March 7, 2013
Who's Sam Dancer?
By Brittany Page

“I may be new to the sport of CrossFit, but I have the drive and determination to compete with the big boys.”


One month before this year’s Open, Sam Dancer made his debut on the CrossFit Games Facebook page. The rookie competitor caught the attention of Games fans by filming one of his workouts: 405-lb. back squats for max reps. Making it look light, he squatted the weight 22 times.

“I wish I had a cool story, bunch of awards, or specific training in anything,” he says. “I’m just a really chill dude who has always been freaky strong.”

As a high-school football player, he managed to bench press 500 lb. Later, as a collegiate football player at Western Illinois University, he developed a 700-lb. back squat, and a more than 600-lb. deadlift. For the 270-pound athlete, the heavy weights were easy.   

“(Deadlifting) over 600 lb. was never really anything I had to train to be able to do,” he says.

After graduating from college, he started looking for another competitive outlet. He found CrossFit at the start of the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Open.

His first workout was the dreaded 12.1: 7-minute AMRAP of burpees. He completed 135 reps.

He spent time researching movements on and YouTube, and he pushed through main site workouts as he waited for the next Open Workout to be announced.

The next week, he drove to the Arnold Classic for Open Workout 12.2: a 10-minute AMRAP of ascending-weight snatches.

“Never snatching a day in my life except for in my mind from watching videos, I had no clue as to what would happen and how I would do,” he says. “(At the Arnold), I felt so out of place. I was going to be competing against some of the best CrossFit athletes in the world and I was wearing basketball shoes, mesh shorts and a cut off.”

With 76 reps (16 reps into the 165-lb. snatches), he finished in the top 100 in North Central.

After each Open Workout was released, he scrambled to learn the movements. During the time between announcements, he tried to get ahead.

“I continued to educate myself as much as possible and started teaching myself anything and everything that might come up,” he says. “I printed off a list of every movement in CrossFit and I would go to parks and the YMCA to practice. I didn’t learn how to do a double-under or a muscle-up until the day it popped up in the Open.”

At the end of the fifth week, he was in 67th place in North Central — just seven places shy of Regional qualification.

Now, after a year of training, he is aiming for the 2013 North Central Regional.

Training with Regional competitor, Joshua Page, Dancer has hit PRs on several lifts and benchmark workouts. Now, he has a 2:10 Fran, a 7:30 Helen, a 1:13 Grace, as well as a 295-lb. snatch, a 365-lb. clean and jerk and a 615-lb. deadlift.

“Our weekends are when the volume gets heavy and the intensity is high,” he says. “Fridays, we typically do sprint work. In the afternoon, we will do our weakness training. Saturdays, we get some heavy lifting in, swimming and we will hit a long 20-minute-plus met-con. Sundays, we head to church, meet with a rowing coach and do some sort of team workout. Mondays are mobility, recovery and evening we will try to destroy ourselves.”

He’s still a CrossFit newbie, but he’s vastly more experienced than last year.

“I may be new to the sport of CrossFit,” he says, “but I have the drive and determination to compete with the big boys.”