June 28, 2012
Power Couple: Phillips and Denney
By Lauryn Lax

"The best thing about dating another CrossFit athlete is that we do most everything the same. We train the same, eat the same, have generally the same daily routine and schedule ..."

What do you get when you combine three pounds of bacon, one gallon of milk (preferably chocolate) and close to 900 pounds on a barbell?

In this case, a power couple.

Meet Brandon Phillips and Jessica Denney, both CrossFit Games competitors who just happen to be dating. Phillips, based at CrossFit Kennesaw, and Denney, who is part of the South East’s top team from CrossFit Atlanta, literally go through that much milk and bacon in a single week. With their max deadlifts totaling almost 900 pounds, the two rank among the strongest CrossFit athletes in the South East.

Known as “Tank,” 214-pound Phillips boasts a big engine to burn through heavy lifting workouts and endurance revving met-cons. He is preparing for his fourth individual run at the Games while Denney, 20, is returning as part of a team.

An established name and face in the CrossFit community, Phillips first took to the sport in 2009 when he started following CrossFit.com on his own. He soon wandered into a CrossFit box and decided to set a goal to qualify for Regionals that spring. He earned a spot in the top 60 at the Sectional competition in the South East, and was on his way to Regionals.

He had quite a showing, nabbing second place. He attributes this to his success in the final workout of the weekend. “A really long chipper with crazy things like, 1,000-meter row, overhead squats, a run around the track, burpees, swings, you name it,” Phillips says.

He dove head first into the competition world, and Phillips hasn’t looked back since.

Phillips finished second at the South East Regional this year, and is confident heading to the Games. “I am really preparing myself now, no lack, no deficiencies,” he says.

Denney, his right-hand woman, dubbed the “strongest girl in the South East” by an announcer at Regionals after she set a 175-pound PR on the Snatch Ladder, has been turning heads ever since she started CrossFitting two years ago.

Her background as a former ballerina and competitive cheerleader lends to her strength.

Although some still consider her a newbie to the competitive CrossFit arena, she is holding her own thanks to her incredible strength, with a 225-pound clean and jerk, 265-pound clean and 360-pound deadlift.

“I honestly ask myself every day where I got this strength from,” she says.

She certainly made Phillips’ head turn.

“I first saw her training at a camp about a year and a half ago,” Phillips says. “Me and a buddy of mine were watching this girl power snatch 75 pounds with the most ridiculous technique. She was strong, but had horrible technique,” he laughs. “I was still really impressed though. From then on, we started talking, seeing each other more at competitions, then hanging out. Now we’ve become best friends.”

Denney recalls Phillips, 29, first really catching her eye last February, after meeting at the South Georgia Throwdown, a local competition in Albany, Ga., her hometown.

While she knew who the Games competitor was, she did not let his outstanding athletic abilities stand in the way of her confidence.

Denney was determined to beat Phillips at her former favorite lift: the deadlift.

“I told him, ‘I’ll deadlift your ass,’” she says. “Well, we got to the competition, and afterwards, he said, ‘I deadlifted your ass.’ He did. He beat me, but my team beat his team in tug-of-war. From then on, we talked, and after the Games last year, I called him up and told him, I was moving to Atlanta.”

Denney, knowing without a doubt she wanted to pursue CrossFit full time, packed her bags when she got back home, and left school at Darton College to be closer to Phillips and train at the reputable CrossFit Atlanta.

Come November, the duo moved in together to Phillips’ house, along with their two dogs, a boxer named Crash, and a Rottweiler named Sam. They’ve been inseparable ever since, inspiring one another in their strengths and motivating one another in their weaknesses.

This year, the couple has been training together in preparation for their 2012 Games run. Even more so now that summer is here and Phillips is off from his teaching duties at the Walker School where he coaches wrestling, and strength and conditioning.

Phillips says he’s been sticking to his training regimen as the Games draws closer. Monday through Thursday he does a met-con in the morning and strength work at night. Friday is a rest day. On Saturday he does Olympic weightlifting and Sunday is a rest day.

Denney, alongside him as much as she can be, typically does her first workout of the day around 11 a.m. At times she meets Phillips and others she drives to CrossFit Atlanta to work out. The pair finds time to work out together in their Rogue-equipped garage gym and always cook dinner together in the evening.

“It’s so nice to have a gym right in your own home. It’s got everything we need,” Denney says. “Muscle-up rings, a platform, five pull-up bars and my own personal barbell, I like to call ‘Glow-Stick.’”

Denney rarely trains with other women now because she likes the challenge that comes with training with Phillips.

“Sometimes its frustrating because he’s so good at everything and he beats me at most things, but it’s also been good for me because when I put it into perspective, yes, it’s challenging, but hey, he’s a guy, and most guys wouldn’t be that far ahead,” she says. “I can’t let it get to me though. I try,”

Of her personal improvements this past year, Denney says Phillips has helped her with her technique in her lifts. She has also been hard at work on her gymnastics skills.

“My lifts are significantly better,” she says. “I would say 70 percent stronger after working on my gymnastics and improving all my skills. Handstand push-ups have made my jerk holistically better.”

“The cool thing about competing with a team is that you really get to focus more on your strengths than your weaknesses, because each person on the team brings one or two of their own strengths to the team to make it well-rounded. The downside is that you don’t always focus on your weaknesses, but by training how I’ve been training lately, I feel more balanced across the board,” she says.

While this year, she is entering the competition as a key player for CrossFit Atlanta in the team division, there is no doubt in her mind she wants to continue to take her own game to the next level.

“After going last year to the Games, I knew without a doubt, I wanted to be back there. I went the team route this year again because there was no way I wasn’t going to be standing on that podium at Regionals, but I think next year, I am going to go for individual,” Denney says.

Phillips says Denney has helped him see and experience CrossFit in a whole new way.

“We’re always there to support each other ... she’s given me insight into CrossFit from the female’s perspective,” Phillips says. “A lot of girls use more strategy, planning their WODs like an attack, and preparing themselves the best way possible to get through it. Whereas guys, we just hit it, and see how we feel as we go. Seeing things from her perspective has helped me a whole lot more with my mental cues and strategizing my own workouts.”

Outside of workouts and competition, the couple loves hanging out together.

“We like to lead a stress-free life,” Denney says. “The best thing about dating another

CrossFit athlete is that we do most everything the same. We train the same, eat the same, have generally the same daily routine and schedule … and the hard thing about dating another CrossFit athlete is that we do most everything the same,” she says, laughing.

“Sometimes we have to mix it up — like our cheat meals. We take our cheat meals when we need to — and we enjoy them. That’s something different,” she says.

On the menu lately? J.D.’s BBQ.

“We’ve seriously been six times in the past three weeks. Barbecue, fried corn on the cob, and the banana pudding. Oh, the banana pudding,” she says.

When they aren’t sharing a cheat meal, though, the couple loves to share one thing: bacon.

“We love bacon,” Phillips says.

“It’s so good,” Denney says. “We don’t really follow a certain prescribed diet. We just try to eat really well for the most part.”

So who does the cooking in the house?

“We both actually like to cook. We make breakfast (bacon and eggs) most nights before we go to bed,” Phillips says. “For dinners, I grill a lot of steak or chicken, and Jessica makes the veggies for the most part, because she loves veggies and tries to get me to eat them.”

In their spare time, the couple loves to kayak, go fishing, hang out by the pool or catch a movie together.

“There’s nothing like spending time with your best friend,” Phillips says. “All I want to be doing in the next years is keep supporting Jessica … staying in the CrossFit community, making the Games and helping others.”

“My motto in life and CrossFit is ‘Go fast, don’t stop,’” Phillips says.

This power couple is sure to be on the CrossFit scene for years to come.