When you join your first CrossFit class, no matter where you go, it’s undeniable that you’ll see the term “Rx” written up on the board. This can seem a bit strange, especially since the last time you probably saw those letters like that it was on your doctor’s prescription pad. However, there is a very good explanation.
The term Rx refers to prescribed. CrossFit uses this term to reference when a workout is written or completed in its original and intended form. For example, if a workout is written 10 pull ups, 10 wall balls with a 20lb ball and 10 hand stand push ups, this is the prescribed or “Rx” version of the workout.
So what is the point of putting labeling a workout as Rx? One of the great things about CrossFit is that it is modifiable to anyone. There is always an option to take the Rx workout and change it to fit your needs such as changing a movement or lowering a weight. For example, let’s say someone doesn’t feel comfortable using a 20lb wall ball, they can change the weight of the ball to a 10lb ball and achieve the same stimulus, and make it a great workout for them. The same goes for if you haven’t achieved a skill yet. Going off the above workout, hand stand pushups may not be a skill that you’ve acquired yet, and regular push-ups might be a better fit for you. Any modification to the workout, assuming it’s been okayed by your coach to ensure you’re choosing a safe and effective movement or weight, is completely fine. The workout would no longer be considered Rx but, there is nothing wrong with that!
So if the workout is always modifiable, and it doesn’t really matter if you do Rx, what’s the point of putting it anyway? There are a few reasons why we put Rx. The first reason is that everyone in the gym has goals that vary widely from member to member. Workouts are often programmed with the intention that members will hopefully be able to do those movements or weights one day. Athletes spend so much time in and out of class working on strength and skills, and to be able to say “I Rx’d my first workout” is a huge accomplishment that many members work towards. It’s the gyms way of helping it’s athletes have a goal to reach for.
Another reason we write Rx on the board, or more specifically by our names, is because CrossFit is a sport to a lot of people and in turn there is usually some friendly competition going on between classes and members. When you look up on the board and you see that another person did the workout Rx you can see if you were faster, slower, stronger, worn out more quickly, or right on pace, and that drives many members to find areas to improve on by comparing their score to others who did the exact same workout. Not all athletes find it fun to compare themselves, but for those who do, this is a great way to know where you stand in your fitness.
While Rx is definitely a piece of CrossFit, it should absolutely not hold you back from getting in a great workout that is a benefit to you!
Dr Patrick Gendron