How Modifying will get you to RX!

There is always a lot of talk about RX’ing a workout. We get it, it's what a lot of us strive for. But, in order to get to RX we may have to take one step back in order to take two forward.

One of the key factors in CrossFit is intensity. While intensity is relative to the duration of a workout or the workout stimulus, our goal is to develop that intensity and in turn develop fitness.

Lets take the workout Helen:

3 Rounds For Time:

400M Run

21 Kettlebell Swings (1.5/1)

12 Pull-Ups

This is a high intensity, ideally unbroken workout. The run should be a sprint, the weight of the kettlebell should be relatively light, and the pull-up reps are low. This workout can be finished as fast as the early 7 minute range and should ideally be under the 11 Minute time frame.


When we look at a workout like this, as long as we have at least singles on pull-ups chances are this can be completed as RX. But, and it’s a big one, it may be well over this time frame. Coming in over this time frame is not the stimulus of this workout and as discussed above intensity is key to developing fitness. We do not want intensity at the consequence of form, but we do want intensity.

This is the reason we modify. If we cannot sprint 3 rounds of 400M runs then we should lower it to a distance we can sprint. If we cannot hold onto the Kettlebell for unbroken sets we should lower the weight or reps and do so. And if 12 pull-ups is currently a big set then we should lower the reps and up the intensity (as well as be working on our pull-ups).

If we do this for long enough, we will gain fitness quicker than we would by doing RX. RX does not develop fitness quicker than modifying, it can be exactly the opposite.

Also, here is an interesting concept. We should be willing to modify what we are good at in order to work on what we need to work on. 

For example, if we are a strong athlete but need to develop our conditioning then we should consider reducing the weight in a workout and increasing the intensity. In order to gain capacity in one area we have to let go slightly in another. Our goal is to be as well rounded as possible. By lightening the weight we increase the intensity, we develop the ability to do bigger sets and we get fitter. We also give ourselves the ability to push harder at what we need to work on. By keeping the weight heavy and the intensity low we are continuing to work on our strengths, not our weaknesses.

An example if this could be Grace:

For Time

30 Clean and Jerks (135/95) 

At its quickest this is a 1:00 minute workout with a good goal of being in the 3:00-4:00 minute time frame. Even if you have a ridiculousLY high 1 rep max clean and jerk this does not guarantee success at this workout. Just because an athlete can lift 300lbs on a clean and jerk does not mean doing 30 at 135/95 will have the desired intensity. If this is the case, for purposes of developing well balanced fitness it would be better to reduce the weight and increase the intensity. Everybody knows how strong this athlete is, what this athlete needs is conditioning, and that will not improve as quickly with a slow 135/95 Grace as it will with a 95/65 lb high intensity Grace.


Whether our goal is to workout as RX or not the goal should be intensity. Modifying weight and reps when needed to maximize this will give you results you have never seen!

As always, if in doubt ask a coach. Our goal is to help you figure out the best option for each workout and help you become as fit and healthy as possible.