Strength Training - Maxing Out Every Day?

At CrossFit Crusade, we love lifting weights. So much so that our programming is written around a weightlifting focus.

But in a sport like CrossFit, which celebrates pushing you to your limits, it’s crucial to recognize that maxing out every day can have detrimental effects on your physical and mental health. While we push you to set ambitious goals and always challenge yourself, constantly pushing beyond your limit can lead to burnout, injury, and long-term health issues. In this blog, we’ll explore why we work with percentages on our strength days and the importance of balance and moderation in your training.

The Physical Toll

Risk of Injury

Weightlifting, especially Olympic Weightlifting, has a lower injury rate than other sports. In an article titled “Injury Rates and Profiles of Elite Competitive Weightlifters,” written in the Journal of Athletic Training by Gregg Calhoon, MS, ATC, and Andrew C. Fry, PhD, CSCS, they conclude that “The injuries typical of elite weightlifters are primarily overuse injuries, not traumatic injuries compromising joint integrity” This is key. Because functional movements are inherently safe, we can practice them at a percentage of our max loading and begin perfecting the skill associated with the movement. Training this way is how we avoid injury.

When you know how to swing a golf club, your training focus becomes getting that swing stronger. The same thing applies to the barbell. We must practice at submaximal loading to perfect our technique, then increase loading over time. Overloading your muscles and joints without proper technique or preparation can lead to injury.

Limited Recovery Time

Rest and recovery are essential for muscle growth, repair, and overall well-being. Maxing out every day or working at a too high percentage for too long leaves your body with insufficient time to recover. This leads to chronic fatigue and can decrease your overall performance. That is why we work with the concept of progressive overload at CrossFit Crusade. Think of this concept as a young boy at the bottom of a hill; he’s got a small calf with him, and in order to get to the water at the top of the hill, he must carry said calf up the hill. As the calf grows in size, so does the boy. The slow, progressive increase in the calf’s weight allows the boy’s body to adapt and recover to be ready for the next heavier climb.

Hormonal Imbalance

Overtraining can also disrupt your hormonal balance. This may lead to a decrease in testosterone levels and an increase in cortisol levels. This imbalance can negatively impact your immune system, mood, and overall performance. Increased cortisol (the stress hormone) will immediately negatively impact your performance. Common signs of excess cortisol include weight gain, hypertension, muscle weakness, and osteoporosis. The best way to lower cortisol levels is adequate sleep and recovery.

The Mental and Social Toll

Increased Stress and Reduced Focus

Constantly striving for perfection or trying for that new max every other day can lead to chronic stress and anxiety. This can manifest in many forms, such as insomnia, headaches, and even digestive issues—all of which are not ideal for athletes. Overtraining can also impact cognitive abilities, making it harder to stay productive in other areas of life, such as work or studies.

Burnout and Social Isolation

Maxing out every day can lead to physical and mental burnout, making it difficult for you as an athlete to maintain motivation and interest in CrossFit or any other activity you choose. Many youth athletes cite this decreased enjoyment and satisfaction as their reason for discontinuing an activity. Constantly pushing your limits may also lead to social isolation as you prioritize your training and goals over spending time with friends and family. We do CrossFit to be better for those around us, not to let it take us away from them.

Neglected Holistic Well-being

Focusing solely on training can lead to poor dietary choices, as you may disregard proper nutrition in an effort to recover. We know the saying, “You can’t outwork a bad diet,” but this is the same for recovery. No amount of protein you eat will compensate for poor sleep and inadequate recovery. A healthy life is about balance, and a life centered around maxing out during every single session can lead to a narrow perspective and a shallow feeling in the gym.

In conclusion, while pushing yourself and striving to improve every day is what we expect from you as an athlete, we encourage you to pay attention to percentages and intended stimuli. That is where we will find the sweet spot of intensity and results. Listen to your body. If you see a decreased performance or signs of overtraining, take a day off or lower the percentage for that lift. Even more so, listen to your coach, as they will be able to give you the right loadings and the right intended stimulus for that day. Our programming is structured to allow you to increase strength, build power, and learn new skills. But that only works with a sustainable and healthy approach to achieving your goals. A balanced and holistic approach to well-being is the key to a happier and healthier life.