Hi John –

My name is Tyler and I am a swimmer at Middlebury College. Along with some of my teammates I have been following CFFB since our season ended. As both sprinters and athletes needing big gains in strength and size, the CFFB programming has been a perfect fit for our needs. Personally, I’ve coupled it with w CFE-type swimming program and I am swimming faster than I did all season! Thanks you for that. We’ve been following the Amateur SWOD, but I have a nagging lower back injury and haven’t been able to follow the deadlifts week to week. My question is regarding proper substitution. I have been doing 8×2 power snatch because its another dynamic pull from the floor and I like the transfer of the coordinated explosive effort to the butterfly stroke (my stroke). However, after reading some Louie Simmons articles and watching his CFJ videos, I am thinking that sled pulls might also work. Which of these two, or combination of these two, would be my best option? Or is there another, more appropriate sub? Thank you.

-Tyler S.

Tyler – Lets start with absolute strength and power. Absolute strength is the maximum amount of force your muscles can produce. Power is that strength displayed dynamically. The way I see it, the absolute strength pull is the max deadlift. The dynamic strength pull off the ground comes with the power snatch and power clean. So my advice is, you need both in your program as power and strength work together like tequila and lime. Mix in a few different strength and power movements, some heavy sled pulls and sprints…wait a minute, that sounds like my training.

But before we start talking max effort pulls vs. dynamic effort and WSB we need to address your low back. I have banged weights for a many years and played a lot of ball and have not had any back injuries. The reason was, I took great care in always keeping my low back and abs strong. Squats, RDLs, good mornings, reverse hypers, back extensions, sit ups, knees to elbows and every other way I could to keep my low back, hips and abs strong made up the bulk of my training. Without a strong back and hamstrings and good mobility in the low back and hamstrings I would have never lasted long in the football.

If you were looking to take something from Louie’s infinite knowledge it would have to be the destruction of weaknesses. WSB is known for finding the weakness in a lifter, exposing it, beating it into submission and making it a strength. Right now, your low back is keeping you from pulling heavy weight off the ground. I would throw everything in my arsenal at it to make it a strength. I remember George Zangas telling me Eastern Bloc Olympic lifters had erectors that looked like “loaves of French bread”, I would imagine if your goal was to create a low back with erectors that looked like loaves of bread you wouldn’t have low back problems.

I threw in this one in of Jamie Eason because it makes me smile 🙂

As for sled pulling, I am a big proponent and use it often. I learned of it in a WSB article Louie Simmons wrote and was lucky to have Louie coach me up when I was in Columbus. …One method that we use at Westside is using the pulling sled for the hips and glutes. We pull the sled with the strap attached to the back of our power belts. We walk with long, powerful strides, maintaining an upright body position, pulling through with the foot, which stresses the hamstrings and glutes. This is common practice for throwers overseas. I learned about pulling from Eskil Thomasson, who is Swedish. Before he moved to Columbus, he visited Finland to see why so many Finns deadlift so well. Many of these strong deadlifters were lumberjacks. They routinely had to pull paper wood down to the main trail, where the tractors could pick it up.”

Ask Freddy C, Jaybird and Travis about sleds, they were lucky enough to get some heavy pulling before we trained. Before you trained?! Yes, I like to do heavy metcons before I strength train as it is a good way to get the body warm up and I have always thought it I could PR a lift after killing myself I was doing good. But it goes back farther than that…every game I every played in as I walked off the field after pre-game I was so exhausted I wondered how I could survive the rest of my day. My head would be ringing, legs cramping and completely gassed walking through the tunnel to the locker room. I would sit down, collect my thoughts and be ready to rock for 3 hours after a few mins of recovery. That is what I needed to do my best in football so why shouldn’t it carry over into my training.