There’s just as good of a reason for coaches to instill training above the prescription as there is to scale below it.
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Heavy Lifting

Is that even a thing? I mean I’ve got to be honest, I remember saying out loud, many times, years ago, “I’ll never do Rx-plus!” Like the advice I’d like to give most everyone with a strong opinion about something they don’t understand, I should have held my tongue.

What is the point of going above the prescription after all? Couldn’t a person just do the prescribed workout faster, get a great training session from it and call it a day? Surely they could. However, I’d argue that there is quite good reason for Rx-plus. In fact, there’s just as good of a reason for coaches to instill training above the prescription as there is to scale below it, in my opinion.

All this is predicated by two important assumptions. The first is that not all training is testing, which means going above the prescription (or below it) doesn’t impede the importance of testing and comparing scores. The second essential assumption is that training sessions are programmed with a specific stimulus in mind. In that way, much of our time as coaches is spent trying to communicate ways for athletes to achieve the desired stimulus, whether it is a strength focus, unbroken intensity, working inside of a certain time domain, some work/rest situation or otherwise.

For most athletes, achieving the intended stimulus means trimming weight off the prescription. Other instances may call for a shorter run, less complex movements or less rep volume. Scaling down is what allows any athlete of any fitness level to capture relative intensity to that of the fittest athletes. In a similar light, we need to understand that workouts are programmed with the fittest athletes in mind, but what does that mean?

Is a “heavy” workout programmed for the strongest guy in the gym? Is it written for the strongest guy in the state? What is “heavy”? In the same vein, one could ask: What is fast? Or how many pull-ups in a row is a challenging set?

More rarely than one would need to coach folks to scale down, a good coach, then, would also know when to scale up. At my gym, Deuce Gym in Venice, California, for example, we have a 13-year NFL veteran who can out-press anyone in the gym by a large margin. “Shoulder to overhead” is almost always a strict press for him at prescribed weights. I’d argue that as an outlier, encouraging him to go above Rx in areas of asymmetrical strength is actually the perfect solution to achieve a desired stimulus.

Can you think of instances when scaling above the prescription is warranted? What about instances when it isn’t?