyway, and document my scaling choices, in hope of completing that particular workout RX the next time it comes up.


RX is sought after but isn’t necessary to be fantastic at CrossFit. All that is, is a willingness to put yourself outside of your comfort zone and smile whilst doing so. That’s non-negotiable at CFNS. But also, if you choose to do CrossFit as a sport, doing CrossFit the right way is necessary. Anything less than that would be substandard.


As coaches, we want you to always work hard, strive for a better you, and have fun whilst doing that.

If you’re struggling with your development in a particular area of your training, never hesitate to ask your coach. We also have multiple membership options that give you extras to help you move towards being ‘RX’ or just simply being better at the hobby you love!


CrossFit is my passion and love, it absolutely changed my life, and I hope this reflects in the way I conduct myself as a coach AND an athlete.


Coach P x