Brian Carroll: The Arnold XPC 2017 Part 4: The Squat and some raw truth!

Part 4: The squat and some raw truth

Discussing the game plan for the day


With my tangly ear-buds in my ears and a Gatorade in my hand, I made my way over to the warm-up room – Byrd was already there and they were getting started. I’d already taken my caffeine, put on my ointments, hit my 10/20/Life Warm-up – including super cool birddogs in the middle of the cafeteria.

The warm-up room was super crowded and not enough weight on our monolift. There are a lot of people back there but fortunately, many of the are helpful and have no problem pulling the mono, moving the racks or adjusting the height. So, thank you to all who helped beside the team that was with me. I got on the same rack as Byrd (of course), Jo Jordan, Tony Peltzer, Bruce Mason, Al Mehan, and a few other very good lifters.

Warm-ups started off nice, good pace and then all of the sudden, it becomes gridlocked and doesn’t move. Everyone is wrapping at the same time, or nobody is ready, the bar is sitting there. I stayed to myself and kept the pace I needed to keep, and didn’t worry about anything else.


One thing I would suggest to Danny Dague would be to have an expeditor (his only job) to communicate back and forth between the scorer’s table, the platform and the warm-up room to let everyone know what’s going on. There is too much chaos and you can’t hear what’s going on during the meet and it could be easily remedied.
I did my normal thing with warm-ups and they all felt very good.
555 – added predator briefs
625 – same
750 – full gear
840 – full gear
925 – last warm-up


Channing, Keith, Tony, Danny B, Todd, Paul, Zane, Pegg, Frankl and everyone who helped coach and spot did an excellent job. Everything was crisp and good to go – I felt good. We can’t control what others are doing though, and when they are slow it makes us slow too. Of course everyone waited to take their last warm-up even when they were first in the flight, so after taking my second to last warm-up at 10:07, I barely got my last warm-up of 925 at 10:28 when they were slated to start the last flight at 10:30. As I was wrapping, they started the flight. So as I was making my way to the bar, I yelled at Keith to go take care Byrd since he was 3rd in the flight. I took my warm-up, it felt good and fast… Then I got over to the hallway to see Byrd make it to the bar with a couple seconds left and try to pull off the impossible. Squat 960 without a set-up, wedge or anything. Haha – they were running the clock very tight, even after more than half the meet bombed. More on this later.

I felt terrible that Byrd missed his first, but it’s how it goes. It’s how THIS meet goes. All bets are off, nothing is promised and frankly it’s not the judging, the weather; it’s just the weekend, it’s nuts and makes people even more nutty. This makes a lot of things not normal and difficult during a high stress meet as this. Things like a sudden super-strict platform clock (not that they haven’t ran a clock but this year’s seemed quicker than any XPC I’ve done) bench uprights not going up to your normal height, people changing attempts and the order suddenly changing on you are things I’ve become accustomed to the 6 years I’ve done this meet. A big total typically doesn’t win this meet, but lifting well relative to the competition while in the same conditions is key. You can’t panic, and I’ve wanted to panic after the squat, hell even after the bench many, many times… and I’ve never finished less than second overall!


The key to this meet is not lifting to PR first but lifting to win. Go after the numbers you KNOW you have on your seconds, then if you have a number you have in mind, go after it on a third attempt. I talk about this more in 10/20/Life too.

But just about every year, and 3 years I’ve won it – second attempts are what wins it.
The big crowd, the big weekend, the big names, the big stage, the energy, the vibe, sometimes the money but usually pride, the ego really brings people to make poor choices and others it makes better and more seasoned.

I won’t lie, the weekend once again, is a giant pain in the balls and this also impacts the meet for some. For me, it annoys me but I just prepare and control what I can control, have help from my team and stay the hell away from the Expo (except Sunday to watch people compete).


Back to the meet: the squat flight moved fast and before I knew it, I was 6 out. Thankfully, we timed our wrap and set-up for squat opener perfect and I was walking up as the bar was being called “loaded.”
1020 – Good and easy squat. This one felt pretty good and wasn’t an issue. Good groove.

Second attempt: 1080 Miss – for whatever reason, I was a little behind coming to the bar and had to rush this one. I couldn’t NOT get set-up under the bar. I felt so crooked. Finally, I head the head judge mutter “3 seconds” – so I immediately unracked it and got the command to save the squat. I then proceeded to let 1080 do it’s best to wreck my back again. I didn’t hip-hinge and tried to correct it but it was too late, I turned it around early and it still folded me up. I was PISSED. I was wrapped so freaking tight for far too long, then rushed it. I messed the lift up put myself in a bad spot.


Third attempt: 1080 Good – This time Byrd and Keith held the rack from rotating on me and my set-up was money. I got a good groove, came down good and grinded through my sticking point! Thank God, I needed that squat. One thing I could never do early in my lifting time, was come back to make a squat that smashed me. So this meant a lot to me.

Missing the second squat took me out of going over 1100 but the game plan at these meets is making your placing on second attempts, so coming back to make that one was huge and 60lb on my total! You have to scrape and adjust during these big meets. You have to survive.


After the chalk dust settled, many had bombed out. Byrd got his second squat of 960 but this put him far behind, Daniel T got a 1030, Bruce squatted something like 1050, I think, Derek hit a 1050 squat, Jo Jordan squatted something like 1010, Matt Minuth needed his third squat to stay in the meet and got hurt (apparently bad – hope he heals soon) on the un-rack and was done. Tony Peltzer didn’t make it through the squat and was done as well.

The following came to mind as I was writing this part 4, since 1/3 of the meet was over and the tone was set for the day: I’m going to say something controversial about competing here. Not just competing but the way I view fellow competitors (people who are threats) in meets, especially when titles, money or big lifters are all going head to head.

Huge shocker: I want my competitors (those who are threats – not everyone else) to do bad.


Brian the lifter is not the same Brian the coach, Author and business owner. Yes, my morals are my morals regardless of where I am. I am a sportsman and competitor, so I do participate in gamesmanship all of the time and will play games to win and I’ll mess with your head to win. Will I outright cheat? Maybe, it depends on what you mean.

Brian the lifter has made a lot of people not like him. This has been on purpose to some degree. Brian the coach is much easier to get along with and do business with. I’m certainly not at a meet, especially a big one to make friends!

Is this really a shock to anyone? That you don’t want your enemy, your rival, your competitor, the person standing between you, your goals and second place? The person who could embarrass you after 20 long weeks or prep and change the way you view yourself as a lifter and a person? Do you really want them to have an awesome day? You think Cam Newton wanted Von Miller to have the game of his life in Superbowl 50, last year? I doubt he did because Von’s awesome game was at Newton’s expense. I know it’s a stretch, but they are competitors and Von was a huge game changer.

Yes, you want some wars. Sure you like it when they happen, they become great stories, legendary battles as each of you pushes the other to the end, the limit, all you have – I’ve been there.
Yes, this in particular is powerlifting we are discussing but still, what the other person does impact your outcome, so I do think of it as a big deal.


But, just for a minute – let’s not act like we don’t enjoy a dominating effort, demolishing a competitor, a knockout, a beating – smoking them. No, lifting, it’s not fighting, but I’m talking sport overall, gamesmanship and the will to win. Winning by a hair? No thanks, how about embarrassing you, beating you by 100’s of pounds and then having your girl watch me instead of you from now on. This is what I want – I don’t want you to do well when you are competing against me. Have your good day in another meet, be blessed elsewhere, not this one. This all turns on when the meet starts, and turns off when the bar is done being pulled.

You let up on competition and we all know what happens. Look at the many huge comebacks we have seen in the world of sports. Hell, look at this year’s Superbowl 51 – the Falcons started coasting, lost the killer instinct and ended up losing the game! You have to take advantage of every opportunity and go in for the kill. You can’t ever let up and coast, ever. Never feel sorry for your competitor during a competition for struggling, or not doing well. This is part of the game. This could also be your undoing as you lose the edge.

Dr McGill writes in our book “The Gift of Injury” of one of his friends and champion weight-lifter’s story. He was attempting one of his last world records on the Clean and Jerk. He cleaned this weight super easy and just ever-so-slightly.. smiled in his mind, this little bit of “coasting”.. saying to himself – “I got this easy”! Then, suddenly, couldn’t quite lock it out and lost it!


Let me be crystal clear: I don’t want anyone to get hurt – anyone, ever, under any circumstances. But I’m not mad if your knee wrap comes un-done, wrist wrap unfurls, or you get rushed to the bar, trip and fall. I may even distract you with a smile or a tip. A tip that may or may not be a good one. As Arnold said about this best friend, Franco – he pretty much said he’s not above giving Franco bad advice. His own best friend!!! Now, I’m not that ruthless but if you aren’t on my team and I’m competing against you, I hope you miss every lift, except your opener but sometimes that too as it gets you out of the way.

Why does this sound like it’s something you don’t think about too? Or does it sound familiar. Maybe you want to have fun, cheerlead the other team/competitors and compete just to be there and fellowship. If so, I don’t think you take this serious and that’s fine but I’m willing to bet you haven’t achieved very much in the endeavor. Maybe you have done great, but I’d bet those who have the fire to compete and the will to win are more commonly successful than those who don’t.


This sickness, if you will, is part of what drives people to be successful, it’s drive, it’s the intense desire to win. It’s part of being unbalanced. I admit that I am sometimes and sometimes more than others. I really make an effort to be able to turn this off and turn it on only when it’s time. Because it can really mess your head up.
I will never say that I’m thinking rationally during a competition. Yes, I stay calm, especially as I have gotten older but the will to win. The desire to come out on top is more than just a silly bar, some plates, some weight lifting and then a belt or trophy.

Whatever I do in life, I don’t want to do it half-assed. I want to be the very best that day, no matter who shows up. This isn’t life or death, I realize this. This isn’t a war, it’s not even a jungle but I think the mental approach I’m talking about carries over to life more than you think. The will to survive, to win and to succeed no matter what decides to come in your way, builds serious mental toughness that you need in this life.

Back to the meet, after some food and a little bit of rest, it was time to bench. And the bencher flights prior to us were flying due to so many bombing in the squat!
I had to get going!

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Brian Carroll

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Brian Carroll is committed to helping people overcome back pain and optimizing lifts and movement. After years of suffering, he met back specialist Prof. McGill in 2013, which led to a life-changing transformation. In 2017, they co-authored the best-selling book "Gift of Injury." On October 3, 2020, Carroll made history in powerlifting by squatting 1306 lbs, becoming the first person to break this record. He retired with a secure legacy and a life free from back pain.
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