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Bigger, Faster, Strong question...

Hi Patrick. Thank you for keeping this blog! It is really helped me understand more about training for sports. I was wondering, my football coach loves the Bigger, Faster, Stronger program and every year he makes us do it through the football season. Do you think this is a good program for me to be doing?



Hi Jim. Thanks for the question and the kind words.

Before I get into the Bigger, Faster, Stronger (BFS) program, I have to say one thing. I don’t know if this is a good program for you or not. I don’t know anything about you or your overall training, so it is really tough for me to make a guess as to what you should be doing. I will comment on the program and what I think about it and you can make your own conclusions as to whether or not this is the right training plan for you.

For those that don’t know, BFS is a program written by Bill Shepard. It has gained a lot of popularity amongst high school sports teams, especially football. The basic template for the program relies on heavy compound lifts like the bench press, the towel bench press (sort of like a half ROM bench press or a board press), the squat, the power clean and a deadlift variation (barbell or trap bar). The program follows a set and rep scheme which changes weekly like so:

Week 1: main lift- 3x3
Week 2: main lift- 5x5
Week 3: main lift- 5,4,3,2,1 or 5,3,1
Week 4: main lift- 10,8,6 (basically your back off or unloading week)

The auxiliary exercises are done for 2 or 3 sets of 10 repetitions following the main lift of the day.

The book also covers some things on sprinting and speed work, as well as flexibility and plyometrics.

There are some pictures in the book that really “rub me the wrong way.” The round back straight-legged deadlift is pretty ugly and a no-no in my book. The spotted deadlift is just another way for coaches to help their athletes lift more weight and make their numbers look “inflated” on paper. Those two are the big ones that stand out in my mind, aside from the nutritional advice, which I really didn’t think was very sound.

Now, as far as performing the program goes. This program is very effort based. It is all about hitter a new PR each week and putting more and more weight on the bar. This program is really only going to be as effective as the coach coaching it. Most high school football coaches can’t teach a squat or a deadlift and you can just forget about the power clean or snatch. Walking into just about any high school football weight room will confirm this. Coaches like this program because it gets the kids lifting heavier each week and makes the coaches look good because they can brag to their friends, who also happen to be terrible coaches, about how strong their players are. When in reality, their players are doing dangerous cleans which resemble more of an explosive reverse curl and half range of motion squats.

The other potential issue with this program is that inseason, you are going to have a lot of practice time and you have games every week. It may be difficult to perform lifts 3 times a week, at this intensity, and account for all the other variables that are needed to make you effective on the field, and not to mention rest and recovery!

If your coach is competent, he can take the ideas from this book and mold it into something that is beneficial for your team. If your coach is competent, he can teach the lifts properly and make you guys get the most out of them. Otherwise, this program is probably going to be a big waste of time.

Learning to manage training variables and rest and recovery is very important. As well, simply following what is down on paper, regardless of how over trained you may be or how fatigued you are that day can get you into some trouble. A good coach should know when to push, when to back off, when to change to something else and when to just send you home to rest.

There are a lot of qualities needed to be a successful football player. I don’t remember this book ever talking about conditioning, which is an essential part of the equation as well. I think if you use some of the ideas in this book and add in some of your own ideas you can really tailor the program to your own needs and make it specific to you. Simply following a program written in a book doesn’t really give you the individual attention that you may need to succeed in sports.

There is really a program that can make you Bigger, Faster AND Strong all at the same time?? NO WAY!!!


PS, Dr. Branson has made a post in his blog about lower back pain and athletes that some of you might be interested in checking out. Mike Branson's Blog