Meet Emma Heck, a 13-year-old National Champion with a Gym in Her Living Room

February 21, 2021 by
Courtesy of Emma Heck
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Like many 13-year-olds, Emma Heck comes home after school and logs some serious time in her family’s living room. The difference is, Heck’s not staring at a screen. She’s doing handstands and pull-ups and lifting, like, really heavy weights. 

The details: For Heck, who started CrossFit when she was 7, training in her living room for hours on end after school is normal. “I have a lot of CrossFit and weightlifting friends online (who don’t think it’s weird), but I guess the people at my church and my school friends think I’m crazy,” said Heck, the 2020 USA Weightlifting champion in her age group. 

  • Building a gym in the family’s living room in Jacksonville, FL was Heck’s father Raylan Heck’s idea, something he came up with two years ago. “I thought it would be a great way for everyone to come together and either throw down or hang out,” said Raylan, who has been involved in CrossFit for years and is currently training to bike 400 miles in 24 hours for charity. “It just made sense to have workout equipment in there. We often invite people over to lift and socialize,” he added. 
  • Today, the Heck family’s living room is a fully equipped gym that backs onto their outdoor space featuring a swimming pool complete with a volleyball court, a lounge area, as well as a second outdoor gym. 
Courtesy of Emma Heck

Emma the athlete: The 4-foot-10 and 123-pounds Emma said she trains two to three hours a day six days a week and diligently follows the Misfit Athletic Program. According to Raylan, however, she spends a lot more time working out than that. 

  • “She’ll be in there lifting for hours…I literally have to go down sometimes at 11 PM at night and tell her I’m going to bed. She’s out there for hours, training, watching videos of herself lifting, and probably doing the Instagram thing or whatever she does,” he said, laughing. “We do not push her to workout. We never ask her to workout… People think it’s me or my wife. It’s not. It’s all her and it’s amazing to watch,” he added.
  • Emma’s hard work is paying off: At 13 years old, she can clean 200 pounds and snatch 155 pounds. She also boasts a 300 pound deadlift and a 235 pound three-rep back squat. 
  • She’s currently gearing up to compete in her first CrossFit Games Open and is also hoping to qualify to the Junior Pan American Games in weightlifting to be held this summer in Cali, Colombia. 

The big picture: Emma’s ultimate goals are lofty: To follow in four-time CrossFit Games Champion Tia-Clair Toomey’s footsteps and compete at both the CrossFit Games and the Olympic Games in weightlifting. For Raylan, however, what his daughter accomplishes on the competition floor is far less important than what she is learning everyday right now. 

  • “As a family, we care about community. We care about health and relationships,” Raylan said. Watching his daughter grow into a young woman who also prioritizes these things has been “amazing to watch,” he said. “Emma can be very shy, so it has been awesome to see her form relationships with different people in the CrossFit and lifting communities.”
  • Raylan added: “It’s just really amazing to see her so passionate about something, and for her to be as aligned as she is in her life already…Her kindness and her passion and just watching her go. I’m too blessed.”

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