Introduction To The RX Athlete Program

What is the RX Athlete Program?

The RX Athlete Program is an accessory strength training program. Not sure what that is? Simple, it’s a supplemental program used in conjunction with one’s primary programming.

For example, marathon runners’ primary training for their sport is running. What many don’t know is that extra work is usually done outside of running to improve performance. This will usually be a well-rounded cross-training program. The cross-training will develop specific strength and mobility that benefit runners. The cross-training program usually takes up 10-20% of the runner’s training time. A cross-training program will generally encompass various things. This can include but is not limited to mobility, stretching, strength training, kettlebells, different forms of aerobic training, sports, or calisthenics.

This program is designed for use in conjunction with Cross-Training programming. The purpose is to improve your Cross-Training performance. It is a strength program designed to get you to the point where you can RX any WOD that comes up.

As you know, Cross-Training programming varies from affiliate-to-affiliate. There is no ‘standard’ programming. For that reason, there is a great amount of flexibility and optionality. What that means for those who take on this program is that it can added customized to fit your programming. This is written out in detail in the next lesson called Program Design.

In the Program Design section, you’ll be presented with a few ways to customize the program. You can pick how many days a week you’ll use the RX Athlete Program. Whether you’ll do it before or after class or as a separate session in the day. You’ll also have different programming for each movement. For example, an athlete who hasn’t completed a strict pull-up will have different programming for someone who can do ten strict pull-ups.

Once that’s complete, you’ll have a custom program based on your ability in each movement as well as the number of sessions you’ll complete a week. About 20% of your overall training will go to using the RX Athlete program to supplement your Cross-Training classes.

Who is the RX Athlete Program Designed for?

If you’re reading this I’m going to go on a limb and say you do Cross-Training. You’re likely training at a Cross-Training affiliate, military base, or going at it alone in your garage or larger commercial gym. You’re likely a member but you might also be a coach. That’s all great but that doesn’t mean this program has been designed for you.

So what type of Cross-Trainingter is this program for? It’s for those who intermittently or never write an RX next to their name each day. It is for those who are struggling to do or complete WOD’s as prescribed.

The RX Athlete program is ideal for those who are at a point in their Cross-Training training where they are still scaling bodyweight movements or having to use lighter weights than what calls for the daily WOD.

The purpose of this program is to get you strong enough to RX the daily WOD’s. That’s the goal. Actually, it’s the only goal. The sole purpose of this program is to progress your barbell and gymnastics aptitude and ability. We’ll get you to the point where you can RX most standard WOD’s that come in standard programming more quickly than if you were to do Cross-Training by itself

Let us dig into that deeper. The goal of “RX most standard WOD’s that come in standard programming” is ambiguous. I’ll bring some clarity to that goal statement. This is so that we have a concrete mark in which to aim for and to give purpose to our movement toils.

For the gymnastics strength component, here the goals for the program:

[tabl caption=”Female Gymnastic Goals” width=”100%” colalign=”left|left|left|left|left|left|left|left|left|left|”] Movement, Goal
Kipping Pull-up, 30 unbroken
Butterfly Pull-up, 30 unbroken
Weighted Pull-up, 1/2 BW
Ring Dips, 20 unbroken
Strict HSPU, 10
Kipping HSPU, 20 unbroken
Strict Muscle-Ups, 7 unbroken
Kipping Muscle-Ups, 15 unbroken

[/tabl] [tabl caption=”Male Gymnastic Goals” width=”100%”] Movement, Goal
Kipping Pull-up, 40 unbroken
Butterfly Pull-up, 40 unbroken
Weighted Pull-up, 3/4 BW
Ring Dips, 30 unbroken
Strict HSPU, 15
Kipping HSPU, 30 unbroken
Strict Muscle-Ups, 10 unbroken
Kipping Muscle-Ups, 20 unbroken

For the barbell strength component, the goals are dependent on biological gender and weight. The goal will be to get into the “Intermediate” or “Upper-Intermediate” strength range for each of the following movements. You can download the spreadsheet checker below.

[tabl caption=”Barbell Movements that are progressed to ‘Intermediate’ ” width=”100%”] Movement, Level
Squat, Intermediate or Upper-Intermediate
Deadlift, Intermediate or Upper-Intermediate
Overhead Press, Intermediate or Upper-Intermediate
Bench Press, Intermediate or Upper-Intermediate
Power Clean, Intermediate or Upper-Intermediate
Push Press, Intermediate or Upper-Intermediate
Push Jerk, Intermediate or Upper-Intermediate
Front Squat, Intermediate or Upper-Intermediate
Overhead Squat, Intermediate or Upper-Intermediate
Clean and Jerk, Intermediate or Upper-Intermediate
Power Snatch , Intermediate or Upper-Intermediate
[/tabl] [tabl colalign=”center|center” caption=”Barbell Movement Level Spreadsheet”] Male, Female


Crossing the Chasm

The chasm represents the gulf between two distinct marketplaces for technology products – the first, an early market dominated by early adopters and insiders who are quick to appreciate the nature and benefits of the new development, and the second a mainstream market representing “the rest of us,” people who want the benefit of new technology but who do not want to “experience” it in all its gory detail. The transition between these two markets is anything but smooth.” – Geoffrey A. Moore, Crossing the Chasm

In the high-tech markets, there is a marketing concept called Crossing the Chasm. This chasm is the transition from a niche product or technology by a small subset of the intended market to something that has broad utilization by a majority of the intended market. For example, the iPhone was once a product that was mostly used by the tech-savvy but now (circa 2016) it has broad market penetration. Both my parents who are retired have the latest version of the iPhone. Apple, by all measures, has successfully navigated the iPhone across the chasm.

Bringing this back to Cross-Training. Think of the “niche” marketplace as individuals who are not yet able to RX most WOD’s. The second “mass” marketplace is a place where you’re are able to RX most WOD’s. Remember what Geoffrey wrote in the above quote, “the transition between these two markets is anything but smooth.”

The RX Athlete Program navigates you through the muddy waters of the chasm in an efficient, intelligent, and pragmatic way.

Crossing the Chasm Graph

Why is strength important for Cross-Training?

Strength is an essential component of all human performance and its formal development can no longer be neglected in the preparation of an athlete. – Yuri Verkhoshansku & Mel Siff in Supertraining

There exists an interesting phenomenon with strength when applied to Cross-Training. I dub it the Goldilocks effect. Too little strength or too much strength is often a problem when working to be a well-rounded Cross-Training athlete. With too little, one is unable to perform RX gymnastics movements and RX weights for the barbell movements. Too much strength and it will interfere with other systems such as aerobic capacity, stamina, flexibility, and agility. The temperature is just right when you can proficiently and efficiently perform all the movements and weights as RX’ed but without a significant loss of capacities in other energy systems and adaptations that are vital to being an all-around Cross-Training athlete.

Not only is this supported anecdotally by my observations of over a decade in gyms but it is well studied and supported within the Exercise Science literature. Proficiency and strength first. Intensity second. The long-term training effect being that individuals can start integrating more complex and heavier loads and movements in a more efficacious and efficient manner when compared to not having a base level of strength.

There is a threshold of being ‘strong enough’. Crossing that chasm means that you have the strength necessary to RX most of the standard WOD’s that come up in standard Cross-Training programming. You can do thrusters, overhead squats, and deadlifts without having to scale weight, and additionally, you can do kipping pull-ups and handstand pushups without bands or Abmats.

The question then begs, why would one want to take on the onerous task of crossing that threshold? Do we want to increase strength because we are gluttons for physical reprisal and misery? Assuredly not. The human condition has a proclivity to avoid such things. What we need to drive us through the task of crossing the threshold is a purpose. A reason to move through the obstacle. A reason to cross the chasm.

The reason we want to cross that chasm is that doing so it is a tipping point to the next phase of your training. Passing the threshold will place you in a phase of your training where you’ll be able to increase your performance faster and have a higher sense of mastery of the movement practice of Cross-Training that you’ve chosen to pursue. Once you are able to do non-assisted pull-ups or thrusters at 95lb/65lb or other RX’ed standards you will be in a catalyzing phase of your training where your level of fitness will accelerate simply by the virtue of being able to RX movements. Every aspect of your fitness capacity and aesthetics will improve at a faster pace.

Why is strength important for Longevity?

Why is strength important for Longevity?

If you’ve read any of my articles or used my programs you know I think long-term strength training is fundamental to functional longevity. Functional longevity is a term I’ve been using frequently to describe a person’s ability to be independent and high functioning as they age. This can be broadly thought of as one’s ability to perform day-to-day tasks and the activities they enjoy with ease. This includes things like walking, hiking, groceries, cooking, sex, exercise, and other movement patterns used in standard day-to-day existence.

The traditional western perspective on function longevity looks something like this first graph. What the graph shows is that functional longevity declines at a rate where in the last few decades of life. In practical terms, this means that in the last few decades of one’s life there is a precipitous increase in one’s inability to do easy day-to-day tasks.

Traditional View on Functional Longevity

On the other hand, with diligence, an individual’s functional longevity curve can look something like this with an intelligent and long-term commitment to good exercise and nutrition habits. In practical terms, this suggests that a person can manage all the day-to-day movement patterns even up to their last few months of life.

High Functional Longevity in retirement years

It is worth mentioning, there is a multitude of factors that we can control through broad life choices and lifestyle that contribute to longevity. These can include finances, career, community, personality, hobbies, tolerance for risk, etc. In terms of fitness, the three choices that contribute to longevity and have the most weight are strength, muscle mass, and body composition. In essence, strength training is the most important physical adaption that can be attained through training that has the potential to contribute to you being able to care of yourself individually in your last decades of life.

A graduation program

The RX Athlete program is a graduation program. By that I mean it is a stepping stone program. Once you reach the strength goals outlined you’ll transition out of this program and working to integrate your new strength into increasing your Cross-Training performance. For each person, it will be different but you should expect to be using the RX Athlete program for three to twelve months. If you’re doing the RX Program for more than 12 months from now, something went awry. The ideal scenario is you spend 3-12 months here and slowly start kicking ass and taking names at your gym – at which point this program has served its purpose.

In the next lesson, we dive into the nitty-gritty details of Program Design.