Guide: How to Become an RX Athlete

Being an RX athlete in the sport of CrossFit means that you need to be ready to perform workouts as written without modifications or regressions for even the most complicated or heavy exercises. Therefore, it goes without saying that being RX requires a high level of physical fitness, as well as proficiency in a wide range of movements and exercises. In order to achieve this level of fitness, there are certain conditions that must be met.

If you're not sure whether you're up to the task of becoming an RX athlete, maybe this read will help you decide. Otherwise, if you're ready to go up against whatever the workout has to bring on, read on to see how you can become an RX CrossFit athlete.

What does it take to go RX?

First, an RX athlete must have a strong foundation of strength. This includes the ability to perform a variety of weightlifting exercises, such as the squat, deadlift, and press, with heavy loads. Additionally, an RX athlete should be able to perform bodyweight exercises, such as pull-ups, push-ups, and dips, with relative ease.

Agility and coordination are also important components of being an RX athlete. CrossFit movements often involve a combination of strength and coordination, such as gymnastics-based exercises like handstand push-ups and muscle-ups. An RX athlete should be able to perform these exercises with good form and technique even under fatigue.

Finally, an RX athlete should have a good mental game and the ability to handle pressure. The thought of doing workouts can sometimes provoke intense feelings of fear and nervousness. While this is a completely normal response at all levels, the ability to stay focused and perform under pressure is crucial to success. To perform well, you're gonna have to hurt sometimes and a good RX athlete knows that.

CrossFit movements often involve a combination of strength and coordination, such as gymnastics-based exercises like handstand push-ups and muscle-ups.
An RX athlete should be able to perform these exercises with good form and technique even under fatigue.

I'm ready! How do I become an RX athlete?

To become an RX athlete, you will need to consistently train and improve your physical fitness in a variety of areas, including strength, endurance, and agility. You should also become familiar with and proficient in the various movements and exercises used in the sport of CrossFit, such as weightlifting, gymnastics, and high-intensity interval training.

Since CrossFit has so many exercises, trying to improve them all can feel like juggling too many balls at once. A well-rounded training plan will make sure that you are not lacking in certain areas and focusing too much on others.

Finding a good coach and/or a team can be also beneficial. Training in groups contributes to building a strong mental game and improving the ability to handle pressure. (Click here to read about more benefits of training in groups).

Additionally, you may want to consider competing in CrossFit competitions to gain experience and exposure. Online competitions are also a good option, but local competitions provide a more immersive experience. Participating in competitions encourages you to work on your weaknesses and set measurable goals which are both essential aspects of athlete development.

What skills are necessary to be RX?

RX athletes tend to have a very particular set of skills. We can easily classify these skills into two groups: strength based, and agility-coordination based.

Strength based exercises rely primarily on the athlete being able to produce enough force to complete the exercise. We see this with a lot of exercises like deadlifts then squats.

When it comes to agility coordination exercises, strength is also a factor however timing and the athlete's ability to move through space play a significant role. Technique and efficiency are vital in these exercises too. Snatches, handstand walk, and double unders are great examples.

What often happens to many athletes is that while they set their focus on one category, they often let things slide and the others. That's why it's so important that you follow a training regimen that is balanced across all domains (I can recommend a really good one 😉).

Minimum Requirements to be an RX athlete

The most minimum requirement to become an RX athlete is to train with integrity. You must be honest about counting your reps, reporting your score, and when giving yourself a “no rep” when it's necessary. Remember that the entire point of being RX is to uphold standards and perform workouts as prescribed: you can't do that if you're cheating reps. Now, let’s talk about movements and skills…

On the road to becoming RX the bar of entry isn't a very defined one, however just so you get an idea, here are some goals you can work toward in order to become a complete RX athlete. Keep in mind that all exercises should be performed considering the RX standards:

Bodyweight

If you want to become a complete RX athlete this is where you should start! The foundation of becoming an RX athlete primarily relies on your ability to move your own body. Bodyweight exercises are the most fundamental and most functional type of strength.

How can you be expected to move external loads or complete exercises that require a high level of technicality if you struggle with the basics? You should be able to perform unassisted, full range of motion, and high volume push-ups, pull-ups, dips, and squats for days. Four sets of 8 to 20 reps of these exercises are a good baseline.

Once your body weight exercises are mastered, you can start working on weightlifting and gymnastics.

Gymnastics

Prioritizing your ability to perform strict exercises is a good way to ensure that you don't do too much too soon and/or develop injuries. Here are some baseline skills that athletes should have as they transition into more intense sessions. As you work towards performing more reps of these exercises with good form, your capacity will increase, and you will be able to perform larger, unbroken sets and get through WODs faster.

Strict: (Male/Female)
15/10 Unassisted push-ups
5/3 Handstand push ups
5/3 Wall walk
6+ Unassisted pistol squats
8/5 Unassisted pull-ups
2/1 Legless rope climb
2/1 Ring muscle ups

Kipping: (Male/Female)
10+ Handstand push ups
12+ Toes to Bar
10+ Pull ups
5+ Chest to bar pull ups
5/3 Bar muscle ups
3/2 Ring muscle ups

Additional Skills

Handstand walk
Legless rope climb
Ring dips

Weightlifting

Apart from being able to perform the exercises according to standards, RX athletes should have little difficulty managing the standard loads prescribed in workouts.

Generally speaking, WODs use light weights when the volume (number of repetitions) is high, and heavy weights when the volume is low.

While the RX standard weight for each barbell exercise is debatable and can vary depending on the intention of the workout, there are some trends when you look at benchmark, open, and main site workouts.

RX athletes should be relatively comfortable using the following loads with a mid rep-range (5-10 reps unbroken):

 ExerciseMaleFemale
Power Snatch60 kg45 kg
Power Clean80 kg60 kg
Shoulder to Overhead45 kg35 kg
Front Squat*Overhead Squat70 kg45 kg*50 kg35 kg*
Deadlift100 kg 70 kg
Thruster50 kg35 kg
Sumo deadlift high pull50 kg35 kg

Standard weights for dumbbells, kettlebells, and medicine balls tend to be more consistent:

 EquipmentMale/Female
Medicine ball9/6 kg
Kettlebell24/16 kg
Dumbbell(s)22.5/15 kg
Plyo Box60/50 cm

Aerobic Capacity

Endurance is another important aspect of being an RX athlete. This includes the ability to perform high-intensity intervals as well as longer aerobic efforts of cardio-based exercises. An RX athlete should be able to run, row, or bike for several miles without becoming too fatigued to throw some weights or gymnastics in the mix. Running and ergs aside, your aerobic conditioning needs to be on point since you will be expected to get your heart rate up, and keep it there before extended periods of time

Also, a word of caution: Don’t sleep on the importance of having double unders and burpees. Too many athletes focus on lifting big and flying on the bar but being efficient in burpees and with a rope can put you ahead in certain workouts.

BONUS: Out of the Box Factors

Another important part of being an RX athlete, or rather to improve your performance in general is to give more attention to the activities outside of the gym that impact your training. Proper nutrition, recovery, and sleep are essential for maintaining energy levels, recovering from workouts, and building muscle. Even if you don't train at high intensity, managing these factors will improve the overall quality of your life.

Conclusion

In conclusion, becoming an RX athlete in CrossFit requires a combination of physical fitness and proficiency in various movements and exercises. It also requires a strong mental game and the ability to handle pressure and maintain your composure even when you're uncomfortable.

Focus on improving your strength, agility, and coordination to be sure that your body can take on any prescribed workout. By consistently training to be able to uphold workout standards, nearly anyone can eventually become an RX athlete in the sport of CrossFit.