What is your take on BFS vs Crossfit Football for high school athletes?

Val Zemke Jr.


The success and limitations of any program depend on the implementation of the program.

You can take the best minds in the world when it comes to program design, the best equipment and the location and the still not the see the results of a single coach in a home garage gym with a barbell.

Every program whether it be BFS, CrossFit Football’s Power Athlete, Westside, Wendler’s 5-3-1 or Starting Strength is only as good as the implementation by the coach or athlete and how well as the athlete’s dedication to the program.

These questions should be asked.

Is the athlete consistent in his training?

Does he follow the program as it was written or does he modify and secret squirrel the program?

Is he following a rest/recover/nutrition protocol that allows him/her to make progress on said program?

How many times have you heard of someone saying this program sucked and it didn’t work? Only to find out they had followed it for one week and had skipped most of required work. I firmly believe to understand the effects of any program you have to do the program. How long? Personally, I believe a minimum of 9 weeks and many times much longer depending on the level of adaptation of the athlete.

With this in mind if you have a basic understanding of physiology and more miles walking a weight out of the squat rack then most have walking to the gym you can evaluate a program based on the principles.

For example, if someone sent me a program asking for my feedback, the first question I would ask: what are you training for?

Second question, what is the goal of the program or what are you expecting to accomplish?

And I don’t like general bullshit responses; a response like, I want to get better or get in shape make me wanted to bang my head on the desk. I need specifics, things like I want to increase all my 1 RMs by 50 lbs. If that was the goal and the entire program consists of 3 sets to 20 reps with 50% of a projected 1 RM and running a 10k three days a week, I would say based on my experience the program does not lend claim to this goal. This is just a nice way of saying it won’t illicit the response you are wanting. And I don’t need to do this program for 9 weeks to know I am not going to get stronger.

Now let me preface the following with this, I normally don’t comment on other programs unless I have an extensive knowledge with them. Fortunately, in high school football weight training class we used many of the BFS principles. In high school, I trained three times a day with three different methods. We did a modified BFS for my high school weight training program, a strength program by George Zangas and Dorain Yates’ Mr. Olympic prep program from FLEX magazine.

It is amazing the trouble a 16-year-old kid can get himself into without guidance.

I did some Internet research on BFS and couldn’t find their program without paying some money so I am taking the following program second-hand. However, this looks to be accurate to what I recall, minus the plyo and dot drill program.

BFS 4 Week Cycle

Week 1 – 3×3
Week 2 – 5×5
Week 3 – 5, 3, 1 or 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Week 4 – 10, 8, 6 (Power Clean 4×4)

*Accessory movements are 2 sets of 10 reps

Squat & Bench (primary)
Lunges 2×10
Push Press 2×5
Stiff Leg Deadlift 2×10

Power Clean & Deadlift (Primary)
Dips 2×10
Pull Ups 3×10
(Add weight for dips/pull ups if necessary)

Box Squat or Front Squats & Bench Variation (primary)
Jamer 2×5
Leg Curl 2×10
Incline Bench 2×10
Tricep Movement 2×10

The goal is to set a rep or weight PR each week. There is no deloading between cycles and you simply keep pushing things and try to beat the number set in the previous months workout. The last set of each day you can take the movement to failure and try to grind out an extra rep or two. 

There were no percentages prescribed or where they expect an athlete to start but it doesn’t mater since percentages are worthless for beginners.

We know to efficiently lift a true one-rep max you need a fairly adapted and trained central nervous system. Since most beginners have limited exposure to lifting weights they naturally do not have any adaptation to the movements or the coordination needed. This is a good thing as this allows for a basic linear progression to be successful.

If you look at the program it contains many principals seen in a quality S&C program. They use reps of five, three and singles as the base for their strength and then add a higher rep range for accessory work for hypertrophy.

There are a few ways to increase strength, one of them is to increase the cross-sectional size of the muscle. Sets of ten put you right into the realm of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

The program attacks the body as a whole using a 3-day push/pull training split while performing movements in multiple planes of motion. They are asking their athletes to squat, lunge and jump and pushing the bar in a vertical and horizontal plane. The program has the athlete hitting the smaller support muscles with accessory work and pulling the barbell both heavy and dynamic with deadlifts and power cleans. It follows a progression and changes reps to avoid stagnation.

Will you make gains on this program? Yes.

Will the end result be limited by the athlete’s application? Yes.

Here is another program that follows many of the same protocols that takes much of the guesswork out of the program.

Week 1

Squat 3×5
Press 3×5
Push Ups 3 x max reps

Deadlift 1×5
Pull Ups 3 x max reps
Plyometric work

Squat 3×5 (add 5 lbs to last workout)
Bench 3×5
Dips 3 x max reps

Power Clean 5×3
Chin Ups 3 x max reps
Plyometric work

Week 2+

Squat 3×5 (add 5 lbs to last workout)
Press 3×5 (add 2.5 lbs to last workout)
Push Ups 3 x max reps

Deadlift 1×5 (add 10 lbs to last workout)
Pull Ups 3 x max reps
Plyometric work

Squat 3×5 (add 5 lbs to last workout)
Bench 3×5 (add 2.5 lbs to last workout)
Dips 3 x max reps

Power Clean 5×3 (add 2.5 lbs to last workout)
Chin Ups 3 x max reps
Plyometric work

When evaluating any program ask just one question…

What are you training for? TM

Here is one more question I ask of the readers. Just because something works to get you stronger does it mean that it is the best program to follow?

*On a side note, recently I did a speaking engagement with Dan Coyle, author of Talent Code. At dinner, I peppered him with questions. He had just finished a book on the Tour de France and has gotten to interview and be around the most talented athletes in the world.

I asked him with the margin between first and second place with the world’s best athletes being so small, was there something he had observed that separated the good for the great. He explained the best in the world had the talent to rest. Those rare athletes could relax enough to reboot the system and stay calm during intense competition.

I related the story of Will Shield’s pregame ritual as evidence. For those of you unfamiliar with Will, he was a 14-year starter at right guard for Kansas City, making the Pro Bowl 12 of those years. In those 14 years he never missed a start and played at level seldom seen at his position. I was fortunate to play with Will in KC towards the end of his career. When I was traded in my sixth year, I had my pre-game routine well established. I would get to the stadium, stretch, get dressed and sit in my locker mentally preparing by listening to my pre-game song of repeat. I would visualize my steps, hand placement, plays and technique over and over. By the time I was done, I was ready to chew glass. Our season opener against Denver while deep in my preparation, I look over to see Will sleeping. Not just lying there with his eyes closed, but snoring, dead to the world. This was unnerving and totally threw me off my game. How could this guy be this calm he could take a nap 20 minutes before the season opener against our division rival? And about 5 minutes before we went out for pre-game someone woke him. He shook his head, got up and went on to put on a clinic that day. He had the talent to rest.

Coyle then asked me if I thought sleeping was a dangerous? I was a bit perplexed as most anyone’s natural inclination would be no. How could sleeping be dangerous? He then used an analogy most reserved for purveyors of an ancestral diet. 10,000 years ago we were the most poorly equipped mammals on the planet for survival. With everything on the planet being bigger and faster and looking at us for its next meal why would we have developed the need to fall into a defenseless, helpless state? It must have been pretty important and have a significant reason. Giraffes by contrast sleep between 10 to 110 minutes a day.