| | | | CrossFit Football vs. Power Athlete

Author / John

Here you are diving into another one of our blog posts at PowerAthleteHQ.com. What we have come to realize is, a lot of our followers landed on this site one of two ways. Most of you migrated into Power Athlete Nation via our free online training system, CrossFit Football. Others may have found us through a friend, through google searches, through our podcast, or what I’ll refer to as “the other way.”

Regardless, I am here to clear up any confusion on a pretty interesting subject that hit our desk recently; what is the difference between this “Power Athlete” thing and that “CrossFit Football” thing? I mean, it’s the same people seemingly running both, they talk about each other ALL THE TIME, what gives?

What is the differenc ebetween Power Athlete and CrossFit Football

This is actually a very simple answer.  Power Athlete is a training methodology focused on developing the physiological and psychological traits of athleticism.  CrossFit Football is simply one implementation and template of this methodology.

In a material analysis, Power Athlete employs me and my co-workers featured on this blog.  It’s the company that was contracted by CrossFit, Inc. to develop a training system and specialty seminar called the CrossFit Football Trainer’s Seminar to educate CrossFit Coaches, and other individuals, on how to utilize CrossFit to train sport specific athletes.  That specific application of the Power Athlete methodology took form in 2009 as a website, www.crossfitfootball.com, where daily workouts are published via CrossFit Football, and it’s mascot the “Slickster” generously provided by Starlingear.

Still don’t get it?  Let me resort to my bread and butter for an analogy; mathematics.  I promise not to bore you or muddy the waters, just play along.  Before I dive into that, lets look at what exactly I mean by “methodology”.  The Google machine tells us that methodology is a set of rules for any given discipline that can be applied to a given case to derive a solution.  What’s important to note here is, methodology at it’s heart isn’t trying to provide any sort of solution.  The “best practices” within that methodology, which are powered by a set of laws, rules and operators, are what are applied to each case to find the optimal solution.

On to the Math!  I graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, and it was through the use of “methodology” that I made my marks.  One of the earliest abstract applications of methodology that I can still recall is the FOIL method. FOIL stands for First, Outer, Inner, Last, and it is a method that is used to multiply two linear binomials in algebra:

The Foil Method - How does it relate to Power Athlete Methodology?

This law behind this methodology is something called the Distributive Property of Binary Operations.  Don’t worry we won’t get into that, all you need to know is that the FOIL method was is proven true universally under that law, meaning it can be applied to all cases that fit within a set of certain criteria (multiplication of two linear binomials).  As is such, It can be applied to an infinite combination of cases within those parameters because the method is universal for a given context.

Okay, off the boring stuff.  Just as the FOIL method has the Distributive Property of Binary Operations, the Power Athlete method utilizes the SAID principle, 3P model, primal movement patterns, and energy systems to determine the optimal application of accessible training practices to develop an athlete.  Just like mathematics relies on its operators to apply it’s methods, Power Athlete relies on our 7 primal movement patterns to drive physiological adaptation:

1) Vertical Push
2) Horizontal Push
3) Vertical Pull
4) Horizontal Pull
5) Squatting
6) Lunging
7) Stepping

Mathematical operators, like addition and subtraction, are useless without universe of numbers to work with.  So too are the primal movement patterns if we haven’t defined and prioritized our energy systems as well as our planes and axis of motion:

An understanding of the Planes of Motion and Axis of rotation is necessary to evaluate the Power Athlete Method

Just like a student of math needs a competency of the aforementioned methods, operators, and number sets of mathematics, so does our athlete in movement.  If our athlete cannot safely and effortlessly move through the full range of motion of the primal movement patterns, then we must first develop that competency (barring any permanent mechanical limitations from catastrophic injury or birth defect) before we introduce stress.  It is an evaluation of the limiting factor hierarchy that allows to assess competency in these movement patterns.  In general, we find this hierarchy to be:

1) Mobility
2) Stability
3) Strength
4) Power
5) Speed
6) Replication of Speed
7) Competitive Application

Through application of the SAID principle and analysis of an athlete’s limiting factors, we ultimately prioritize which energy systems, planes of motion and primal movement patterns to train in our program.  We determine a volume and intensity distribution to drive optimal, and accelerated adaptation specific to the athlete’s sport.  For example, let’s evaluate a common mistake we see in the industry today.

Worldwide there are thousands of field sport athletes participating daily in a common training program.  In these programs we see the utilization of common compound exercises like kettle bell swings, jumping, and squatting that require the athlete to only move sub-maximal loads in the frontal plane utilizing pelvic rotation only around the frontal horizontal axis.  These programs commonly utilize sprinting mechanics in a sub-maximal state, in efforts to “condition” the participant (build aerobic-alactic capacity).

A program like this will not optimally prepare an sport specific athlete for the demands of field sports like football, soccer, rugby, baseball, etc.  While it will drive key physiological adaptations, it will not drive a specific adaptation that is required/demanded by sport!

Enter CrossFit Football.

CrossFit Football is an application of the Power Athlete methodology.  This program utilizes the functional movements found in CrossFit, apply volume and intensity balance, and safely balance primal movement pattern loading to replicate the demands of field sports.  The program has athletes moving in multiple planes of motion.  It has athletes utilizing sprinting mechanics to develop speed.  The program is intended to build bigger, stronger, faster athletes.

However, what the program lacks is specific application.  It’s a general “shell” of the method put together to drive adaptation for thousands of potentially unique athletes.  The limiting factor of the Power Athlete method via CrossFit Football is we have the opportunity to evaluate the demands of each athlete individually. Limiting factors are unique to each athlete, and a one size fits all approach has limitations.

We don’t get to ask the 20,000+ followers of CrossFit Football, What are You Training For?  Because it’s through that inquiry that we collect that data, both qualitative and quantitative, to apply the Power Athlete methodology.

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John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. 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 starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him 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, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


  1. Kenyatta Wright on December 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    I just spent about 15 hours with Luke and Tex learning the Power Athlete methodology. I must say as a former pro and now football coach if your not training your Athletes using these principles you are cheating your preparation and your athletes. I have a lot to learn but I can tell you one thing my athletes will be better prepared and have an on field advantage over future opponents. Now this is one mans humble opinion but I’m one of the 20,000 plus that will be appliying the Power Athlete & Crossfit Football methodology to my daily training program. Only point the matters is:What are you training for?

  2. Jeffrey Metzler on December 16, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    This is an amazing write-up. Thank you, Luke.

  3. Steven Platek on December 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Luke, we should call you the professor – knowledge bro! Good stuff!

  4. Ingo B on December 17, 2013 at 6:22 am

    You flashed me back to 9th grade, where I was consistently owning lat pulldowns yet failing algebra.

    But real question: if Crossfit Football is one manifestation of Power Athlete methodology, will there be others in the pipeline? Or is that up to individually certified coaches and practitioners?

  5. Kris on December 17, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Any chance for a Power Athlete certification down the road? The CrossFit Football methodology is excellent, but as mentioned in the article, somewhat sport-specific. A more general seminar for adding a power development cycle into a CrossFit or general S&C program would be great. Or, as Ingo mentioned, perhaps seminars showcasing different applications of the Power Athlete methodology?

    • CALI on December 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks for the inquiry, Kris. There will be no certifications but come 2014, Power Athlete HQ will be the leading resource for coaches and athletes containing more knowledge than the internet can hold.

  6. Seminole 4 on December 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    I’m probably just not connecting the dots in my brain (it is finals week after all), so if this is a stupid question I’ll just punch myself in the dick later: But where exactly do things like power cleans, power snatches, deadlifts, and KB swings fit into the 7 Primal Movements?

    • CALI on December 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      Power cleans, power snatches, DL’s, and the like all fall along the x-axis which we generalize as the “squatting” movement patterns. Although they are not squats, the hip articulation is that of a squat movement along the x-axis.

  7. Seminole 4 on December 17, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Thank you, Cali. That’s kind of what I was thinking, but I just wanted to double tap.

  8. Kris on December 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Thanks Cali! Looking forward to what the future holds for PAHQ.

  9. David on December 22, 2013 at 2:41 am

    Will you be developing a book on the programming methods

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  11. […] CrossFit Football VS Power Athlete […]

  12. reyhan on April 20, 2021 at 6:23 am

    thanks alot of information

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