Heavy. Heavy is a relative term that is different for everyone. For some, Heavy might mean hitting a back squat at 415 pounds and for others it might be hitting an 85 pound Back Squat. Whatever the case, Heavy for is going to be different for every person out there, but it’s something that everyone should strive to do.
Now, let me start off by explaining that when I say Heavy I do not mean a one rep max lift. A Heavy lift is different than a max effort lift. A Heavy lift (for those of you who like percentages) typically is around 80-90% of a given lift, although this is not a fact as each day is different and the body might feel different from one day to the next. On Monday, maybe you hit 95% of your max Deadlift building to a Heavy Single, and everything about the lift looks and feels great. The next Monday you go for a Heavy Single Back Squat and can only hit 83% of your max and it feels terrible. This can be due to a variety of factors such as diet, the other work you have done in the week, and any other activities you may perform outside of the gym. The point is, Heavy can mean something different each day; it should be something that is challenging, but still able to be moved well.
So why should everyone go Heavy? For anyone to develop strength you need to perform movements that build strength. The easiest movements to do that with are weighted movements. When you perform a heavy lift, you are building strength, power, and speed. This will carry over into all other areas of CrossFit. If you squat heavy, then your legs will get stronger and things like Lunges, Running, Sled Pushes, Biking, Wall Balls, and more will become easier. If you Bench or Strict Press heavy then that will also carry over to your Dips, Push Ups, Handstand Push Ups, Burpees, Muscle Ups, and more. There is also carry over into daily life as you will be able to lift boxes easier, run around the yard without dripping in sweat, and avoid minor injuries because you will be stronger.
Lifting heavy weights can increase muscle density and fat loss. Lifting plays a large roll in this process that cardiovascular activities cannot do alone. That is why in CrossFit, and especially at Five Alarm, we place such an emphasis on strength, as it has massive benefits.
That being said, you should not lift heavy every day. Performing heavy lifts every day will not allow muscles to rest and build. Instead, they can actually become weaker. This happened to me back in 2016. I jumped onto a competitor program and immediately thought,”I need to lift all of the weights and do all of the volume.” This led to inadequate recovery and left me unable to lift what used to be even moderate weights after a few weeks. I would push for one rep maxes when I shouldn’t have, I put too much weight on my bar when I was told to go lighter, and I performed too many workouts where my body was not equipped to handle all of the work I was putting on it. Today, I know when lifting if my body is telling me to not go super heavy, I back off and keep it light. Likewise, if lifting feels good, I’ll push the envelope that day as long as it feels okay.
Again, a Heavy is different for everyone. There is no set defining weight that is “Heavy.” Heavy is what pushes you slightly out of that comfort zone and makes you work a little bit. If you want to gain muscle, lean out and lose fat, be better at CrossFit, or if you just want to be healthy, I encourage everyone to lift heavy.