One of the most frequently asked questions at the gym are about the standards of RX, or doing the workout of the day as written on the board. While the standards of movement are always discussed right before the workout, a vital piece of information is overlooked, the time cap. I want to focus on what information the time cap gives an athlete and what you can do to make sure you are getting the most out of your workout.
The time cap is a standard of the workout, like any weighted movement. The time cap is the greatest indicator of the cardio/stamina stimulus you should be aiming for in a workout. Just like when you see the workout includes a “1 Rep Max Deadlift” you know you will be lifting weights at maximum effort, the time cap can indicate whether you are in for a long cardio workout or a high intensity sprint.
What’s the Stimulus?
CrossFit workouts are about being diverse, and each workout has a different intended stimulus behind it. While it is great to always be lifting heavy, or getting your sweat on in a long WOD, each stimulus has benefits that promote all around fitness and health. Lifting weights increases bone density and maintain muscle mass, two things that decrease with age. Long cardio workouts help to maintain an optimal fat to muscle ratio and improve your heart health, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. All athletes have a preference for one or the other, and sometimes it can be hard to figure out if you should modify your workout so you can sprint and finish, or try to lift heavier weight and RX a WOD. This is where looking at the time cap helps.
Take for example the workout “Grace,” it is 30 clean and jerks for time with a 135 lb. bar for men and 95 lb. bar for women. For most athletes, this is a challenging workout because the weight of the bar is heavy. Depending on the time cap, an athlete can figure out if they should lift a heavy bar over a long period of time, or keep the weight light and sprint to get a fast time. If the time cap is 12 minutes, this would be a great workout to safety spend more time lifting heavier weight. If the time cap is 5 minutes, this is a workout that is focusing on speed, and is better done at lighter weight. This is one workout, but can have two different stimuli just by changing the time cap.
Ask your Coach
When in doubt about what to do for a workout, ask a coach! Their goal is to keep the athletes safe and make sure they are getting the best out of the workout. Your coach will be the best source of information on if you should be safely moving heavy weight, or work on moving fast. As always, be safe and have fun at the gym!