Brian Carroll APF Rick Lawrence Memorial Meet

I started my write-up last week, but unfortunately, at about 1200 words in, I didn’t save it for some reason and lost it. I spent a few hours trying to retrieve the word doc as I have so many times before, sometimes victorious, but not this time.  I have to learn this lesson a few times a year it seems but the good news is I pretty much remember everything I wrote; I have to write it all over! And with another week comes a more-clear perspective. So I hope that this version of the write-up is a little better overall. I haven’t felt great since coming back from my work trip to Qatar, so I’ve procrastinated writing this, but I’m snapping out of it. Also, I’m going to do this meet write-up a little different and tell a story instead of the general, linear meet write-up as I now feel like writing and want to do it this way.

First, I want to thank Shawn and Claudia Knowles for putting on this event in Rick’s memory. I know they both were very close to Rick and Tamara. As many of you know, Rick suddenly passed this June as he was a friend and mentor to many. As we know, it takes so much time, workforce, and energy to run an event like this. Thank you. To the judges, spotters and loaders, thank you for your time, help, and efforts. A very cool thing about the return of the WPO — There were more equipped lifters on this roster than I’ve seen since probably 2008, which is incredible. I thought this was cool, as it reminded me of the start of my lifting. I did my first sanctioned bench meet in June of 1999; oddly enough, I lifted raw and was one of only three people not in an Inzer denim, or at least an Inzer blast shirt. People who weren’t around in the lifting game before 2006 may not understand that very, very few people lifted raw in a meet unless they could not get their gear to work/fit right so that they would open raw then take their next attempt, for instance, a bench press, equipped. Same applied to deadlift as many struggled in their suits to gain even 20lbs while others benefitted. For squats, if someone fought in their squat suit, they wore only briefs and wraps until they got the hang of their suit.

Things are different now. I feel that since so many people new to the sport train alone and with an online coach that many will continue to lift and compete raw due to this and time constraints. You can’t lift-equipped alone, and let’s face it, equipped lifting takes a long time (each training session) and can be tedious, but it’s so worth it when you put it all together. Equipped lifting isn’t for everyone.

Speaking of the time it takes, I want to thank my wife Ria for her support over the last 12 years of lifting craziness and overlooking many shortcomings on my end. Just this year, she allowed me to go ballistic in my garage gym venture, and I think this was necessary if I was to still train regularly with my guys as we are expecting twin girls in 2020. The good news is that I will have even more tools to work from home over the next few years as our life changes drastically. We are both blessed to be able to work from home. We know this is a blessing.

I want to thank my training partners and handlers for their help this year in the gym and at this meet. I had absolutely everything I needed due to their efforts. Thank you, Blue, Keith, John, Steve, Shane, Thomas, and Dave for all of your help and for being excellent training partners and handlers. I can’t wait to see where our team goes in 2020. 2019 has been a fantastic year, and I love what we have going in the garage.

Last, and quick before I ramble any longer: I’d like to thank my gracious sponsors: Vox Medical in Miami for their help this year getting me back on track from a fertility standpoint, Inzer Advance Designs for assisting me for most of my lifting career and providing the most innovative lifting gear and Jax Nutrition for their nutritional backing the last two years. I had absolutely everything I needed to get back under the bar this year and push toward competing.

OK, now moving forward — Once we got a positive pregnancy test this summer (August 24), I decided to jump back into prep for Rick’s competition 12.7.19 and qualify for the 2020 WPO Semis at the Arnold in March. I didn’t achieve this, and honestly, I need to take a step back and sort a few things out. To quote Allison Lockhart, I was “living in fantasy land.” Not really -maybe- but a lot of stuff had to come together for me in a short time, and it didn’t. I chose the meet, and I handled my training, my diet, and my supp, etc. It all falls on me. In retrospect, I should have given myself more time, but I didn’t have more time.

I always enjoyed the meets in New Port Richie and Tampa — going back to competing in my first Rick Lawrence meet in 2004, where I was able to break my very first 2000 total at 220 via 865, 507, 650 as a tune-up right before WPC Worlds in Fresno, CA. Rick was always a good friend, and I typically supported his meets, so I wanted to do the event, intending to just get some numbers in to qualify for March. I guessed that I needed around 2500 total, and I felt I could do that in 3 months.

Prep went pretty well, but it was short, and that was no secret. I wanted to use this time to experiment with some variables. I’m getting to the point (the last few years especially) where work isn’t always going to allow me the luxury it used to, and it’s going to get in the way of training – so I’ll need to be better about planning longer preps. Being about 30lbs heavier, (weighing about 305 during prep), I had to get in all-new gear, which was a learning curve. As Blue told me after the meet, “You did today what you did in training.” “You struggled to get down on the squat and benched to a 1-board, no lower.” And this pretty much sums it up 100%. Another trip to fantasy land granted me the idea of not gaining much weight after being completely off of T for about eight months and simply melting all the fat off that I had gained through the year.

Meet day, my team and I had breakfast at IHOP, and I got my usual food – Rooty, Tooty fresh & fruity like I have just about every meet for a very long time. I’d weighed in at 305 the day before, which is way more than I’ve ever weighed-in at (I weighed in at 283 before for a bench meet) and was feeling pretty good. Warm-ups started, felt solid, and I ended up squatting my last warm-up of 965 and was ready to get started with my opener. My goal was to get this opener of 1052 in, then see what I wanted ot do. Long story short, there was some confusion and issues with the computer and loading chart for a few lifters, so after taking my 1052 and making it successfully, I passed on my next two attempts and got ready to bench.

When it was time to bench, I had to change my plans a little bit. As I was warming up, I realized there was no way I’d touch my opener of 749. My size 60 SDP (up from size 56/54, when 260-270 ) was very tight, tighter than in training. I wasn’t passing out or even getting lightheaded, but it was just hard to touch the boards and hitting a brick wall and wasn’t floating in. So after talking with Keith, we decided to go more aggressive and upped my opener to over 800, but my set-up was crap and I couldn’t touch and press 810, 810, and 821. The last one with 821 was the best (went up slightly just to see if added weight might give me a little push in), it touched easier but I was still not in a good place to press it up and pushed it back over my face. Not having Paul and Keith (two of the best bench coaches) around in training has really allowed me to get comfortable and not as locked in on the bench as I had in the past – colossal mistake; though Blue got onto me enough about raising my damn head and flattening out. At the start of the ‘cycle’ my SDP 60 was pretty huge me, then ended up being tight. Again, I overlooked it. The details matter so much in equipped lifting and I have gotten bad about neglecting a few that have cost me. Like Blue said, I did exactly what I did in training and not any better.

In 20/20 hindsight, I would have had Inzer (they supply me with all that I need and more) send me a 62 and a 64, but I didn’t see myself needing it as these are massive shirts. Most importantly, I would have worked on my set-up a lot more and put more effort into this. Going forward, it’s all on me to fix my set-up, continue to dial in my gear, and strip some of this body-fat off. There is no reason for me to walk around at 300lbs.

The bottom line is I didn’t execute. My lifting was ugly and rusty, to be honest. So ugly, especially the bench that I don’t ever want to see the videos again after reviewing and analyzing how flat and fat I was during the bench; and instead of pushing my belly up the last couple of inches, I lifted my head and let the bar fall onto my stomach- just on the other side of the bubble (exactly where you should touch).

I’m thankful I’m able to lift, honestly – I didn’t reinjure my shoulder or  hurt anything else. All in all – I’m feeling pretty good physically, and have learned to deal with this type of outcome mentally. I can tell that I squatted a few weeks in a row with the straight bar (shoulder and biceps has let me know), but nothing hurts. This part is a huge win. I’m already back to lifting light and got back to squatting last weekend.

Speaking of being able to lift – I’m still amazed how often Hoff and Frankl lifted and lifted HUGE; by far the two best lifters of this era IMO. And yet, though Frankl started earlier at a high level, Hoff is still going stronger than ever over nine years after Frankl walked away. Incredible; blows my mind — I think the most amazing part is how creative Hoff is with his progressions and staying injury-free. Let’s face it; you have to be creative once you get over an advanced and world-class level (just a guess, no evidence); add to the fact Dave lifts in the same gear he totaled 2400 in (less the denim shirt). He’s had the same OG Inzer Leviathan he got when he was 11. Or something like that. He doesn’t do stupid shit that won’t add to his total. I love it. But that won’t win you the internet or add too many more followers, but it will get you the best coefficient of all time and most massive total regardless of gear and testing – the biggest, period.

What I’m going to have to come to terms with (especially going forward) is it will never be easy trying to push in all directions; Growing my family, my business, travel for work and competing at a high level — I can’t advance in all things at the same time. I can’t tell you how much I struggle with this – when I’m making more money, I wish I was competing more, and when I’m competing more, I’m not able to focus on work as much and that starts to slip.

But powerlifting doesn’t pay any of my bills; it costs money to do. I wish I could say 100% that I’ve had enough with powerlifting and competing, but I’d be lying, I know that I need to let this take a little bit of a back seat. I guess I can see that making my lifting a priority RIGHT NOW will not be realistic in many ways for at least the foreseeable future. I’m not saying that I don’t want to compete anymore, or that I don’t care about being a top lifter (because it’s difficult not wanting to go all out – I have to fight my inner Billy Mimnaugh all the time) but I need to reevaluate things, and pump the brakes a bit. I have two baby girls coming in April (likely early to mid since there are twins and won’t likely go full-term), and this is going to need to be my prime focus for the next while.

How much competing is enough? How much is too much on the body? We generally don’t know until we have crossed this threshold – we toe the line daily. I need to be healthy for them; this is in my control. And there is a chance that Ria, could have to spend a lot of downtime (bed rest) the final month, and I need to be available mentally and physically.

I don’t want to be negative, or whiny this meet or about 2019 as it’s been by far the best year of my life. My business doubled during 2019, and I want to continue to see the same growth in 2020 – we will need it! 2019 was also the best year of my life from a physical, mental, and spiritual standpoint and growing overall. I used to need powerlifting success for my own (very little) sanity. Still, I’m slowly learning that while the training part is necessary for my mental health, but the trying to fight and justify the whole self-worth stuff with a total is a losing battle and barking up the wrong tree. I’m slowly getting beyond this.

I have thoroughly enjoyed training with the guys in the garage this year but will take it day by day on what I’m going to do. Right now, I need to get through the Holidays, work on planning the next business year while I try not to get too fat and continue to train. I’ve bombed 11x in full meets, so this 11th time it’s easier to swallow but still sucks.

I have plenty of time to continue to get healthy, work on the things I know I need to like my bench set-up/touching lighter weight, drop some weight and continue to get my shoulder as strong as it was pre-injury and more. But most importantly, I need to prepare for other things outside of powerlifting competition for the immediate future. I hope the WPO has a ton of success in March and it continues to thrive and grow, and will continue to support it in any way that I can.

Most importantly, I have gained a great deal of perspective about lifting and life over the last few years and I really am learning about myself and why I’ve gravitated toward lifting as much as I have. It’s in my DNA and always will be. I think a little bit of refocusing without rushing to get ready to compete will be just what I need.


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Brian Carroll

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Brian is a retired world-class powerlifter with over two decades of world-class powerlifting. From 1999 to 2020, Brian Carroll was a competitive powerlifter, one of the most accomplished lifters in the sport's history. Brian started off competing in bench press competitions 'raw,' then, shortly into the journey, he gravitated toward equipped lifting as there were no "raw" categories then. You only had to choose from single-ply (USPF) and Multi-ply (APF/WPC). Brian went on to total 2730 at 275 and 2651 at 242 with more than ten times his body weight in three different classes (220, 242, 275), and both bench pressed and deadlifted over 800 pounds in two other weight classes. He's totaled 2600 over 20 times in 2 different weight classes in his career. With 60 squats of 1000lbs or more officially, this is the most in powerlifting history, regardless of weight class or federation, by anyone not named David Hoff. Brian realized many ups and downs during his 20+ years competing. After ten years of high-level powerlifting competition and an all-time World Record squat at 220 with 1030, in 2009, Brian was competing for a Police academy scholarship. On a hot and humid July morning, Brian, hurdling over a barricade at 275lbs, landed on, fell, and hurt his back. After years of back pain and failed therapy, Brian met with world-renowned back specialist Prof McGill in 2013, which changed his trajectory more than he could have imagined. In 2017, Brian Carroll and Prof McGill authored the best-selling book about Brian's triumphant comeback to powerlifting in Gift of Injury. Most recently (10.3.20) -Brian set the highest squat of all time (regardless of weight class) with 1306 lbs – being the first man to break the 1300lb squat barrier at a bodyweight of 303 lbs.
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