RX, Stimulus, and Scaling

I have been paying more attention recently to the internal decision making of athletes with regards to their weights and reps in workouts. This can be anything from picking heavier weights than appropriate, to picking lighter weights than appropriate, to scaling reps, pacing, self talk, breaks taken during sets, and finishing reps. There are many more but these are just a few of the myriad of things to watch and pay attention to during a workout. They are a bit like tells in a game of cards.

Let me briefly describe what the above titles represent before moving forward. RX or “as prescribed” is the weight and rep scheme that the workout is written with. This can be described as a ceiling for most athletes. If an advanced athlete were to take on this workout, barring any extreme physical gifts, this is the weight and rep scheme that he or she would use.

It’s important to note that each workout has a specific stimulus that is being sought out by the programmer. One parameter of stimulus is the time domain, for example. In general, there are three energy systems that the body uses for activity. There are certain time domains that encompass these systems, too. A two minute effort and a ten minute effort are very different. The stimulus that is received by the body in the two are not the same.

Scaling is a tool that makes our training universal. A favorite example of mine is this: A deadlift is a movement that’s just as important for a grandmother as it is for a NFL player. Yet, the difference is on of scale. Both humans in this example need to lift things off the floor. For a grandma, this may be a bag of groceries, for a NFL player it may be 500+ lbs, either way the movement pattern is the same.

As coaches, our mission is to have all of our athletes get the same stimulus from the workout that day. I want to reframe these terms a bit. RX can become a goal for people, and there is nothing wrong with that. Competition with yourself is fantastic. But, don’t forget about stimulus. Don’t let the chase for RX turn a five minute workout into a 19 minute and 30 second slugfest. A coach is there to provide context on what this experience should feel like, such that each athlete can make his/her own decision on how to properly approach the weights, reps, and rounds of the workout. Use your coaches and ask questions. My challenge to you is to know your fitness and attack workouts appropriately within that. The trick is using scaling and RX to lock into that stimulus and run with it.

This is where the real juice is, guys. Cheers to Fitness 2.0.


Danny Lesslie


Thursday’s Workout:
Complete 5 rounds for reps:
In 90 seconds:
5 Burpees
Run 100m
Max DB KB Front Squats (53/35)
-Rest 90 seconds-