When Should You “Rx Plus” a WOD?

I’ve never been a big fan of overly clichéd motivational posts. Seeing a spuriously attributed quote about wolves’ self esteem embedded on a stock image just doesn’t get me hyped like it’s supposed to. But I’m far from impervious to the motivational benefits of social media; I just get my inspiration from somewhere a little different – CrossFit’s Instagram page.

It’s not Games athletes doing unfathomable things that I’m marveling over. It’s ordinary folks doing things that should be ordinary but aren’t for many. People who despite being a little unconditioned and a little out of shape are willing to put in some serious work to change their life for the better (or at least healthier). I’m talking about 70 year olds doing a scaled versions of the Benchmark WODs or heavily overweight dudes climbing a ropes and cracking out box jumps, it’s so uplifting to witness.  


This is what is so fantastic about CrossFit; nothing is more scalable than strength & conditioning. Just look at the king of lifts — the squat — and it’s the perfect example.

In the beginning someone might only be able to manage the movement unloaded and onto an incredibly high box. But after a few months in the gym they might be breaking parallel with an empty bar; give them a few years and a double bodyweight squat could even be on the cards. This isn’t just true for squats, either. Take any of the main movements, and there’s a way to scale them up or down, depending on someone’s ability. And for CrossFit boxes, this is a huge selling point. It doesn’t matter who you are you can turn up and do a variant of the workout on the board, just like everyone else. It probably won’t be exactly what everyone else is doing in the beginning, but it will be a start.

This progression system however gets a little tricky once you become competent in this whole fitness malarkey. Once you are able to “Rx” most workouts, you have two choices for how you can make those same WODs more challenging. The first is simply to push yourself harder, knock a few seconds of a workout here, strive for another round in AMRAP there. The second option however is a little more complicated: you could “Rx Plus” it.   

Rx & Rx Plus

Rx is normally defined as completing the workout as prescribed, or in layman’s terms, doing everything written on the board within the time cap. Rx Plus, on the other hand, is doing just that and more. To Rx Plus a workout you must make the scheduled session even “harder” by either increasing the weight, reps, range of motion or perform kipping movements strict. This might seem unnecessary at best and showing off at worst but there are a whole host of reasons why anyone from a beginner to an advanced athlete might want to Rx Plus a session.

The Risk

One word of warning: try to avoid making a workout harder to make it easier. Doing Heavy DT just because you don’t think that you’re going to beat your last time is only cheating yourself. And throwing on a weights vest next time Murph is up on the whiteboard to hide your running ability is just poor form.

To Build Muscle and Develop Strength

Kipping might be a phenomenal way of efficiently hitting a lot of reps on bodyweight movements like pull-ups, but it’s far from the best way to develop a good base level of strength or muscle. (The same goes for the likes of jerks/strict press.) For that you need to slow things down a little and get some time under tension, especially if you are still relatively new to functional fitness. To develop that strength and size, try swapping out all kipping movements in WODs for a month, while practicing the kipping movement on your own or in the warm up — and watch your strength skyrocket.

To Prepare for an Event

Chances are that your training goals and what your coach is programming for the class won’t always align. While you might be wanting to get in top shape for an upcoming throwdown, your coach might be trying to get the class ready for the open or focused on developing skills. So if you are still wanting to follow the class programming and chase your own goals you may benefit from modifying or Rx Plus-ing certain workouts. This is especially true if the event you are prepping for is particularly heavy or includes certain slightly obscure movements. Be careful here, though, and ensure that you respect the coach; upping the weight on the bar or doing double unders instead of single skips will have little impact on the flow of the class, but changing walking lunges to handstand walks will just piss folks off. Practice that stuff on your own and use the classes for conditioning if that’s your only option.

To Make it Harder

Almost any workout done with enough intensity can be hard. Take a simple movement like the burpee. Now do a hundred of them as fast as you can and I bet your exhausted. Now if you were to add a 10kg weight vest into the mix and do those same 100 burpees, you’d still be exhausted at the end, but differently so. If programmed well, adding additional stress (weight, reps, ROM, etc.) every now and then can be extremely beneficial, but beware of over doing it.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.