What Does “Rx” Mean?

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What do we mean by the term “Rx”?  Many athletes do not understand the intent of a workout as written, often called as prescribed or Rx.  Some of you do not even pay attention to the whiteboard, but rather just wait for one of us coaches to tell you what to do.  Others get scared of the whiteboard until a coach modifies their workout, thereby calming their nerves.  Well, there is no need to be concerned here, so please read on…

An Rx designation on a workout is meant to describe what humans are capable of, with time and training, not necessarily what you are capable of today.  It is okay to not Rx a workout, especially if there are some higher-skill movements.  It is always better to modify (or scale) a workout and perfect your technique before increasing load, range of motion, or intensity.  Rx is a goal to someday strive for, and in many cases, it is not beneficial to go Rx.  Some of you may have noticed my goal on our goals board, which was to NOT go Rx on a single workout for the month of March and to focus on speed and intensity instead.  This means that I will not do a workout as prescribed even if I am capable of doing so.  Part of this is to set aside my ego, but much of it has to do with power output, work capacity, and intensity, things we can discuss in a future article.

For now, let’s look at the following hypothetical workout:

5 Rounds for Time of:

  • Handstand Walk for 100 Feet
  • 30 Single Leg Squats (Pistols), alternating

I do not know of anyone at the ranch who can Rx this workout today.  But does that mean I would avoid programming it?  Absolutely not, and here’s why:

First of all, these complicated movements can give some people goals for themselves.  I believe that everyone, short of those who have experienced a traumatic injury, can eventually perform these movements.  Changing things up helps prevent fatigue, burnout, and plateaus.  Hopefully, you will look at this workout and be excited and challenged by it.

Second, and most importantly, attempting to progress towards these movements, as prescribed, will reap exponential benefits, even if the actual movements are never accomplished.  You may never be able to do a handstand walk, but trying to get there will improve shoulder stability and strength.  This will improve your handstand push-up, overhead pressing movements, deadlift, and squats.  More importantly, it will help you when you lift that heavy box your husband left on the garage floor back onto its shelf.  You may never be able to do a pistol, but trying will improve your squat strength, balance, accuracy, and flexibility.  Also, when you are 95 years old and trying to convince your kids that you do not need anyone to take care of you, those pistols you progressed towards “back then” may prevent you from falling and breaking a hip.

The point is that an Rx workout is meant to challenge you and push you outside of your comfort zone, but it is perfectly acceptable if you cannot do the workout as prescribed.  Rx denotes the ideal human movement and ability, the level which you should be striving for, not necessarily where you are at today.  The magic of fitness lies not in the achievement perfect movement, but in the constant pursuit of perfect movement.

— Coach Jeff

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