To celebrate the 49ers sixth Super Bowl appearance, we’re looking at tight end Vernon Davis’ championship workout. Davis, by his standards, had a quiet end to the season, with only six passes for 61 yards in the last six regular season games. However, when his team needed him last weekend in the NFC championship game, he delivered. The tight end went for 106 yards and a touchdown and was a crucial factor in his side’s comeback and victory over the Falcons. He has hit a rich vein of form and could be a big factor this weekend. Simply put, the man is a beast. 

Vernon Davis has been putting up huge strength numbers since he was a 220-pound 16-year-old running the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds for college scouts. He attended the University of Maryland (College Park), and as a true freshman broke every school tight-end lifting record with a 425-pound bench press, 585-pound squat and 355-pound power clean. By his junior year, those numbers had increased to 480, 685 and 380, respectively, and his “strength index”—Maryland’s measure of pound- for-pound strength—was 824.

“Vernon is one of only six guys in the history of our program to have an index over 800,” says Dwight Galt, Davis’ head strength coach at Maryland. “Most of those who get a high strength index are smaller, compact guys because they have less body- weight. For Vernon to do that [at a higher bodyweight] is pretty phenomenal.”

Davis left college after his junior season, and at the NFL Combine in March 2006 did 33 reps with 225 pounds on the bench and ran a 4.38-second 40, numbers never achieved by a tight end at the Combine up to that point. The next month he was selected as the sixth overall draft pick by San Francisco. He has since translated those weight-room numbers into impressive stats for the Niners—78 catches, 965 yards and 13 touchdowns in ’09—to earn his first Pro Bowl selection. He credits his success to not only freakish genetics but also an intense desire to be the best.

“I’m just a competitive guy,” Davis says. “I can’t stand to see anyone do better than me. That’s a part of competition. You’ve got to have that drive; that’s how you get better. If a guy in front of me has a better bench-press than me, I’m going to work harder to outdo him.”

Vernon’s Workout:

This routine came directly from the 49ers strength and conditioning program and constitutes one day of the week during the off-season. It focuses on upper-body exercises as well as power, core and other moves critical for football players.

Exercise Sets Reps
Light Warm Up + Stretching    
Kettlebell Swing (Warm-Up) 1 15
Power Clean 5-8 1-6
Flat or Incline Bench Press 5-8 8,5,3,1,1,1,1,18
Upper-Back Exercise* 3-4 8-15
Triceps Exercise** 5 6
Special Exercise*** 2 10-30
Lat Pulldown or Pull-Up 4 8
Abs**** 3 12-30
Grip Exercise 4 8
Lateral Neck Flexion 1-2 12-20

* back exercise of choice such as lat pulldowns, bent-over rows, machine rows or standing high-cable rows (to face)
** triceps exercise of choice such as pushdowns, barbell lying triceps extensions or overhead triceps extensions
*** any pressing exercise using a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, bands, chains, etc., stopping about two reps short of failure and resting 3–5 minutes between sets
**** ab exercise of choice that targets the upper or lower abs, or obliques

Check out this motivational training video starring Davis: