By: Ben Sweeney

It’s the two questions I get asked the most while coaching. “What weight should I use?” and “I’m working on this skill, should I practice it during the workout?” It is a question that has a very loaded answer. As a coach, it is my responsibility to guide you to the right weight and skill level so you can get the benefits of any workout. Here are a few things to consider when trying to determine how to choose your weights, and how advance your movements should be.

The first thing any athlete needs to realize is that both weights and skills are subjective. Meaning that what is heavy/light for you might not be the same for another athlete, what is a challenging skill for one athlete might not be as challenging for you. When looking at a workout, think to yourself is this a speed workout or a strength workout? Will I be able to finish around the same time as everyone else? How many reps will I be able to do before I need to stop?

An example of a speed workout would be “Fran”. 21-15-9 thrusters and pull ups, 95 pounds for men, 65 pounds for women. This workout should take people no more than 5 minutes max. It might take a little longer if you are just starting CrossFit, but 5 minutes should be the maximum amount of time you want. If it takes longer, then it will to a different stimulus.  There are two things with “Fran” that you need to look at, the weight of the thrusters and pullups. The weight of the thrusters would be considered too heavy if you needed to break up each set of the thrusters 3 or more times. Meaning for the set of 21 you drop the barbell three times, for the set of 15 you drop the barbells 3 times, and for the set of 9 you drop the barbell 3 times. If you need to drop the barbell for your thrusters, you would see more benefits from the workout by decreasing the weight to something that you can do faster and at a higher volume of reps. For example, you drop the weight to 75/55 pounds. You still do the set of 21 in 3 sets, but now you can do the set of 15 in 2 sets, and the set of 9 in 1 set. That will help you finish the workout in that 5 minute mark. As for the pullups, the same rule should apply. If you need to continuously break the pull-ups in 3 sets for each of the sets of 21, 15, and 9 you should consider using a band for assisted pull ups.

An example of a strength and higher skill based workout would be “Holleyman”. 30 Rounds of 5 Wall Balls, 3 Handstand Push-ups, and 1 Power Clean at 225 pounds for men 185 pounds for women. A power clean at that weight might seem heavy for some people, especially when you have 30 in a workout. Instead of putting a light weight on the bar and thinking after the workout is over “I should have gone heavier” ask yourself, “What weight can I do safely that will be challenging for me to consistently hit?” 225/185 might be too heavy for an athlete to perform safely, but if you were to scale back to a weight that is challenging, but you can perform with solid technique you will receive the same benefits of the workout. The same can be said with the handstand push-ups. Three handstand push ups might be too challenging. In order to scale back, you could use an abmat, change to pushups, or L-seated dumbbell presses. While it might not be challenging the first few rounds. The purpose of “Holleyman” is that it gets increasingly harder each round. Whichever scale you choose, should produce the same stimulus and result. Whether you’re going down to an abmat or using dumbbells it should be easier at first and increasingly get harder to do 3 reps each round.

To conclude, always ask yourself what’s the purpose of the workout and follow suit with scaling in accordance to the answer of that question.