We sat down with Dana Stubblefield, two-time NFL Pro-Bowl defensive lineman and former Defensive Player of the Year with the San Francisco 49ers. Dana now lives in San Jose, CA and is currently a CrossFitter at CrossFit Silicon Valley, where he’s become the beloved ringleader of the 9am crew. To call Dana strong would be a huge understatement. Although there’s no video recording of it as proof, several SV athletes have witnessed him perform “Isabel” (30 snatches for time at 135#) at 1:45 with a short break after 25 snatches. We wanted to talk to him about his CrossFit experience and how it compares to the strength and conditioning programs he’s experienced before joining.
Dana: I always like to challenge my body with something new. During each of my 12 years in the NFL, I would find a different type of workout or trainer to challenge my body. I didn’t want to keep doing the same old five sets of squats or five sets of bench — you know, the normal heavy lifting. When I found CrossFit through my wife Terry, it was a perfect fit.
Dana: For me it wasn’t lifting the weight, because I had the strength and I’ve done Olympic lifting. The biggest challenge was taking advice from the coaches and doing it the CrossFit way.
Dana: An example would be squats. Getting down lower [below parallel] on a squat. My power cleans. Getting low on cleans. You can do a power clean, but can you do burpees and box jumps with them for time? That was the CrossFit way.
Dana: I wish this was around when I played because I was one of those defensive linemen that was big and fast and mobile. This would have fit in my back pocket. I could have played a good 14 years! All the flexibility is preventing you from getting injured since you are not being all tight, not being all sore. This matters especially late in the season, once you got to the 11th and 12th games; being in shape prevents you from being hurt later in the year.
Dana: I blew my medial collateral ligament, my meniscus in my right knee. I tore my Achilles and my left knee. I have ligament damage in my LCL. I’ve had shoulder surgery.
Dana: Yes. They told me that deep squats were bad for my knees. Even deep bench presses were discouraged because when you did that you were using your chest as a crutch to bounce off of, so they didn’t want you to do it. In the NFL, they’re stubborn in what they allow into their little cult as far as working out. A lot of them are just starting to teach Olympic lifts. They just felt like guys would get hurt trying to do them. Every year, I’d get a personal trainer to train me in the offseason because I wasn’t satisfied with the strength and conditioning occurring at NFL facilities.
Dana: The strength has always been there. It’s coming back. What’s most important is that now I can push that same weight at a faster pace and then move on and do something else like gymnastics. I’m pushing my cardio level further than what’s it been before, like back to when I used to wrestle. Now I can push heavy weight faster — the correct way — and do something else.
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