Destroying My Back Was The Best Thing That Ever Happened To My Lifting

By: Brian Carroll (initially written in February 2016)

Yes, that’s what I’ve been saying for a while now. Most of you know that I did more than just break or fracture a few vertebrae. You can read more about the ENTIRE rehab process with Dr. Stuart McGill in our co-authored book Gift of Injury 2017. 

Back to the topic of the day– how was it the best thing that happened to my lifting? Good question!

1. It made me consider every single thing I did in the gym and outside of it. Sounds cliché, right? Not really. I never once even thought that the way I treated my body outside of the gym would directly affect the way I did in the gym. It sounds simple now that I’ve applied this and shown that it works over and over. Well, some won’t get it until it’s upon them, and for many, it will be too late. Don’t wait until it’s too late! I’m sure by now you’ve seen the Ronnie Coleman IG post about his 11hr back surgery, him not being able to walk, and how it was all worth it. Maybe to him, it is, perhaps it isn’t. Are you in this guy’s head? Remember, human nature is full of ego, pride and we do lie, after all. I know personally of many legends who really do believe it was all worth it, but I also know some who say it was not and they were/are full of regret. Some have taken their lives; some are in such bad pain that they can’t function from day-to-day. This is not the life for me, I can say that for a fact. So, I try to mitigate this as much as I can, and I keep in mind – the pros and cons of everything I do – it’s all calculated. Then again, I’m not the best bodybuilder or powerlifter ever, and NOT 8x MR O.

2. My injury gave me some hands-on expertise in a field that I knew very little. The experience helped me out in many ways. I’m not a rehab specialist, a PT, or a Chiro. However, with my background as a massage therapist and in knowledge in A&P, coupled with all the research I had to do when injured, trial and error, and having Dr. McGill a phone call or an email away, this all worked in my favor. I caught on fast concerning the spine and what can potentially cause injury and what to do when given certain situations possibly. This also REALLY helped me become better with my programming, obviously. Smart and more efficient in everything I do or have clients do.

I just simply pass on what has worked for me and countless others. If I don’t know, I research or ask. I highly suggest that you read Back Mechanic and Ultimate Back Fitness & Performance. We sell them both on the site, and I can’t recommend them enough. Make sure to read all the helpful resources on PRS concerning back pain, posture, and rehab. It’s gold.

3. Destroying my back gave me the ability to help others. This dovetails from point 2. I now have knowledge that I can share with others, teach at seminars, help others avoid the dumb shit I did, and stay away from a lot of the pains I went through both mentally and physically. Jordan Wong is an excellent example of passing on knowledge and helping others. Jordan was facing severe back surgery that they wanted to do yesterday. Immediately is an understatement. Using the knowledge I learned from Stu and with Stu’s help on skype call, we saved Jordan (most likely) a lifetime of regret and pain. That being said, Jordan will be a better lifter for it too. Mark my words. He’s already squatting over 600 with ease and is making a difference in the lifting world. This is what it’s all about.

4. The injury taught me what actual mental toughness is. Most won’t know what mental toughness is until they are truly tested. I don’t care what other people say – when you go through crap, if it doesn’t break you, it can help you. It doesn’t mean it will, but when channeled correctly, it sure can. People learn through bad choices and pain. If they don’t, then they have issues much more profound than an injured back or something like that. How do children learn? After going through what I did for years with my back, with many bad meets, dead ends with rehab, then finally figuring it out and after enduring some tough times. It ended up making me harder and made me more of a fighter when things got rough more than before. I don’t think one will gain much from always having a smooth ride at all times, nor will it toughen them up. Think of coddled kids and teens going into their mid 20’s nowadays. Not a good place to be after never having to deal with “real life.”

5. It humbled me and showed me I needed to be better about taking care of my body, that I’m not invincible, and that ‘this’ (heavyweight training/powerlifting) doesn’t last forever. Each moment is a gift and should be treated as such. During the first 7-8 years of my real powerlifting time, I had zero humility, disregarded my nutrition, health, my rest, and didn’t give two shits about anything but me and my lifting.

This is me bearing my soul in some ways, but I didn’t put two seconds of thought into my next 20 years of life and how this all would impact it for the future. Remember, when this little blip we call our ‘lifting career’ is over, there is a lot of life to live. We should appreciate the time we have in competition and training – as this time is minimal and much like life – it can be taken away and over in an instant. Trust me; I thought mine was done and over for years. This time of regret fueled the second chance that I was given.

To close up, I strongly believe that bad can be used for good. I don’t encourage people to disregard their health, act selfishly, and destroy their bodies. However, I can say there are many lessons to be learned in every obstacle. This process has made me a more intelligent and less selfish person and coach, as well as given me another utterly different base of knowledge that I would have never known any other way. There is no teacher like experience. For this, I am grateful.

The wildly popular Gift of Injury and Back Mechanic books are available in the shop right now! When you buy both, use code PRSfriends to save an extra 25% off at checkout!

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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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