If you're a CrossFit beginner trying to figure out why you can't do RX workouts, or if you're an advanced CrossFitter and you're trying to figure out how to take your game to the next level, the concepts I will reveal will help you wrap your mind around what you need to work on.
Firstly, in this article, we're not going to talk about specific skills, and I'm not going to give you one hack to cure your double-unders.
But what I am going to do is I'm going to present a framework, there are six pillars of CrossFit success, and we're going to talk about all of them.
If you can figure out how to implement and improve all six of these different things, you will take your game to the next level and see stratospheric success.
What does RX and Scaled mean?
First, let's define what RX and scaled are quickly.
RX is the minimum standard that CrossFit has defined as fitness.
So most workouts have pull-ups, a barbell with 95 pounds, and maybe kettlebell swings at a certain weight.
Regardless of the infinite amount of different combinations there is, there tends to be general standard for being able to do all of the workouts as RX.
Now, to be a good CrossFitter, you should be able to say, 'hey, write me a workout within the normal CrossFit parameters,' and you'll know that you'll be able to do it.
What happens is that beginners, including myself, when I first started, couldn't do most of the workouts as they as prescribed (RX), and I couldn't do the movements as they were written.
So what I had to do was modify them. There's nothing wrong with that, that's the beauty of CrossFit is being able to change, mix and match, scale things down, scale things up to make it a workout that everyone can do.
And that's why technically, my grandmother could do a CrossFit workout like Jackie, and I could do a CrossFit workout like Jackie, and we'd get the same stimulus level.
Jackie is 1000m row, 50 thrusters with an empty barbell and 30 pull ups.
For me, I could do that workout as prescribed or if I wanted to make it a little more complicated, I could scale it up by making the barbell weighted or doing, let's say, chests of our pull-ups, bar muscle ups, or something like that.
My grandmother, however, would probably need to scale things down a bit.
She would only row 100m and maybe only do a couple of hands and shoulders to overhead with no weight because she's very, very old.
Then, for the pull-ups, she wouldn't be doing butterfly chests to bar pull ups, instead, she might take a band and pull it down from the rafters or the pull-up bar.
She would be getting the same stimulus and doing the same movements, so she'd be technically working out alongside me.
That being said, let's move onto our first pillar to start RX-ing more CrossFit movements.
Pillar Number 1: Bodyweight Strength
So this is the foundation of CrossFit.
There are many other things, and we'll get to them.
The bottom line is that you need simple bodyweight strength to access most CrossFit workouts.
That's because some form of bodyweight strength exists in many workouts.
For most workouts, bodyweight strength would include:
- Being able to do a pull-up
- Being able to do a push-up
- Taking my body and jumping up onto a box
- Being able to take my body and make a lunge of some sort
- Get on the ground and then get back off the ground
I can do anything involving my body and the movements that needs to be done.
Bodyweight strength is one of the core pillars of being good at fitness and CrossFit specifically.
Pillar Number 2: Bodyweight Skills
So these are more advanced gymnastic movements ranging from double-unders to a standard kipping pull-up to butterfly chest to bar pull-ups or unbroken bar muscle-ups.
These are all skill movements, and they require a lot of skill.
Usually, you can't get raw strength through these movements in the bodyweight skill pillar.
But it would help if you had the requisite strength to achieve some skills.
For instance, a ring muscle up or multiple ring muscle ups, if you have a lot of strength like an athlete who's got pillar one dialed in; they are super strong, they can do a tonne of pull-ups, and a tonne of ring dips strict, they're freakishly strong.
When it comes to bodyweight strength, I can get them to learn a strict ring muscle almost guaranteed. I actually do guarantee it.
And I've taught 1000s of athletes with the requisite strength to do things like ring muscle ups, but where we start to develop the skills are.
What does it look like to do five unbroken ring muscle-ups? Most people, including myself, will need more strength to do five strict ring muscle-ups and rely on strength.
So we need to start adding on some skills. And that's why pillar number two is so significant.
You're not going to be able to do standard CrossFit workouts like Murph, Barbara or Helen with any intensity without having high levels of bodyweight skill.
Suppose you have bodyweight strength and try to do Murph with strict pull-ups, or you try to get a solid score on Helen with nothing but strict pull-ups.
In that case, I can promise you that people with advanced bodyweight skills, who've focused on pillar number two of developing their bodyweight skills, will have far better scores and be much more capable of getting a lot of work done in a shorter amount of time.
So these are the first two pillars, and they go hand in hand.
You need to have a body with strength.
So think of raw bodyweight strength combined with bodyweight skills.
So do you have the coordination to string together multiple pull-ups? That's why pillar one, bodyweight strength, and two, bodyweight skills, are fundamental.
And if you need more than one of those departments, you will run into workouts that you won't be able to RX and will have to modify.
Pillar Number 3: Barbell Strength
So with barbell strength, you'll be able to do the things in pillar number four, barbell skill, with effectiveness and efficiency.
Again, just like body weight, the barbell, when we have a barbell in our hand or some weighted object, we must have strength and skill.
Often, athletes are very biased toward either strength or skill.
So you have the quintessential barbell guy or barbell girl, and they're powerful and can muscle their way through a lot.
They're overloaded on barbell strength, so they may be strong at pressing overhead.
Maybe they're good at deadlifting.
Perhaps they're good at benches or other strict barbell movements.
So they can move a lot of weight, maybe a raw back squat, put that barbell on their back, and move a house.
Pillar Number 4: Barbell Skills
So we're taking the strength we have, and then we're applying it to skills that could include, but are not limited to, things like; one rep max snatch, one rep max, clean, jerk, and stuff like that.
But also, barbell skills are beyond just Olympic weightlifting.
We also have CrossFit weightlifting, which is unique things like being able to cycle hang power cleans, or can you cycle big sets of heavy push jerks by rebounding properly?
So barbell skills have a wide variety.
It could also include non-barbell things. For example, such weighted skills as dumbbell snatches, kettlebell cleans, or kettlebell swings, right?
So, like all these various weighted things, do you have the skills to do lots of them efficiently? If you're lacking in the skill department, you can't advance in CrossFit or vice versa.
If you need to improve in the strength department, there's no way that you will be good at a workout like Grace, where we need to do 30 cleans and jerks in a row.
A clean and jerk is a high-skill movement, which falls into pillar four.
If you have phenomenal skills at moving the barbell but need more strength to pick up a 135 pounds weight and get it over your head, then you might be good at moving some weight very effectively and efficiently.
So the RX athlete in CrossFit can beautifully combine all four pillars.
Pillar Number 5: Conditioning
Conditioning is just about keeping our heart rate controlled and elevated for an extended period.
There are some people who, as soon as their heart rate jumps up, crash and burn.
There are probably some Olympic weightlifters that can attest to this, or by CrossFitters turned to Olympic weightlifters that can attest to this.
They have all the skills, and they can do it. They have the strength, and they have the skills to move a barbell.
But as soon as that heart rate increases, they can't contain themselves.
I've seen some high-level weightlifters attempt silly CrossFit workouts with tonnes and tonnes of barbell wraps.
And they're moving weight, and the form looks perfect, but they crumble because they don't have the conditioning to go with it.
Can we keep our composure under duress and apply our strength and skills from bodyweight and barbell? Yes.
BONUS Pillar: The Mindset
Do you have the mental strength to do a CrossFit workout?
The bottom line is that some people have everything: body, bodyweight strength, bodyweight skills, barbell strength, barbell skills, and conditioning. But they need the mental fortitude, control, or mental discipline to apply all those things to a CrossFit workout.
Only some have what it takes to be honest and be a fair CrossFitter, counting their reps correctly, keeping themselves accountable to the standards of the movement, hitting full depth, and making sure they're locking out their arms overhead.
This is a significant component that you see high-level CrossFitters have, and many people with a lot of potential still need to.
With all that being said, I hope this article gives you a framework or a visual reference of what makes a good CrossFitter.
It's like we have all these pillars, and they build this foundation of the strong house.
That is your CrossFit ability.
I also have a free training ebook that I want you to have.
It has excellent writing that will help take your performance to the next level.
If you apply what it says in the ebook and what you have learned in today's article, you will have the right mindset to go ahead and attack your weaknesses and become a better CrossFitter that ultimately can RX more workouts.
I hope these six pillars will help you succeed in your RX workouts and become a better CrossFitter.