Preparing for Big Ted


First, thank you for the excellent resource. I've seen numbers in my lifts and runs that I just assumed I'd never see. Even more importantly, the programming has shown me how far I have left to go.

I have a question regarding weight poundage. On the metabolic workouts, a lift is often prescribed but in the strength workout it's often a % of 1RM (I.e. 10/10/11 has 185 lb power jerks in DWOD and all prescribed SWODs are 3 or 5RM). I take time to extrapolate the stimulus and sub an appropriate amount of weight (body weight of 150 lb soaking wet so I can't do them all as RXd yet), but I'm curious why all the weights aren't prescribed as a % of your 1RM, 3RM, 5RM etc.

Thanks again!



Because there is no scaling in football.

Early in the 2000 season, we played Buffalo at home. At the time, Ted Washington was playing defensive tackle at 400+ lbs and was bringing a big bull-rush. And no matter how much I waved my arms and screamed, Buffalo wouldn't sub in a smaller player.

I remember thinking, "Don't they have someone smaller?"

I had to deal with whoever Buffalo lined up across from me and make the best of it.

CFFB is much like Ted Washington. Most days, the training is heavy. Sometimes you will have to jerk 185 lbs for reps. If you can't, then you need to grow stronger, as being a 150 lbs is not an excuse.

If you follow the site, you will have to take what the training gives you. If we scaled everything based on a 1 RM, 3 RM or 5 RM, how could you prepare for your big Ted?

You couldn't.


John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and creator of Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year starter in the National Football League and NFL veteran. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early and retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL and other professional and Olympic athletes. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete and the CrossFit Speciality Seminar: Sports Specific Application. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie or at Power Athlete.

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Posted in Football, Lifting Weights, Talk to Me Johnnie | Tagged , , , , | 34 Comments

34 Responses to Preparing for Big Ted

  1. David

    150 pounders: “Grow stronger” and watch 13th warrior, great line!

  2. Jay

    John, as much as I love the site that is kind of like saying if you cant jerk 185 for reps then you have to sit it out. I wouldnt expect you to change a thing about your programming, its good. But if the goal is truly to produce stronger, more powerful athletes, wouldnt it benefit the smaller athletes to scale to a weight that would produce the same stimulus for that athlete? Begs the question: does the small athlete benefit, if not psychologically, from moving 185 maybe only once per round more so than from 145 which he can move 4-5 reps per round? If the answer is 185, then the met-con becomes a defacto 90%+ strength wod. Of course nothing wrong with that but was that the intent of the wod? Combine that with the other 90+ training the day before and overtraining comes in. as louie says the smart athlete trains “optimally” and doesnt try to use the same weights as the guy twice as strong as him. I’d say to the smaller athletes, if you cant lift the prescribed weight in the met-con scale it to a manageable but very challenging weight to garner the training benefit intended by the programming. Love the site john and have made some great gains.

  3. Danger Town

    Dear Jay, I hope you are put into a jail cell with a horny Ted Washington.

  4. Zac

    Damn son you beat me to it with the 13th warrior. I tell my athletes that all the time

  5. robertpaulson

    Who is going to overtrain by lifing at 90% for a couple of days in a row?

  6. Uncle Rico

    Jay, I think you missed the point. You, or anyone else using this website, can do whatever the f**k you want. No one is at the gym making you do these workouts, or making you do them as Rx’d. The point is that sports and life often don’t give a shit about how much you weigh or what your 1RM Jerk is. So, if the weight is 185 for a WOD and that’s some heavy shit for you, think about it… should I tackle this and test myself, or do my specific needs require me to scale it this time? However, if you scale it EVERY time, you may be conditioning yourself to be a pussy.

  7. When i first started CFF i too weighed 150. I scaled down the weights as Rob does. Eventually, i did not need to scale anymore. With hard work and sacrifice anyone can reach any goal. i now weigh 180. This discussion brings up a great point that has yet to be expressed. For those athletes who find the 185 easy and crush the WODs, where is the benefit? It isn’t comparable. It becomes an almost impossible strength workout for guys like Rob and a cardio/work capacity workout for guys who can throw the weight around. If all the workouts were expressed as % of 1RM in any given lift, you will challenge your larger athletes to get to a point where throwing around Ted Washington isn’t a problem. I am in no way challenging the set up of It is an amazing site that gets results.

  8. Wolfgang

    Rocky said it pretty good in Rocky 6The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.

    But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!

    Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! – Rocky Balboa

  9. Mike K

    “Get stronger, scale less” – sounds like a good slogan for a CFFB shirt to me

  10. John,

    I appreciate the programming and think it is great. I do agree with your point but would like to make a counter point.

    Will a receiver ever need to face or prepare for a Ted Washington bull rush?

    Football has more positions than just offensive line 😉

    Thanks again for all you do.

  11. True, there are more than one position. But with 300 lbs LBs like Levon Kirkaland, 260 lbs LBs like Clay Matthews, , 280 lbs DE like Julius Peppers and Sean Merriman (circa 2003) or 200 lbs safeties like Bob Sanders….i think a WR might have it worse.

    Two hardest hits I took in the NFL were from Tim Hauck (185 lbs) and Bob Sanders on a tackle sweep.

    If you think a WR doesn’t need to be strong, you have never played.

    And how many DB, LBS get to pick up the 320 lbs tackle/guard on a screen play?

    The moral of the story is…you can’t scale everything. Occasionally, you will have to do something that might be outside the realm of what you can do. What are you going to do? Complain or adapt?

  12. Jay

    Danger town.
    I’m not worried if I was, I train cffb.

    Uncle rico,
    Without realising it you restated my point exactly.

    Exactly Andrew. Exactly.

  13. src

    I’ve been wondering about this point for months. Thanks for bringing it up and discussing it in an enlightened, adult manner.

    It makes me wonder if lineman or bigger guys are expected to run the sprint workouts as fast as the receivers.

    Thanks for all the hard work and great programming.

  14. Yes, lineman and other non “skill” positions are expected to sprint like everyone else.

    I am not sure I have met a 300+ lineman that runs a 4.3, but I have played with some guys that wouldn’t lose in 5-10 yard sprint to anyone.

  15. src

    That’s my point, though. Lineman aren’t going to run 40s in the low 4s or be expected to run in the open field as fast as “skill” players for longer distances.

    Likewise, not every “skill” player is expected to put up bench, squat and dead numbers of linemen. (I’m sure there are some exceptions).

    Someone else pointed it out earlier. A 150lbs clean for a guy who cleans 300lbs as a 1RM is different than the same clean for a guy who cleans 150lbs as his 1RM. Right?

    So if 185lbs is the set weight for reps in the met-con those two guys are doing different workouts. Right?

    Presumably one guy is doing volume work at 50% of his 1RM and the other is not.

    Thanks again John for the time you put into the site. I’m not trying to be difficult, just trying to understand.

  16. You have completely missed the point.

  17. src

    Looks like I got the math wrong in that one. Change 185 to 150, thanks. And while I’m at it, before some tells me that some linemen run the 40 in the low 4s, I’m referring to the 300+ linemen John was referring to in his example.

  18. Rob


    Thanks for the advice. I’m 5’5 @ 150 and I’m a soldier utilizing the off-season programming to develop some more strength and explosive power. Gaining a little is an option, but putting 20-30 lbs on my frame is bad news bears for the type of profession I’m in.

    I understand and appreciate the need for a football player, as this is designed for, to meet the same standard as his peers in the big man’s game. You are absolutely right if I didn’t gain and therefore grow I wouldn’t be able to handle it as a player.

    Jay – I definitely see some psychological plusses out of performing the lifts as prescribed, so you’re spot on with the psychological comments. But if the stimulus is power development, I’m not doing the programming any justice by moving the bar once.

  19. BRunner

    ” Right, but what if we physically can’t do it” – former me
    “Fuck it I’ll move this weight” – current me

    Thanks for the hard work John, you are the freaking man!

  20. Mike Hollister

    It’s crossfit football not crossfit generic athlete. There are applications outside football but football is the template.

    I don’t care how much or little you weigh, 185 (the most I’ve seen on the site for a clean/jerk/pp/etc) is a managable weight if you’ve been training heavy for a couple years. It’s never 75 reps at 185 for time; always more like a few rounds of 3 or 6 reps.

    If you are inexperienced, scale the weight; this is to be expected. Even a 300 lbs lineman will feel 185 push presses several minutes into a met-con.
    Seriously though, it’s 185. Not like he’s programing 275 lbs power cleans. This is doeable for most people who would be into this kind of programming.

  21. Ingo B

    Mike K – I’d buy that shirt.

  22. Patrick W.

    At Rob,

    First let me start by saying I was a soldier also. I wasn’t special forces or anything just a regular Airborne Infantrymen.

    First off If you only weigh 150# I am not sure why you think you wouldn’t benift from 30# of muscle making you 180#. During my five years in the infantry I weighed 175 to 215 # depending on differnet situations. And I humped my ruck and all kinds of equipment countless miles without any issue. I can’t really remember many 150 men in my units at all, maybe one or two. Being a powerfull 180#s is not “bad news bears”, unless you are worried about running ten miles at 2 mph down the main street of your base.

    Secondly all John is trying to say that you never know when you might encounter something that is going to make you struggle physicaly. This might be even more true in your profession than on the football feild! What if your HMMV gets hit by an IED and you have to jerk and cary a 50 cal. machine gun to safety, barrel and all. Or worse you have to pull a 200# gunner out of the gunners hatch because he was shot in the neck. You of all people could benifit from being forced to lift something out of your comfort zone.

    Please excuse spelling errors typing fast.

    Thanks for the website John!

  23. And how many DB, LBS get to pick up the 320 lbs tackle/guard on a screen play?

    I knew your answer would be something like that, but still wanted to see what you had to say.

    Something that might make sense to add to your post. Position specific skills would/should be done separately from S&C?

  24. Rob


    up for an e-mail? interested in your thoughts as a fellow CFFBer/soldier. if you don’t mind.

  25. Justin,

    And yes a WR will have to block a Ted Washington.

    And you can admit when I am right.


  26. @Mike Hollister… Bravo.

  27. I loved this post.

    To the rest, my advice would be to direct the energy expended worrying how to scale metcons–or quibbling with John over the conceptual validity of his largely motivational post–into learning how to squat 400lbs. At that point these protests will seem silly to you as well.

  28. DGrad

    Prepare for the big Ted!
    Awesome post John! Thanks for the motivation and inspiration!

  29. James J

    I’d have to disagree that making someone who cannot Jerk 185lbs actually do that is beneficial. But i suppose that depends on how much of the football season you want to play without injury.

    To play football you need to be strong, no doubt about it, but why lift something you can’t?
    If i put a 600lbs deadlift infront of me that i can’t lift, what benefit am i going to get that? None. ‘cos i can’t shift the damn thing.

    However, i do agree that if you’re pissing and moaning because the weight is a little bit too close to your 1RM and you can still lift it, then grow a pair, man up, get some fire in your belly and lift the motherfucker until you can’t lift it anymore.

    At the end of the day if you can’t handle a 400lbs lineman, you’re going to have a shit day on the pitch.

  30. Daz

    I sometimes wonder how long this FREE website will last 😉 Does everything need explaining?

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