| | The DBag Rule

Author / John


If you’ve been to a CFFB seminar you may have heard us refer to one of our golden rules as “The D Bag Rule”.  What we’re really talking about is your responsibility as a coach to provide an effective amount of stress on an athlete to provoke or elicit some sort of desired response without being a douche bag.  Sometimes the means of stress is physical – external resistance on the system- and sometimes it’s mental, but very often it’s both.  It’s a fine line, “douche baggery” and coaching, but the most effective coaches do it with ease.

However, let’s just say that you’re not a coach and instead you’re a lifting partner, teammate, or member.  You’re wondering, does The D Bag Rule really apply to me?  If you’re even asking that question then you are in fact a douche bag and also, yes the rule applies to you.  Just because you attend practice or class like everyone else doesn’t mean that you’re immune to the golden rule and can’t set an example potentially affecting the athletes around you…for better or worse.

A recent experience comes to mind that really helps illustrate this point.  I had an athlete preparing to pull a 1RM deadlift and I could tell by looking at him that he was both excited and incredibly intimidated.  At this point, I’d already given him the essential need-to-knows before he pulls his final attempt at a PR.  I want him thinking about nothing else but the animalistic rage and innate survival instincts that he must utilize to make this lift.  His form was dialed in, he was good and warm, his adrenaline was flowing and then out of nowhere, an athlete from the previous class saunters over and picks up the bar to “show him how easy it was”.

I may be a lady…but I am a coach first.


I  turned the music all the way down then I walked over to the individual who insisted on being an egregious violator of the sacred D Bag Rule. I told him exactly what I thought of him- which he found less than savory.  His denial coupled with a dismissive attitude only heightened our exchange and I persisted with my point until I was certain he was receptive. This was a point worth making and unfortunately, when a person only speaks douche, you are forced to use douche as your primary means of communication.  I apologized to my athlete for this terrible interruption and encouraged him to get focused and proceed with the lift when ready.

In my opinion, this type of glaring violation of The D bag Rule happens everyday in some way or another.  In most cases it comes down to ego and our incessant need to exhibit some sort of superiority.  The funny thing is that it generally comes from those who have very little skill or ability.  These “one-uppers” feel the need to take  a moment from someone else and turn it into a chance to display their own perceived development. Sadly, it seems that more often than not, this  happens without the perpetrator even being aware of their own behavior.


I have had the good fortune of training with some excellent coaches and training partners throughout my life.  Not surprisingly, the most effective and professional of these interactions were completely devoid of douche baggery.  A good coach can see where an athlete exists in their training and recognize the holes without demoralizing a person’s self confidence.  Also, good coaches never exploit a lack of experience, strength, or skill by creating an opportunity to showcase their own.

We all know these people exist- some are members, some are lifting buddies,  some are fellow coaches.  They are the fun slaying, soul sucking, dark side of training and we are the rebellion.  Be an intelligent leader and set an example for your athletes and colleagues by using the force for good.  As a side note, the aforementioned athlete successfully pulled his deadlift that day.  Nothing says “fuck you” like a hefty 20 lb PR.

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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. Curtis on November 14, 2013 at 8:15 am

    Definitely enjoyed the article!

  2. Casey on November 14, 2013 at 10:13 am

    So glad you called that D Bag out! I’m sure it was an amazing sight to see you ripping that guys a new one, especially since D Bag males would hate being called out by a female. Priceless!

  3. Mex on November 14, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Bad ass Cali. I wish there was a video.

    • Luke on November 14, 2013 at 10:39 am

      Don’t worry mex… i know a guy. Douchyness mitigated

  4. JRock on November 14, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Excellent post. D Bags seem to thrive on narcissism and one syllable words. I am sure you tried to make your point with the D Bag featured in this story and had to regress your terminology and multi-faceted approach until said D Bag realized the basic theme: his (let’s not kid ourselves, guys are the biggest violators of the D Bag rule) lifting prowess was not the focus of that day’s event. Another quick D Bag test: a D Bag reading this post will most likely want to know what the weight was that your athlete was trying to pull and then compare it against his own PR. A good coach, and non-D Bags alike, will appreciate that you stated it was a 20 pound PR and how proud you were of your athlete’s success. Congrats to the athlete for sucking it up and sticking it to the D Bag. White Goodman is the poster boy for D Bags – “Yeah, that’s me, taking the bull by the horns. It’s how I handle business. It’s a metaphor….. But that actually happened, though.”

  5. Ingo B on November 14, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Should’ve played this at PATS. My bad.

  6. CALI on November 14, 2013 at 11:00 am

    @Casey- Thanks dude. I try not to make a habit of tearing guys a new one but sometimes it’s warranted. What did Boondock Saints say?… “we must all fear douche bags. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”

    @JRock- Well said. My personal DBT (DBag Test) is full proof- pat someone on the shoulder. Did they flex immediately?

  7. Diego Ramirez on November 14, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Great Article ! I have seen a lot coaches with this attidude. After the CFFB Seminar in CrossFit Tuluka- Argentina, I changed the way I instruct my athletes. Thank’s a lot to John, Luke and Tex for teaching how to be a good Coach !

  8. Mex on November 14, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Haha…thanks Luke!

  9. TorsJ on November 14, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Great post Cali – thank you! Plenty of male and female D-Bags out there. We’re only a new box and in our first fundamentals we tell mainly the guys to leave their egos at the door but more and more I think we should be aiming this at the whole class!

    • CALI on November 18, 2013 at 11:22 am

      Absolutely. There are plenty of lady-DBags too- this epidemic knows no gender.

  10. marcos on November 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Great read. keep up the great work!

  11. Mike V. on November 19, 2013 at 10:32 am

    you smell something??? Must be Cali because she is da shit! You Rock! Glad you called out that dude. One thing I have learned since being a member is that in our own way were a family. Good days, bad days, PR’s or ER’s, were all there to support each other and achieve our goals. Unfortunately, this happened but glad you addressed it. great read!

    ~Big Sexy Out!

    • CALI on November 19, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      Word to your mother.

  12. Scott on November 20, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Fantastic writup!

    I’d like to add my $0.02 to @JRock’s excellent comment – It’s important to remember that the better we become, the more knowledge we poses, the easier it is to come off as an arrogant D-Bag. We all have a responsibility to remember the massive capacity we have for self-deception.

    What I love about training, and CFFB, is the focus on the process of improvement rather than an arbitrary number. Always be improving.

    • CALI on November 20, 2013 at 11:13 am

      Boom. You hit it on the head, Scott. Self improvement and knowledge gained doesn’t give anyone the douche keys to the douche castle. There’s a constructive way to impart wisdom with confidence, not arrogance.

      You know it. Our priority has always been increased performance through perfect movement, regardless of your arena of sport.

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