Why I Want To Lift at 242

By: Brian Carroll

I don’t do this for fun. I do this because it’s an addiction.

Most of you know a little bit about my lifting history: I lifted at 220, 242 and 275 over the years, my back injury history and the rehab process and that story. If you don’t you can read part one here.

In short, I broke my sacrum pretty bad in 2009 and didn’t know it (read part two   here). I was going to be a police officer in Jacksonville Beach and was trying to ‘break’ (haha) the course record at 270lb. If any of you have been in Florida on a July morning, you know the humidity is crazy. As I was running full speed I fall on my ass as I hurdled a 36” barrier about half way thorught the course. I did finish it and just assumed my legs were just fatigued and that I was a pussy overall as I could barely walk. I ended up on the ground near my truck as everyone (all cops which are first responders) ignored me and continued doing what they do. I guess it’s normal for men to lay in parking spots next to their trucks writhing in pain.

Well, I kept lifting without much time off and actually pulled my first 800 in a meet 3 months later.

Business as usual, right? I thought so, but over time….

I kept lifting at a high level and had back pain here and there, but I kept at it and kept having good results with many good showings, placings and wins. Many squats over 1100, benches over 800 and totals over 2700.

A few years later as this injury I had become more of a culmulative deal, I found out my sacrum was still broken (still, didn’t know it at the time it happened) and this lead to many other issues and it all came to a head where I was faced with the great possibility that I was done. For real. Many doctors and surgeons said I was done. Even Dr. McGill told me candidly that I didn’t have much left.

This was good motivation for me, though. Also, this was unacceptable, so I turned every table over in the room until I found a solution.

I found a solution.

After I rehabbed; through trial and error, talking with Dr. McGill, Kiefer, Scott Paltos, Adam Driggers and some other people I hold in high regard, I figured out the missing piece. I was simply too heavy (too fat) for my frame to safely carry 295lb anymore with my lifting age and injury history. I felt like death walking around, to be honest ask Lab Rat and Byrd the week before I made the decision.

My back was healed but I was still carrying near 300lb at 5’9” and that was not conducive for back health, health overall and letting myself get into a good & proper position to pull big, especially considering the trauma my back had already gone through. I figured that leaning up would be a good idea and I knew that my leverages would change and it would take a while to get back to being stronger than I was at 275, especially on the bench and squat due to being a much smaller man, by 30lb.

Want short (cut) term success at the cost of health, or do you want to do things the correct & hard way?

Remember, availability superceeds ability as I’ve said many times to the point I hate saying it, but it’s true. Being that big just didn’t work for me anymore in every way. I felt like crap 24/7 and was labored for breath. My squat and bench were great, but not even being able to get in the proper position to pull at the 2014 Arnold was my first wake-up call when I had to token due to not being able to get to the bar to pull. I finally decided to make a change.

The Truth & A Wake Up Call

What really directed my attention to my health and weight was my good friend Bob passing away at such a young age of 43. This is what really got me heading down the road of being healthier overall. This lead me to being lighter and competing in a lower class, once again. Thank you Bob, I may not have ever clearly seen the path I need to head down if it wasn’t for you.

Fast Forward: Results

Bob passed away May 3rd and by mid-July, I slipped into the 260’s. I didn’t only eat better, but I had to really change my lifestyle overall. I was able to get rid of unwanted tightness in my hips and lower back and bench was not killing me anymore when I set up. I was also able to get into a much safer/locked in lifters wedge and proper position to pull big again. It was literally that easy, and my back has not bothered me since and pulling has been great.

242 was and is the answer for ME.

I clashed with great lifters at 242 for many years. From 2007-2011 off and on, and finally got too big (too fat and had no real motivation to keep my fatness down) to make the cut anymore and just didn’t want to do it. Nobody lifted at 242 anymore even though I had many great battles and very much enjoyed competing against Panora, Grandick, Frey, Hoff, Sam Byrd and others during this time at 242.

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I had some of my best showings in this weight class and was always just a step behind Greg Panora at 242. This came to a head at the 2008 Pro-Am where I was actually beating Greg both outright and by formula going into the deadlift. I pushed Greg harder in this meet than anyone ever had (keep in mind he was the #1 ranked lifter and was handily beating lifters by 100lb +) and this was the closest anyone ever beat him straight up in a competition. At the end of the day, Greg never lost straight up to anyone. He did have others beat him out in formula, but never head to head when he held the record from 2006-2011. I didn’t pull the win off but ever since then, I wanted to own the record that Greg owned at the time and did for a very long time from 2006-2011. Greg is one of the best lifters to ever lift and has my respect as one of the greatest compettiors I’ve ever faced.

Why not just lift at 265 and have fun at 275?

In some ways that’s the easy way out for me. In some ways, I don’t really have a choice. This is a question I’ve been asked a lot, and a very logical one at that. First, plain and simple, I have unfinished business at 242 and numbers/records I’ve wanted to hit since 2007. Yes, almost 10 years of wanting this, failing at it, getting hurt, hurting myself with stupid decisions over and over both physically and from a competitive standpoint. I could go on, but to me: it’s fucking personal.

Broan, why not lift at what you weigh, bro?

In short, this sport that we love, hate and give so much to and sacrifice so much is illogical in the worst ways. The reason is simple, I don’t want to be at the bottom of any weight class as far as body weight goes. I’m giving up too much size and don’t do anything half-assed. I’m in it to win it.

Think of this…

In the situation of any weight restricted sport with a 24hr weigh in like MMA Fighting, boxing, wrestling, bodybuilding etc – 99.9% of them cut 3-5% bodyweight at least to compete in the lighter class. Ever heard the boxing phrase “a good big man beats a good small man every time”? You want to have every advantage that you can in sports. That’s the way I approach lifting in weight restricted sports and if you are competitive, then you should too.

Oh, and another thing…

I know that If I let myself lift at 275 sitting at 265lb, I’ll slowly start moving back toward 280lb bodyweight and before I know it, I’ll be close to the same unhealthy bodyweight as before. I would face all the same issues that were literally preventing me from any goals and the same habits that I was facing prior. I know how I operate and so do those close to me. I’m an all or nothing type of person who doesn’t do anything half assed. The tattoos, the gun collecting, the hoarding different things and wanting all or nothing in mostly everything is both a good and bad thing. I’m either all in, or I’m not doing it.

Staying at or around 265 keeps me honest with both my diet and my walking, and those around me know if I’m slacking or If I’m locked in according to my bodyweight. It’s my measuring stick and my accountability.

I know I’m kind of stuck in no-man’s land in the 260’s but nothing that is worth having, comes easy. It’s a healthy cut but it’s not too bad as long as I follow my Cutting Weight Guide. 242 and 275 are too very big ranged classes and it would behoove one to be the biggest in their class and pack the most ‘juice’ in their 242 or 275lb from on game day.

Former Goals

I had the goal of hitting 2800 at 275 for a long time. My best lifts at 275 (I weighed 290+) add up to a mid 2800lb total – but the bottom line is I can’t lift at that weight anymore even if I wanted to be a fat, 295lb, 275er again…which I don’t.

New Goal

I’ve replaced that same goal with 2700 at 242, which happens to be the 5lb more than the biggest total ever done at 242 – which is 2695.

But Brian, you aren’t supposed to talk about goals, according to you. 

Point taken, but I think this is slightly different. How? That’s pretty easy. Pretty much anyone who follows my lifting knows that this is the goal. I’ve achieved this total more than once in powerlifting, so it’s not a lofty or outlandish goal. It is a way to keep myself accountable to those who know I would love to blow up to about 275-280. It also keeps things front and center in the midst of people that will keep me accountable, maybe even to a fault. It’s just part of the game and I accept ti.

Brian, you don’t look as strong at times as you once did.

It’s going to be a process. I had to start over with just the bar on squat and 135 on the deadlift from a block. I have to keep this in mind, no doubt.

This is going to be a process of rebuilding regardless since I’m still coming back after a pretty serious injury. As I wrote about in my recent article about changes to my training, it’s been a process of trial and error for me as far as how hard I can push and what movements I can do. Luckily I haven’t irritated my back or reinjured my back in any way, so I’m very happy  about it. Once again – availability superceeds ability every time.

I know that having a goal of lifting less weight overall (2800+ vs 2700+) to people, on the surface doesn’t make sense. But, if you look at the numbers, the coefficient, and the tiny small fact that only one person under 275 has ever totaled 2700 (Frankl) then you realize how tough and rare of an achievement or goal this really is. Trust me, I’ve been back to 242 for 3 meets and this guy totaling 2700 at 220 boggles my mind even more.

Cutting weight is stupid? Sure, for people that don’t like to win and have never won shit. However, cutting weight does suck. Cutting from 265-267 down to 242 is a pain in the ass. I would much rather not have to worry about this, walk around at 245 and just cut my water off at 8pm on Thursday, the Friday before weigh-inS…but that won’t cut it. There are 220 lifters much bigger than 245, as I was one as well back in the day. It’s just how things are, get in or get out of the way.

Is it all about your goals and the sacrifice you’re willing to get in bed with? Maybe it is, in certain situations that is.

Sometimes when the ability is there, you’re healthy and it’s within reach: the only thing that stands in your way is simple – how bad do you want it? See what I did there? I have written about motivation, passion and the like, but I’ve never said heart and passion is meaningless. There are just too many pieces to the puzzle to say that ‘passion is all that matters’. That’s because to say that is complete and utter bullshit. Otherwise, the person who very famously said this and the like would have been more than an average lifter, at best. Fact is fact, and the numbers don’t lie.

Having to watch ones diet very closely at times (not always – amen, glory be to GOD) to keep my bodyweight within cutting range, and even lifting less on the squat and bench (for now) is hard to do mentally, I’ll admit. I have not been able to as I have not allowed myself to train as aggressively as I would have been able to in the past. This is due to erring on the side of caution and slowly adding more volume and intensity. My leverages have changed a lot as my waist is down 5 notches on my belt. This will make things, at times, heavier and feel not quite as stable at time. It is part of the game and little changes per time will work for me. They always have.

At The End Of The Day

It all comes down the sacrifice and what the endgame is. For me, the endgame of a  2700+ total is not going to be easy for me and it will take a very good day at 242 for me to hit the same numbers I did at 275. It might take 5 more meets…maybe 10, maybe 20, maybe the rest of my life. Who knows, but I will do what it takes to get there, even if it takes a long time. I’m locked in and even though it’s been difficult at times and I’ve struggled, the goal will not change.

Cutting weight comes with risk. It’s not healthy and you’re adding in a lot of variables that someone walking in and lifting as is does not have to deal with.

Cuts, like training, can fall apart. Sometimes you don’t feel great after a cut and sometimes you feel awesome. Just like meets and meet prep – no twocuts are the same. It’s a constant experiment, especially when the stakes are high and you’re cutting close to 10% of your Bodyweight. I accept this willingly.

Many will not understand “lifting less, to do more”, but that’s ok. It’s something that I have chosen to do and for the goal that I’ve put in front of myself for much of the last decade.

Want to know why I don’t care as to what people think? Because I do this for me. Don’t you? Oh, of course we do nice things for people, we love the charity and helping others in need as well as sponsoring people, the giving of time, money and equipment, the comraderie that exists in this realm, the friendships that we have made and make. However, let’s get one thing crystal-sparkling-clear– we are not in this selfish endeavor for philanthropy, to give and to only help others become better. As a coach, event organizer, etc….yes. As a lifter who has goals in mind, HELL NO. And if you don’t do this for you, then you should probably pick another avenue to ‘help others’. That is, if that’s your only goal with this, which it isn’t.

Think powerlifting isn’t a selfish endeavor? Ask your spouse – do they really benefit from this? Are you rich? Is it making you more healthy, more nice, more available and contributing to your overall well being? HELL NO.

This sport is a very thankless and selfish sport. We do this because we want to. Hell, I’m an addict, no different than a junkie chasing a needle with Oxy or heroin.

With that said, egos and all – why all of the sudden would I care if people think it’s a ‘good idea’ or not, or even what I should be doing according to their ideas of my lifting career? LEL. Fuck that and you.

This goal has been in front of me since 2007 and the number has changed many times but the goal has not. From 2485 to 2600 to 2620, 2630, 2635 and finally it’s 2695. Having the biggest total at 242 – the squat would be nice too, but not necessary.

When it happens, and it will, you can then have the tough job of questioning my next goal. As you’re doing that, I’ll be well on my way to achieving it, and that’s something you can count on.

 

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Brian Carroll

Brian is a world-class powerlifter with over two decades of elite and pro-level powerlifting under his belt. Coming back from a devastating back injury in 2012 that broke multiple bones and that most experts said he would never recover from, he has returned to the pinnacle of world-class lifting (while 100% pain and symptom-free) and is now dedicated to helping others avoid the same mistakes that he made in the past through private and group coaching in Jacksonville, FL. Brian’s impressive recovery has given him the opportunity to teach and deliver talks to physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors, professional strength & conditioning coaches and experts from all facets of sport, on how to avoid injury, while building anti-fragile strength and resilience in athletes.
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