Often in classes, when we reach the Metcon, the Rx weights associated with movements are extremely challenging, even unachievable for many in the class. And that is as it should be. Literally, no more than 10-15% of athletes in the class should be able to (or attempt to) address the workout at Rx weight, (and sometimes Rx reps).

When the coach reviews the movements, if he or she does not tell you in the prep, ask them the question, “So I should choose a weight that allows me to what?”

Their answer could be one of several, but the answer should always be one that leads you to maximize your workout intensity for the duration of the workout.  Let’s cover an example. The workout is a couplet AMRAP. Let’s choose Clusters (a cluster is a squat clean moving immediately into a thruster) and Double Unders, 10 minutes for rounds and reps. Each round, athletes must complete 15 clusters @ 135#/95# and 50 DUs.

Pretend that I am the athlete about to attempt this metcon. Further pretend that my maximum cluster weight is 135# (as a male). What business do I have allowing ego to decide my cluster weight and push me to go Rx? Is it not likely that I will spend the first 4-5 minutes just completing my first round of clusters? Further, what part of taking the first 5 minutes to achieve 15 cluster reps is “metcon-like”?

Moving on to DUs, let’s suppose that on a good day, I can only string 4-6 together unbroken? By the same method of thinking, what value is there in my getting stuck on a round of DU’s that takes me 3-4 minutes? Most of my time would be spent in resetting myself to start new attempts!

So really, you could probably answer the question for yourself, yes? “So I should choose a weight that allows me to what?” The best answer, and at this point, the answer you should expect is an answer that allows you to keep moving! From my perspective, the answer should come back something like this (if the coach did not already offer it before being asked): “You should choose a weight that allows you to complete at least 2 rounds of clusters without having to drop the bar and reset.  On your DUs, if you can string them together frequently in large sums, complete 50. If however you are working on them and doing single/double or just a few doubles before a fail, get 15 successful doubles, and move back to clusters.”

Understand that the metcon, (in our gym frequently referred to as the WOD), is all about high intensity. You will not be giving up work by reducing the weight, you may very likely be increasing the work intensity considerably, and therefore, increasing its benefits.

An athlete attempted the clusters at 75 lbs and finished 4 rounds of clusters in the time limit. A couple of weeks later, he retested at Rx and only finished 1 rounds and 6 reps of clusters.  Mathematically, his work would look like this:

     4 completed rounds x 15 reps x 75 lbs = 4,500 lbs moved
     (1 completed round x 15 reps) + 6 reps x 135 lbs = 2,835 lbs moved

There is a clear difference in weight favoring the Rx athlete, but there is also a clear difference in weight moved (work completed) favoring the scaled athlete!

More times than not, the scaling athlete is the athlete that benefits the most in a metcon because they have chosen to utilize rep counts or weights that allow them to work at the height of intensity. Next time you find yourself wondering what weight to attempt, consider the weight that allows you to maintain movement or move with few breaks throughout the metcon.

Yes! You can certainly go too light! And an athlete not physically challenged, is an athlete that is not maximizing metcon value either, but that’s a topic for a future post.