To answer this question, we first need to consider what context we are talking about.
In a testing environment, like the CrossFit Open or Quarterfinals, the goal for people -typically- is to maximize their placing on the leaderboard.
In this case, completing the work Rx or “as prescribed” is essentially for maximizing your spot on the leaderboard, since all Rx scores will be listed above everyone who scaled, even if that means you literally only do one rep of the workout.
In this instance, most athletes will opt out of getting a “good workout” in exchange for their best placement. However, some people choose to scale in order to get a solid dose of fitness that is less limited by strength or skill.
Obviously both are totally fine as long as you understand what you are doing and why.
However, let’s pretend the question was asked absent of a competitive setting, since I already answered Am I Good Enough to Enter a CrossFit Competition?
In other words, for my average Workout of the Day (WOD), when do I know I’m ready to Rx?
This is a classic case of there being a big difference between “could” and “should.”
Chances are if you’re a type A, goal-oriented, driven person like CrossFit often attracts, then you’ll want to complete workout Rx before you’re truly ready.
The question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I maintaining the desired stimulus of the workout?”
In other words, is the workout going to feel the way my coach wants it to feel if I complete the workout prescribed?
-10 Box Jump 24/20”
-10 Wall Ball 20/14lb, 10/9ft
Chances are your coach is looking for this workout to feel like constant movement and holding the pedal to the medal for 10 minutes.
If you’re an athlete that has a rep max of 3 chest-to-bar pull-ups, then you COULD do this workout Rx, but you’ll be missing the desired stimulus. This will turn into a strength endurance test for you, as you will likely be reduced to singles on the pull-ups by round 2.
You’re better off scaling to ring rows, which will allow you to move more consistently through the whole workout and accumulate much more total work.
Now, there are times when it’s okay to move through workouts a little slower, but you need to communicate with your floor coach as to what the goal of the workout is and when to scale or not scale.
However, as a generalization, you are often better off scaling for class WODs, you are still working on strength and skills in some capacity (inside or outside of class).
That’s one of the reasons why we have Program Downloads: so our members have access to additional programming that they can complete before or after class, allowing them to continue to see improvements where they need the most development.