The CrossFit Games Open | Should You Scale Or Give RX A Go?

February 12, 2018

should you scale or rx the crossfit open

The CrossFit Games Open is coming.

That sentence is enough to strike fear into the heart of a seasoned CrossFitter, and yet we all do it every year… for fun, no less.

But if it’s your very first Open you might be wondering “should I scale the workouts or go RX?” The discrepancy between the movement standards is pretty sizeable, although that is to make the Open accessible to all, whilst leaving the elite to thrash it out at the top of RX.

Should you at least give RX a go, though? Five CrossFit coaches – of different experiences of coaching and competing – tell us their thoughts. You can make your mind up from there, but don’t forget your score still counts whether you RX or scale, and you can switch it up from workout to workout.

rx or scale the open ric whitelegg

Ric Whitelegg, coach at Reebok CrossFit Stockport

In my opinion, it depends largely on the individual, and there will always be exceptions to what I am about to say in general. If it is your first experience of The CFG Open, then it is fair to assume that you have 12 months of less of training in CF.

In a recent interview, when Dave Castro, director of the CFG was asked is The Open for everyone he said the following: “…Here’s the thing about the ‘anyone can do it’ statement, which is true but it’s also misleading in the fact that anyone can do it but you need some experience – you need to know how to do some basic CrossFit movements.

So assuming you do not have a broad training background and/or serious athletic pedigree. After 12 months in CF, I would assume that the majority of regular members wouldn’t have either a) all the CF movements required in The Open RXed division or b) those movements in significant enough quantities to preserve the intended stimulus of Open workouts.

If you are truly in contention for the Regionals/the Games, then you probably already know it and as such, are REQUIRED to do the WoDs RXed. If you have all the movements and would bet your life on executing them when required, every time – then you should probably go RXed.

For everyone else, The Open is just another workout, a line in the sand. It is a gauge of how well you trained in the previous year and an indication of areas you such maybe focus on in the upcoming year. Nothing more, nothing less, as a ‘rookie’ aim to move well and achieve the stimulus of each workout – there is always the rest of the year to improve your skills, get fitter or gain strength.

 crossfit open rx or scaled

Aimee O’Keefe, coach at CrossFit Widnes

If you are a pretty efficient athlete and have linked bar muscle-ups, chest-to-bars and toes-to-bar previous to the first week of the Open, then yes RX, but if you are on the fringes and have hit that ugly BMU once in the past 6 months after 234 times of trying, as a coach I would say step away, enter scaled, preserve stimulus, hit it hard, enjoy it – and if RX is calling you, hit it up again in a class environment and see what happens. Remember you have another 47 weeks for the ‘magic’ to happen!

crossfit open scaled or rx

Richard Hill, coach at GritStone CrossFit

Choosing whether to scale or RX an Open workout is something you need to reflect on week by week. The idea that 1 RX rep “beats” 1,000 scaled reps is frustrating; I will always think it’s pretty a shady to game the leaderboard to finish fictitiously high. Watching people attempt muscle ups for 14 minutes in 15.3 so they didn’t have to ‘go back to scaled’ was pretty rubbish.

There is always a flip side to that. Grinding your way through 13.3 and getting your first glorious muscle up was outstanding! So it’s a tricky balance. It comes down a few things for me… stick to the spirit of CrossFit, challenge yourself, give yourself a marker to compare your fitness next year, don’t be a dick, enjoy the workouts. We all love CrossFit.

crossfit open scaled or rx

Luigi Giacomuzzi, coach at FORM Leeds

A lot of people going into the Open for the first time don’t know whether to do it RX or Scaled. The answer comes down to you and your abilities to perform certain movements and lift certain weights.

Can you perform most of the movements that come up in the Open, like chest-to-bar pull-ups, toes-to-bar, squat snatch, power snatch, squat cleans, power cleans, overhead squat, bar muscle-ups and ring muscle-ups? These are probably the movements that a lot of people in the community struggle with and strive to perform at high intensity and under high levels of fatigue.

If you can’t perform 90% of the movements mentioned and can’t perform 85% of the Benchmark workouts RX (Grace, Isabel, Fran, Helen, Karen etc) I would recommend you do the Open scaled so you can push yourself and enjoy it, because if you don’t have 90% of these movements the RX workouts won’t last. You will spend most of the time trying to attempt a movement that you probably don’t have the prerequisites to even attempt!

em saville scale or rx crossfit open

Em Saville, coach at M Squared Fitness

What would I advise members doing the open for the first time? I would ask them to realistically see where they are with skills and weights and if they have, for example pull-ups, toes-to-bar and double-unders, even if they are hit and miss, I would say go RX. See it as a bit of fun and also to compare your scores in the future as you are only going to get better.

If you don’t have those skills yet I would scale and push yourself and work towards going RX next year!  You never know, lots of people get their first pull-up or even muscle-up when it’s Open time. Just go for it but most of all just have fun and try not to stress.

Last year it was my big challenge to myself to fully RX the Open, and in doing so I didn’t get the desired stimulus of the workouts and injured my rotator cuff – all for the ego boost of scoring as RX! Hopefully this advice will encourage you to do what you enjoy during the CrossFit Open this year. I’ll be joining in with the class and aiming to have fun during the workouts, and not trying to injure myself just to get an RX score on the board.

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Sarah fitness blog Manchester


Welcome to That Squat Bot! I'm Sarah, a Personal Trainer based in Manchester, UK.

I love strength and functional training, but I also love trying different types of movement and using my fitness outside of the gym. I'm vegan who loves avocados and vegetables as much as I love a great veggie burger. I'm also a massive Marvel nerd!

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