But what if I’m a little guy?

This is a post I hijacked from John Welbourn’s excellent blog “Talk To Me Johnny”. The question that is asked and answered is very common and is relevant because of its significant cross over to the fire service and how to strength train for it.  Check out the full post HERE


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!


So basically what Rob is asking here is why the daily workout loading isn’t based off individual strength levels as opposed to a prescribed weight for everyone. For example lets say that the workout is 20 split jerks for time; one school of thought would be to set the weight at 80% of your 1 rep max so that it is fair for athletes regardless of strength, and the other thought process is to set the weight at 185 lbs regardless of your individual strength level. The 1st way everyone can do it the 2nd way you can either do it or you can’t. So why pick one over the other?

This is what John has to say…

“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.”


To paraphrase, John is saying that in sport, as in life and certainly on the fire ground, there are absolutes and you have to deal with them as they come. Its not fair its not nice but it is real and it might mean you don’t get picked for the team and even if you do you might not win so suck it up, get stronger, and stop wishing there were weight classes in life.

Does the 155lb firefighter get a lighter SCBA or a shorter ladder? No, is he/she going to have to train a lot harder on strength and skill in order to safely handle the same equipment I can toss around? Yes.

So how should we [fire service] train for our job [sport]? Well the short answer is “smard”, a contraction of smart and hard, because it takes both to be successful. I firmly believe that individuals need to follow a strength-training template that is closely tied to a high intensity interval-training program that consistently challenges them as athletes. I think the crossfit football template is spot on for fire fighters the way it is written. As for the debate between scaling and prescribed weight? I lean pretty heavy toward the rx’d camp if you are training on your own or with your crew at the station, treat these workouts as benchmarks and once you can do them rx’d start whittling your times down. If you are training at a CrossFit box or any other S&C facility where you pay a coach or trainer then everything had better be rx’d because after all you are PAYING them to train YOU…

The beef I have with basing workouts on % of RM is that you can always do the workout and in the competitive environment of the gym or the fire station the tendency is to go faster/longer not heavier. You have to overreach to adapt and in my experience the most controllable method of overreaching is increased load. You have to keep taking the beating 2.5 – 5lbs at a time until you reach rx’d weight. If I scale its more of a time factor that anything and you can accomplish the same thing by setting a time cap, however not completing workouts can weigh heavy on some athletes so use accordingly. I don’t worry much about a lack of scaling turning a “metcon” into a secondary strength wod because if that is what happens more strength is probably what you need any way.  Especially with the CFFB template because there is enough sprinting to build a huge engine without worrying too much about any other metabolic conditioning.    


2 Responses to But what if I’m a little guy?

  1. Boston says:

    I keep looking for the “like” button. Another good article. Thanks Adam.

  2. […] based on a few emails and questions from the guys at the stations, regarding “But What if I’m a Little Guy”, I feel the need to clarify a few things in the “scaling” department. As usual most […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Mobility WOD


Social Media Integration Powered by Acurax Wordpress Theme Designers
Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On Google PlusVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On PinterestVisit Us On YoutubeCheck Our Feed