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Rest Day

Rio tackling 15.3's muscle-ups on Saturday

Chasing Rx: When To Scale and When To Go Heavier

An interview with David Osorio and Jess Fox, edited by Kate Reece

If you don’t know why workouts are named after women, Greg Glassman, the founder and President of CrossFit, explained it like this: “I thought that anything that left you flat on your back, looking up at the sky asking ‘What just happened to me?’ deserved a female’s name. Workouts are just like storms, they wreak havoc on towns.” 

Regardless of whether you welcome or abhor that feeling of being wrecked (particularly when it doesn’t happen in your bedroom), we all know what it’s like to approach a nasty WOD from the mindset of wanting it to be over before it even starts. But sometimes, the desire to cruise through a workout can cause us to take shortcuts, maybe not go as heavy as we could, and ultimately sacrifice our long-term strength goals on the altar of feeling like a beast in the moment. Hopefully, we all do want to get stronger. In that case, it's important to realize that the lifting segments of group classes are not your only opportunities to achieve your goal. You should aim to get stronger through the conditioning portion of class as well.

Maintaining excellent technique should always be your priority, but if you want to close in on the Rx-ed loads for a WOD, you need to gradually increase your base numbers—which might involve surrendering a bit of the metabolic stimulus of some workouts. ("Rx" refers to the prescribed, standard weights for a workout, or those scary numbers written after each weighted movement on the blog and whiteboard.) Simply put: you need to lift heavier and go slower so that you can eventually lift heavier and go faster. 

I sat down (i.e. emailed a lot) with Coach David and Coach Jess to ask them everything you wanted to know (but were too scared to ask) about chasing Rx in workouts. The bottom line: don't be complacent about the weights you choose for any given workout. Getting stronger is a process. Here are David and Jess's experiences with exactly that.

CFSBK: When did you start Rx-ing all the WODs? What did your journey look like to get there?

David: When I started CrossFit, I was self-teaching myself the movements, so I did what I could and then practiced the movements that I didn't know how to do yet. It took me about a year before I was doing almost everything Rx-ed. I definitely was biasing a heavier weight and slower times in the beginning, which helped me develop the requisite strength to be able to eventually move the Rx-ed weights faster. I still occasionally scale some of the weightlifting loads in WODs when appropriate 

Jess: I'd say the first things I could Rx fairly quickly were workouts with deadlifts, double-unders, box jumps, and kettlebell swings. I knew my road to Rx-ing weights in the Olympic lifts would take some time, and honestly we weren't doing as much of those when I started. So, I chose to target kipping pull-ups as my first big goal, since they tend to come up in so many WODs—and what girl doesn't want to do pull-ups! My road to getting them meant practicing them EVERY time I was in the gym. I started out with thick green-band but over the course of a few months, I was able to get my rhythm down enough to get a few unassisted kipping pull-ups in spurts. They weren't consistent enough though so I always resorted back to the band for workouts.  

However, that changed when I visited my other “home” CrossFit in Ohio. The WOD was “Cindy” and although I knew that I could get a few rounds Rx-ed, I still set up a band. During the workout, when I started to slow down on pull-ups, I reached for the band. The coach there stopped me and just told me it was okay to move a little slower. Sure, I didn't get a high number of rounds but it allowed me to continue to work on that skill and it gave me a baseline for “Cindy” Rx-ed. After that experience, I got rid of the band. That didn't mean I did every pull-up workout Rx-ed right away though. Until I got better at them, scaled volume was my friend. 

CFSBK: If I'm moving fast and getting a good workout in the WODs, why should I worry about what weight I'm doing? 

David: The balancing act between performing workouts with their intended metabolic stimulus, versus going heavier or sticking to a calisthenics version that slows you down considerably, can be somewhat nuanced. Ideally, you want to be able to keep moving at a somewhat reasonable pace. If you're shuffling your feet, looking at the pull-up bar for a minute, you're probably not getting the most out of your time on either end. But if you're not at the Rx-ed weights and want to start pushing toward them, you'll just have to accept that you're going to be slower and the workout probably won't be as spicy. In my opinion, that's fine. Recently, I told a member that would have rather her go with a heavier dumbbell and get capped versus going lighter and getting a good time. As long as you can perform about 3/4 of the workout before getting capped, you should be fine. If you want to get stronger in the WODs, you're always going to have to bias a little heavier and slower, technique permitting. 

Jess: As CrossFitters, we're all a little Type A and want to move fast through workouts. However, our training should include different stimuli and heavier weights—higher skilled movements can provide that. As I mentioned before, it took a little nudging from coaches, and a little/lot of swallowing my WOD pride to not scale those pull-ups in “Cindy.” Looking back though, I'm so grateful for that intervention. Not just because it was my first Rx-ed “Cindy,” but because I didn't really realize that I had the strength and skill to do it. I see this a lot with push-ups in workouts as well. Though I see many of you work your strict push-ups like a boss in our warm-ups and even start a workout with strict pushups, as soon as the going gets tough, the knees drop down. Sometimes you just have to gut it out (provided your movement is technically sound), knowing that you might need to scale volume and accepting that you might be the last person to finish.   

CFSBK: How do I know when to go heavier during WODs?

David: When you feel like you "own" a weight that is below Rx-ed, then it's time to bump it up. Don't get complacent with certain loads. For example, if you're a guy and you always do 65-pound thrusters, even if it still feels difficult, you need to start gradually adding five to 10 pounds to push your strength and comfort level with the movement and load. If you always swing the 16 kg kettlebell, start voyaging out to heavier territory. As long as you feel confident in your technique, which might mean going a bit slower or breaking up reps more, then the weights or your modification should feel heavy.

Jess: This is where logging your workouts comes into play. Early on in your CrossFit life, you will and should start lighter than you think. Use the warm-up time to pick a load that you know you'll be able to move consistently well through. Then, take note of how that felt in your logbook so that you know what to aim for next time. Also, listen to the advice your coaches give you. I think we do a pretty good job of talking about the intention of the workout and providing scaling options or percentage markers to help guide you in determining an appropriate weight. If it's ever not clear, just ask! 

CFSBK: If I want to set a goal to get to Rx or heavier weights (and I know I should!), what should my battle plan or strategy be?

David: As Jess mentioned, make sure you're logging and writing down both qualitative and quantitative data! You'll never remember to go heavier on that barbell if you can't refer back to previous experiences. Focus on writing notes specific to how heavy things felt and if you think you could have gone a bit heavier and kept your technique together. You'll have to dip into loads or movements that intimidate you a little if you want to get better.

Jess: Be consistent in your practice. If it's barbell lifts, then aim to make each rep at lighter weights perfect and slowly increase the weights from week to week or from WOD to WOD.  If you did the past three thruster workouts at 75 pounds and flew through them, then go for 80 next time. If you're training a skill, then lay out a specific plan to help you get there.  Also, tell a buddy and have them help keep you accountable, or better yet, have them join you! Note though, that skill is singular. Don't be the person that has a list of 10 skillz and can never really devote enough time to any one of them. 

CFSBK: Any parting thoughts?

David: Use your coaches as a resource! We want you to improve and always will let you know how a movement looks and whether you should scale up or back down. Let us know you're trying to get stronger and we can give you some thoughts about how to modify your workout intelligently.

Jess: Know that for most of us, this stuff doesn't come naturally and that some of us might never hit Rx-ed weights. We’re now in the CrossFit Open season, so now you can compare your WOD scores to people around the world. But just remember that ultimately you're competing with yourself. In the beginning, focus on establishing your baseline. Keep a good logbook, set realistic goals, set time aside to practice, and then use your training to beat yourself. 

(An important caveat: Rx is not an advisable goal for all athletes. It can serve as a point of reference to make the process of choosing your weights easier, and enables our coaches to help you scale appropriately at the whiteboard.) 

Kevin Ogar 15.3 (1 rep)
Kara Webb 15.3 (624 reps) 

Reader Comments (28)

Wednesday's Programming

Back Squat

Fitness: 3-3-3-3-3
Establish a new 3 Rep Max. Use spotters
Performance: 1-1-1-1-1
Establish a new 1 Rep Max. Use spotters.

Post loads to comments.

Partner WOD
For Time:
100 Pull-Ups
150 Thrusters 75/55
200 Kettlebell Swings 53/35
Break the work up as desired between partners.

Post time and Rx to comments.

March 16, 2015 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Jay-Star, I don't even deserve a mention in your always-super-entertaining write-ups, especially considering the fact I couldn't even get my personal life prioritized sufficiently to show up for my first-ever Mockery of Olympic Lifting meet on Sunday.

I was busy enjoying extremely mediocre BBQ in Birmingham, Alabama, on a work trip.


In any case, I shed a few metaphorical crocodile tears that I couldn't attend on Sunday.

Oly lifting in middle age is a hilarious adventure in self-abasement. Literally the only tolerable thing about the entire 8 week cycle was getting to give you the side-eye when some execrable auto-tuned EDM came on the hi-fi as we elderly were valiantly trying not to crumble under the weight of a quarter-body-weight-snatch.


That was awesome.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermichele

Make up post with some numbers: Sunday 1pm class, worked up to 103# on the performance clean complex, and 185#x5 on the DL. 13:16 on the WOD, rxed. Monday 12pm class, hit 110#x1 on the bench, which is a 3# PR. Then did 80 burpees at a consistent 8 per round. 6am today, hit 165# on my HBBSQ to match my old 1RM, and failed at 170# twice. It's there, somewhere. Next time. Then got to partner with Linda (yay!) on the horrible WOD, which we finished in 21:40. We did a mix of kipping, banded kipping, and ring rows, chose 42# on the thruster (we scaled perfectly, I thought), and did Russian swings. This is a lot of work. Did pull ups in sets of 3, thrusters in 10s, and KB swings in 20. Kept moving the whole time.

Cash out will include eggs and blood sausage followed by an entire day of drinking and being driven around to bars in a limo. It's the Irish New Year, y'all. Woot!

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKH aka Cage

Some make-up stuff from the past few days:

15.3 - I was a little nervous about this because my muscle-ups, which are never good, have been an issue since Smolov. My goal was to get through the second round of muscle-ups, which I did as singles. These took a long time, and I gave myself plenty of rest to make sure I didn't fail any. Need to really practice these after the open.

Wall balls were the easy part, did them all as 25-15-10. Ended up with 292 reps, 78 into the second round of double-unders.

Monday Lifting:

Wendler HBBS

Squats felt better than last week's rep-out at 435, but decided to cap myself at 8 because of the upcoming 1RM test.

Wendler Press

Rep out felt good. Thanks to Jake for letting me use his wrist wraps - I forgot mine at home.

6x Erg Sprints - 20 seconds max effort, 1 minute rest. These things are killer. Averaged a 1:18 pace.

Got to judge a few people doing 15.3 yesterday and over the weekend. It was great to see so many people get muscle-ups and generally kick ass.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Katz

I rolled my ankle playing basketball on Sunday evening so taking a few days off in the hopes of being okay in time for 15.4. I'm icing and wrapping and trying to elevate at night but obviously extremely frustrating. The swelling is going down but still purple.

The gym might want to grab one of those giant novelty get well cards for me though.

Also, and please don't take this as a negative or judgmental post, but didn't Kara Webb's Wall Balls look significantly short of the target? Like literally half of them? Was the tape at 10 feet and the nine foot mark was not visible?

On a positive note Ogar's MU was damn inspirational.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMattyChm

6am with McDowell and JB. I did Monday's 1RM bench work. I've been through a few cycles of benching, but haven't tested my 1RM for some reason, so I was very excited to do this. I went 175x1, 185x1, 195x1, 200x1, and 205x1. The 205 was a struggle and I was a little lightheaded after I finished, which indicates to me that it's a true 1RM as well as a 20 lb. PR (!), based on one time doing a 185 lb paused bench press. Since 170x5 was pretty tough last week, I wasn't certain I'd be able to get 200 up, so I'm totally thrilled with this result.

At first, I read the WOD as 10 rounds of 30 burpees with :30 rest and I steeled myself like a convict walking to the execution chamber. Then I figured out what was what and almost giggled I was so happy. I aimed for 10 each round, which I hit, except for the third round in which I did 11, so 101 total. I'm another member of team "don't mind burpees."

One question that occurred to me as I was doing this, though, is what is the best approach to breathing during short rest periods? Should I be actively trying to slow my breathing down and taking in big lungsful of air, or should I just let my body do what it wants (i.e,, huff and puff in shorter bursts)? Obviously, I want to get my heart rate down, but I don't exactly have Buddhist-monk-esque control over my internal functions, so is there an approach that's generally accepted as best for those 10-30 second rest intervals?

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterShawn

@Shawn huffing and puffing (unless you're the big bad wolf) is not recommended ; )

Try to practice controlled, well-paced breathing during those shorter rest periods. The bigger breaths you take in-between intervals, the more oxygen you'll be getting to your tissues, which means more energy to go all out in the next interval!

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterK HarpZ

Going through some real negative emotions about my training lately. Doubting myself too much for group class and missing my training with Ro. Wrist is taking its sweet ol time recovering and the left knee continues to be a distraction.

Headed up to Rob's box on this rainy St. Paddy's Day

7 sets: 1 push press, 1 push jerk, 1 split jerk
#33 #43 #53 #63 #73 #83 #93
Last two sets, had to finagle my left hand out from under the bar and racked it on my shoulder before re-racking. Wrist sucked.

BSQT #140x3x5.
Bitched out on 5 reps. My head space is all over the place.

Burpees 10min AMRAP :30 on :30 off
9, 9, 9, 8, 8, 7, 8, 7, 8, 8

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGD

Someone beat the world deadlift record (1018.5lbs) while Arnold yelled at him. It's magical: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lu9DtWtmSjs

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Katz

Did Wednesdays workout with McD @ 8am.

Was damned and determined to PR my back squat again, after failing 195 at Iron Maidens. Old PR was 185. Attempted 190 and hit it! YES. Moved pretty well. Went for 195, because why not, and HIT THAT SHIT. Double PR, baby! I could have just called that a day, but we had a painfully long workout on tap. Dan was my partner. He helped a sista out on the pull ups, because woof. I kipped and used thin blue band for these. I Rx'd my thrusters - we did sets of 5 here. Finished with KB swings in sets of 20 - used 16kg bell and Russian'd it. Left feeling accomplished and satisfied, but could barely walk down the stairs to the subway. My legs are DONE. OVER. Need some rest tomorrow!

P.S.: JB - I took your advice and got myself a belt. It's magical.


March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLaura a.k.a Dubie

We finished the WOD in 20:39.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLaura a.k.a Dubie

Thanks K KarpZ! That's kinda what I figured, but it's good to have confirmaton someone who knows what the hell they're talking about.
Also, sorry all about the multiple iterations of my posts that have been happening. Apparently something thinks my words are awesome enough to repeat (I assure you that something is not me).

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterShawn

Last night makeup post: Bench Press 215-225-235-240(PR!). Called it after that because that was everything I had. That had been 2 years in the making, and was coming off two weeks of missing bench pressing, so I think more consistent work could get me to 245 or 250 soon. If it is not part of next cycle, I will keep benching in OG. Burpees: 11-11-9-9-9-9-7-7-8-7=87. Needz moar gas.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoel W

Great write up by Kate via Jess and David!

10am class - first group class in months...had a blast.

Took it light to feel out my legs which are still sore from 15.3 and the right leg is still healing.
Worked up to 275x3x3 with paused first reps

Partnered with Bob S and we finished in 20:24. Thing about Bob is he gives you no rest...coming back to met con is rough.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterFox

About to head to the airport, but I wasn't going to miss 1RM-ing my back squat for the first time since TTD last January.

10am with Jess.
Came in early to mobilize and warm up on the bike as much as possible.
My old 1RM was 190 and I came in wanting 230. I can't really think of a better scenario for going for a 1RM than being paired with Fox on the bar for the first time, which will probably never happen again.
45x5, 95x5, 135x4, 165x1, 185x1, 205x1 (PR), 215x1 (PR), 225x1 (questionable depth, glad I got called on it), then nailed 225 (35# PR!!!)
Had many helpful and excellent little chats with Fox along the way, about really gripping the bar, keeping my shoulders tight (slightly painful right now), and bracing hard. He helped me decide to go for 225 instead of 230, and to stick with this weight after not getting low enough on my first attempt. It was a slow ascent but I got it. I've been visualizing this lift since last week and I didn't feel anywhere near as nervous as I usually do about squatting heavy.

I'm also happy about this because months ago, I strained my right hip flexor during a heavy front squat and had to take a month off from squatting. I started this cycle at 95 pounds, ended at 175x5x3, and just hit a 35# PR. Fucking awesome, and an excellent reminder that taking time to heal from injuries (like my current shoulder ish) is a process but not the end of the world.

Time to rest.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKate R

Great info, as usual, from Jess and David. Another reason why SBK coaching is top notch!!!

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRob F

Great interview!!

Congrats on all of the PRs! Yay!!

Practiced some kipping swings and got a couple of kipping pull-ups but then they were gone. Slowly, slowly getting there.

Bench Press.
45 x 5
70 x 4
90 x 3
100 x 1
110 x 2 x 6

12pm group class.
Did some DU practice while everyone benched. So in the beginning I couldn't even get one and I was really beginning to think they were gone forever but then when I tried to do single, single, double, they started coming back and I even managed to string a few together, so I am really happy that I tried.

DUs and KPUs are my goats and I'm GOING to get them. This is going to have to be a daily thing, I think.

:30 sec burpees
:30 sec rest
8 burpees each round.

Yesterday's 15.3 attempt highlighted for me the fact that I really need to work on pacing myself so I decided to use this WOD to practice this, as well as to actually land on my feet and not on my toes. I knew 8 reps was a realistic number for me to get through so I stopped there with a couple of seconds to spare in each round and with a wider stance, was able to land on flat feet. Yay!!

Tomorrow's WOD looks like 'fun'.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

@MattyChm: Her wall ball shots look pretty good to me. Her judge does actually no rep her a few times throughout the workout when the ball hits low. Other than that, the shots are following the standards listed on the site which are: the center of the ball must hit the target at or above the specified target height.

Good lookin' out, though :-) Also, maybe a voodoo band would help take some swelling down in your ankle? There's a slight difference in how you'd want to wrap a swollen area as opposed to just an area with restriction, but it might help speed the process.

On that note, Rest Day for me today, as my shoulders/elbows are giving me clear signals! Did some AR stuff this morning after my client:
-mash quads/itb, lats, t-spine
-alpha ball: lats, anterior chest/shoulder, posterior shoulder (L side), glutes
-voodoo: L shoulder.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterWhit H

Thanks Whit. I am going to research that. Whatever I can do to speed this recovery up the better!

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMattyChm

6am with JB and McD

LBBS: I haven't done any back squatting in about a month and a half (combo of a busy sched and crashb's), so decided to go for a 3x5 instead of testing out the 3RM. Worked up to 185 and definitely want to start building back up in the next cycle. I've really missed getting under the bar.

WOD: KH was the perfect partner to tackle this WOD with! I was happy to work on my banded kipping pullups and then switch to ring rows. Thrusters were thrusters, but glad we scaled the weight down to make them manageable.

I love the interview with Jess and DO! All of the coaches at SBK seem to have a knack for knowing what you're capable of (sometimes before you do) and pushing you to go heavier on the weight or try a new skill. It's so great to have that extra push or nod of encouragement!

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

5:30 with Jeremy/Whit Mega Combo Pack!

1RM Back Squat at 265. PR! By 22 lbs. Great, but tells me that a) I may not have gone hard enough on the previous PR two years ago and b) I am now stronger than before. This was 265 with a sore knee and I quit early. Feels like 275 is there.

Whit and I also had a ton of fun spotting fellow back squatters. Ouch. Hope your arm is ok Whit!

21:30 RX on the wod with Dan. KBs smoked my lower back at that volume. I'll be a hunch back tomorrow.

Now, 30 yr old Jameson.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan L

7:30 with Whit!

Worked up to 105x1 on the bench. I did 100 lbs paused at iron maidens... this was far from paused and went up unevenly, but considering I struggle with bench, I'll happily take it!

Got 93 burpees and was pretty consistent with 9 reps on most rounds. 8 was my worst, 11 was my best. I struggled today, and I think I looked exactly like whitney's "what NOT to do" demonstration by the second round of the WOD.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJenny M

After my humbling defeat during 15.3 on saturday, posting one MU and then losing them, Ive been on a posting hiatus. Mostly because my forearms havent worked since.

...some lifts.


Snatch w/pause below the knee
264X, 264X, 264
EMOMx6 minutes

CJ, EMOMx6 mins
297* this was much harder than expected

4 rounds
5 strict pullups
10 Dips
**Turns out not doing pullups for 4-5 months will really...hurt your pullup/MU game. On a new mean regime to get my body weight movements back up to par.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJakeL

First day back in the gym after vacation:

Bench: 225x1, 245x1, 265 (F) - This would have been a PR. Just barely missed it and didn't think I had enough left to try again.

Burpee WOD: 122 reps. 13s through the first 5 rounds then 2 rounds of 12 and 3 of 11. These got hard in the last few rounds.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDan L

LOVE today's write up. Thanks, DO, Jess, and Kate! I just recently chose pull ups as my skill to work on and it's hard because it feels SO FAR AWAY but I also know it's something I really freaking want to do so... slowly but surely, hopefully. And I have Bree and Robyn working at it with me for accountability and fun!

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterariel c

PS the kevin ogar video is so amazing. wow.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterariel c

@MattyChm the voodoo bands are those black rogue bands we have rolled up amongst the AR tools, and KStarr gives the lowdown on them in Supple Leopard. I figured you had used one before in one of your AR attendances :-) Any of the coaches could probably help wrap you up if you come in the gym!

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterWhit H

Haven't made it to the blog in a while. Cool picture of Rio flying today.

@Matt Katz - I cannot pass up anything involving Arnold apparently and went directly to youtube which I never do. Thanks for that.

@Laura a.k.a. Dubie -- I had my eye on you for my partner on tomorrow's work-out. Next time!

@Kate R - inspiring work on your squats. Happy birthday break tomorrow :)

Sunday's Oly Meet:
Thanks to everyone who spectated and helped to load/unload bars. This meet went super smoothly and was a lot of fun. I practiced being in the zone and I think it paid off.
Snatch 40kg, 43kg, 46kg F
C&J 55kg, 60kg, 66kg F

Then spent 14 min on strict MUs for 15.3 -- got 3 but first one didn't count because arms were not locked out at the start -- didn't realize you could turn your hands out to get your arms fully straight with a false grip. Score of 2.

Worked with McDowell on Kipping MUs (Pop, Pull, Dive), going to a dark place (which apparently doesn't exist in 1:1 work:rest work-outs), and appreciating the assault bike, among other things

Bench press with Bethany - 45x5, 65x5, 85x3, 95, 105, 110, 112f crazy bar path
Workout - :30 on :30 off 10 rounds -- 117 burpees (11-13 ea round)

Lats and posterior deltoids feeling tender but otherwise enjoying the additional conditioning now that Oly Cycle is over.

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

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