What's in a Rx Athlete?

CrossFit competitions are always so much fun and so motivating to all involved.  Even if you don't take out the crown, being able to see what your body can do on competition day is an epic feeling and helps generate a new level of intensity in your training.  

As much fun as competitions are, they do expose weaknesses in your training that need to be addressed if you want to improve. After a comp is always the best time to reassess your training focus and target the weakness that were exposed.

It is not unusual to feel quite overwhelmed with the thought of all the things you want to work on and multiple gym sessions seem like the first place to start- especially since Fronning does it:)

Here's the thing, to get better at CrossFit, you need to do CrossFit- Constantly varied, Functional Movement, done at high intensity.  You need to learn all movements required in CrossFit and get really good at them.  Focusing on any one thing will make you loose out on something else.  Secondly, volume isn't the answer.  By volume I mean lots of training many times a day however, Intensity is where it's at.  By intensity I mean committing to what your doing with everything.  If its learning a new movement, commit to it, if its a conditioning WOD, give it everything, if its a strength WOD, push your limits. Imagine being able to train like you compete on game day, imagine the potential you could unlock, imagine what would happen on game day then!!!!

But before all that can kick off, there some questions you need to ask yourself and some realisations you need to understand.

Where Am I at now?

The first place to start is to admit to yourself and realise for yourself where you are on the CrossFit spectrum.  This is a tough question to answer but a very important one so you can best direct your energy, focus and training.

Am I an Rx athlete? How far away am I from being an Rx Athlete?

To help answer these questions let's use the Allstar affiliate series as a gauge.  Taking day 1 into account, the first 2 events were pretty even for everyone in the way of skill.  The movements were basic and all that separated teams was each individuals ability to endure pain and push to get fast reps.  However when it came to event 3- the 2rm overhead squat- this is where the Rx athlete pulled away.  

For the women- the range of 2 rm overhead squats in the Rx category was 60-75kg.
For the men- the range of 2rm overhead squat in the Rx category was 100-120kg.

*Please note this is the weight that were hit by athletes in the event- after 6 burpees and 1 attempt. Also some off these athletes that did these weights snatched into their first overhead squat.  

This means that your Overhead squat needs to be solidly within these ranges under fatigue, and your snatch needs to be close to these numbers to confidently be able to hit them.

Moving onto day 2:
The events in day 2 were a little more skilled based and obviously were already divided into Intermediate and Rx category's.  However a couple of things are very important to take note of in order to answer the questions of where you are on the CrossFit spectrum.  

At the Rx level there are no substitutes provided.  If you required a substitute on the day, your still on your way to becoming an Rx athlete.
It was not enough to simply have the skills required on Day 2, but you had to be great at those skills.  Pull Ups- needed to be efficient butterfly or efficient Gymnastic.
If you were a RX athlete in the Rx category, you had to be proficient with Chest to Bar Pull Ups.
Toes to bar - needed to be kipped.
Clean and Jerk- The required weights needed to be moved in sets of 10 and the last weights needed to be moved in 3-5's. Rx weights 90/70kg.

These skills and strengths required take months even years to develop, and if you were not close to them when the workouts for the AllStar affiliate series were announced, unfortunately they are not the type of skills and strength numbers that can be developed in 6 weeks.

"I do Rx weights in class, why am I not an Rx Athlete?”

Our focus in class is for the general population and is reflective of people's abilities, strength and skill.  This is a constantly evolving piece of our programming that strikes a perfect balance between achievable and challenging.  The Rx standard at VSC is different to other Box Rx standards due to the age of our box and the level of our average athlete.  An example of the progress with the Rx standard over the time we have been operating can be seen in the following examples:

2013- Average Back squat 80/40kg
2013- Average Clean and Jerk 1rm 40/30kg
2013- Average Clean and Jerk in a Met-Con- 30kg/15kg

2016- Average Back squat 130/70kg
2016- Average Clean and Jerk 1rm 70/50kg
2016- Average Clean and Jerk in a Met-Con- 60/40kg

Strength and stamina take consistency and time to develop.  Each and every CrossFit class you do at VSC will help develop these components of fitness.  All you need to do is show up and put everything into the WOD.  At this stage there is no need for additional strength programs, weightlifting cycles, or high volume amounts of work.

Skills however take discipline, focus and dedication to develop.  You learn the basics in class, then you need to work on them every chance you get.  Skills are great to do everyday as they don't exhaust you like strength or conditioning WOD’s can, however develop the proprioception required for mastery.  Skills are where your effort and focus should be and you should be striving to develop your skill tool box as much as possible.  

What Skills should an Rx Athelete have?

We start with basic gymnastics- Pull Ups, Chest to bar pull ups, Toes to bar, handstand Push Ups, ring dips, ring muscle ups, bar muscle ups, handstand walks.
If you want to compete at a high level, the question isn't do you have these skills, the questions is how good are you at these skills? Even more importantly, How many reps of these skills can you string together?  

A basic set for all these movements should be:
10 Plus - With out doubt -  Confidently achieved - Repeatedly

Along with gymnastic skills an Rx athlete must have a great understanding of Olympic weightlifting and be able to lift at the very least body weight snatch and body weight +30kg Clean and jerk.

Once you have the above, you will be well on your way to smashing it at an Rx level.  In order to achieve the above you would of developed a lot of skills along the way and will be a very well rounded athlete.  Your training will be at a greater level, and we can start to look at different strength protocols and multiple training sessions to keep your body adapting to varying stimuluses.  You would of earned the right to train like a top level athlete, because you have put in the work and developed all the skills required for a top level athlete. 

However the above cannot be achieved unless you have a strong foundation.

I have some of those skills, how do I get the rest?

Once you know where you are at, you can make some clear decisions on what needs work. However get ready to work on all of the things you don't like doing.  

You have weakness for a reason
- you don't like working on them, 
- they bring you no joy, 
- they are too hard and
- your not good at them.  

It's time to accept what needs work, understand where you are at physically and start working on becoming better.

How Do I Get There?

To Start with.......Muscles ups and Handstands.

It doesn't matter if you have a 2 minute Fran Time or deadlift twice your body weight- if you can't do a Muscle Up and walk 10m on your Hands then you can't think of yourself as a Rx Athelete just yet.
At the start of July I put 2 challenges on the board for all Rx Athletes.  They were a ring muscle up and a 10m Handstand walk.  
The reason I chose these 2 skills to focus on is because to achieve these 2 skills you need to work on them regularly outside of class and yhey are a staple in a lot of CrossFit training literature about developing maximum physical potential. (Also the transfer of these 2 skills into the workouts of the Allstar series is immeasurable).

Muscle Up- If you get a muscle up, a chest to bar pull up is a walk in the park.  Not to mention the countless other strength developments you will have when you can move your body weight throughout the range of a muscle up.

When you do muscle up, your moving your body weight from below something to above something- when you do a Power clean and jerk, your moving a weight from below you to above you.  Can see how the strength required for a muscle up is similar to the strength required for a Power clean and jerk, both movements require a pull and a press.  

To get a muscle up you need to work on a number of pulling and pressing movements that will all lead you to a muscle up, and when you reach your muscle up then you would of achieved strength in a number of pulling and pressing movements that all reside in your skill tool box!
To further explain in order to get a muscle you need to do ring pulls, ring hangs, ring holds, ring dips, pull ups, chest to bar pull ups, bar muscle ups, swings, kips, negatives etc. 
However when you finally get that muscle up you will be good at ring pulls, ring hangs, ring holds, ring dips, pull ups, chest to bar pull ups, bar muscle ups, swings, kips, negatives etc. 
And when you get multiple ring dips, you will be proficient at ring pulls, ring hangs, ring holds, ring dips, pull ups, chest to bar pull ups, bar muscle ups, swings, kips, negatives etc. 

Handstand Walk- If you can walk 10m on your hands then the stabilisation in your shoulder and strength required to complete a heavy Overhead squat and completing a overhead walking lunge will be easier to achieve.

When it comes to maximum shoulder stabilisation and strength, the Handstand walk is the greatest!  In order to do it you need to work on handstands, handstand presses, single arm handstands, ALL pressing movements with the barbell etc.  
To explain more in order to get a 10 meter handstand walk you need to be able to do L-sits, planche push ups, ring push ups, handstands, head stands, handstand push ups, shoulder touches, strict press, negatives, Sotts Press etc
Once again when you can achieve a 10m handstand walk you would of also achieved increased strength and proficiency in a number of other movements that all reside in your skill tool box!

To be clear, muscle ups and handstand walks require work on lots of other things in order to achieve them, that is why they are so effective and important to learn.  
If you only work on them in class it will not be enough.  You need to commit your time outside of class learning and developing them.

If you have questions please don't hesitate to ask.  I have handed out muscle up and handstand programs in the past and still have them if you require them.  Furthermore don't hesitate to look things up and try them out when you can.  Chris Speller, Carl Paoli, CrossFit Gymnastics are a few great resources to use as much as you can.

How much time is enough?
As much time as you can afford!  
2 minutes of getting upside down after class is not enough time to develop your skill.
If you want the skill you must dedicate more time than you would if you were doing something you were good at.
You need to work on it, and for it every chance you get.  

"But I feel like Iam not strong enough.  I want to just do strength work until I feel like Iam strong enough"

You will never be as strong as you want to be for a comp, there's just no magic number that you will reach that will be appropriate, and by the time you realise this you would of wasted so much time on getting stronger that you don't have any other skills in your tool box.

Dont get me wrong, Yes you need to be strong and you need to work on it, but not Only on it.
Furthermore, working on gymnastic skills will develop your strength anyways, it just won't be via your traditional 5x5 barbel format.  (If you want a way to develop your muscles, try doing any gymnastic movement slow and controlled (strict). Its not often seen because it is so damn hard!)

Which brings me to my next point- One of the greatest aspects of CrossFit and probably the most misunderstood is the idea of constantly varied training.  The reason this is misunderstood is that it goes against everything mainstream fitness programming has thrown at us for years.  
We have always been told if you want get better at one thing do that thing more.  For example, you want get better at Back squats then do more back squats.  You want to get faster at a 10km run then do more 10km runs etc.  

However with CrossFit, we look at movement at its core and then challenge that movement in as many ways as we can, constantly making the body adapt to new stimuluses.  

For example Back squat, front squat, over head squat, snatch, cleans, box jump, lunges, wall balls are all varied approaches to developing squat strength. All of these movements lend themselves to each other, you get stronger at one you get stronger at all of them.  
In addition to movements we challenge the body with reps schemes, workout times, number of rounds, varying weights etc.  ROUTINE IS THE ENEMY.

It's not complicated, it doesn't need to be fancy. It just needs to be effective and intense.

None of us are full time Athletes.  We all have jobs, Uni, children and varying commitments that prevent us from dedicating massive chunks of our day to training.  That is exactly why we need to train smart and intense in order to get better!

In a nutshell...
To be an Rx Athlete takes time and dedication, time to develop your strength and intensity and dedication to develop your skills.


Continue smashing the workouts in class- moving faster and better is vital.
Commit to the class and give it everything, every time.
Outside of class work on the skills you need to improve so that you can move fast with those skills.
Learn the skills required for CrossFit so they all can be incorporated in your training.
Build your foundation wide so we can build a lot on top of it.
Ask, Ask and Ask for help and guidance.

It's that simple.

-Coach Adam


World-Class Fitness in 100 Words:

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise, but not body fat. 

Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, and presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. 

Bike, run, swim, row, etc., hard and fast. 

Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. 

Keep workouts short and intense. 

Regularly learn and play new sports.”


- Coach Greg Glassman, CrossFitFounder and CEO (Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.).