Wisdom from 2020 and 1306 squat

Wisdom from 2020 and 1306 squat

By now, most of you know that I squatted 1306 for the ATWR. I look at this as 4 ATWR, though it only officially counts as two.

I also tore my R bicep a month out deadlifting, which was a blessing looking back. I’ll get to this in a while. So the weekend went fabulous with lifting on Saturday, Sunday we drove back 10hr from TN with two 6mo babies, and then Monday we settled in, Tuesday am at 7 I’m getting my biceps reattached. The last two months have been a blur. Every Dr. wanted to reattach it right away, but I wouldn’t cooperate, especially after my squat training had gone so well. This was a calculated risk, but luckily there isn’t much arm supination during the squat, so honestly, the squat never once tweaked-on my arm or my bicep.

Instead of doing a standard, boring meet write-up that you already know the gist of anyway, this will be an article. Instead of just talking about myself, I’m going to help as many people as I can with my take-away. 2020 has been a year of learning for me. It’s been a year of pain, injuries, firsts, and lasts. In this article, I will share as much wisdom and knowledge as possible to help anyone push toward ultimate performance with everything they have. One of the most significant points I want to get across is who you surround yourself with. Be picky when you can, and I know that sometimes you have to take what you can get. Enjoy.

Starting over – little direction, but I knew I wanted to continue lifting

Last year Jan 2019, I took a break from competing and worked on getting healthy – mentally and physically – especially from a fertility standpoint and building a brand new crew here at PRS HQ. Samson at Adam’s place was no longer, and most everyone went their separate ways, which was better for us. Shane stayed with me, and we started over from scratch. Ria and I wanted to get pregnant, so I took my time and took a different approach to many things in my life. This set me back on my training, but I made good progress on myself mentally (and physically) and had time to invest in the men around me, most much newer to the strength game. I mean, they trained, but they didn’t train as they do now. What we do is another level of commitment. We built the team in 2019 and 2020 and found some competent guys locally. My goal was to get people who want to learn, and I was very clear about that. I didn’t care about ability, though it’s nice; I was more interested in taking them to the next level, whatever that might be.

My team

In short, what I’ve got as far as a team right now is currently is a group of men who are dedicated, care about each other (and their lifts), and want to get brutally strong. There is no room for selfishness with a team. This works when getting ready for a meet is the most important in the gym and the focus. You either get this, or you don’t. Those who only come when prepping or when it’s convenient (most of the time for their other hobbies) are just temporary members, so they should be treated as such and the first ones to go as the team grows tighter and closer.

Break-ups happen all the time

Do you ever wonder why the big crews are always changing? Ever pay attention to the drama with the many gyms in Columbus, Ohio? Just about every powerlifter in the C-bus area has moved/left/come back to 3-4 gyms in the last five years. Usually, a crew lasts about 2-3 years, then they fight, break-up, reorganize and move on. We all see it, and it’s not just Columbus. There are many reasons for this, but besides egos and the grass being greener elsewhere, you only get sick of people and their issues, which is an entirely natural process. People want change, so it happens sometimes, and simple disagreements are common, actually healthy to help the group grow—people part ways every day, a lot of them for the better.

I’m happy to say the group built here in 2019 and 2020 came up to Tennessee to help me do a fantastic job handling Ant, myself, and Byrd. As a group, we had been to 3 or so meets together, and this last meet was telling. It was a 10hr drive, so right away, that makes things inconvenient. It’s hard for many to understand, but how many treat training/competing/powerlifting is akin to a life and death moment; it is the most crucial thing in the world as it makes me shake my head typing this. Having Byrd and Rudy come up and help guide Steve, Dave and Tom lined up the handlers’ dream team. For that, I’m very appreciative. Add that the Spud Crew came over to support, one of my best friends Kristen from Firebrand Infusions, came, and other great clients and friends. It was a great weekend and one of the biggest reasons why I love competing so much. It’s so much stress and so much trouble, but when it goes well 1/10x, it’s worth it.

Not always part of your team:

A team of lifters and the groups you roll with are an ever-revolving door; people will come and go. This meet was a great indicator of who was part of the group and who was not. I’m not talking about people who just had to work a new job or couldn’t go due to Covid restrictions and exposure. This is life. We had people who committed to going and just didn’t. They either no called or canceled less than 48hr prior. If you care about your team and those you train with, this is not a path you take. Being part of a lifting team is not just lifting or attending when it’s convenient; it’s not a third priority, and it’s not about doing your meet, then disappearing when your focus is done. You have a vested interest in seeing your teammates do well, and you want to go to support them.

Ego’s

Egos are a difficult thing to mesh together. I’ve been lucky enough to train with some of the greatest of all time during the last 20 years. Too many to name, but those familiar with just the Samson crew know the number of big lifts hit, not to mention traveling to lift with Westside lifters and Big Iron lifters. Samson boasted 5-800 bencher or close to it if you count Paul Key, 5 –  5 1000lb squatters or close or more, eight or so 500lb raw benchers, multiple 800lb deadlifters, and 4 2500lb total before totaling 2500 were cool, it was legendary. We didn’t recruit lifters, and they were all made and built at Samson. Everyone had an ego, but we all made it work. The problem starts when people who genuinely aren’t a top lifter think they are a top lifter just because they have trained with them.

One thing that’s confusing is numbers are binary and easily comparable in your genre or era. My era is 1999/2000-ish to the 2020-ish era. My multi-ply numbers are easy to compare to see where I stand; websites now allow you to know where you stack up. This is not an opinion; it’s a fact, black and white. Not just ATWR but your rankings or lack of in the top 20 all-time lists, who out lifts your MP total raw etc.

Everyone will have egos, especially if they are trying to be the best – but one thing I feel is essential: if it’s mostly disproportionate to their ability, knowledge, wisdom, either former or present, it has to become checked. I’ve also tried to check my ego too and be nicer:  If I ran everyone off, being like I used to be at the first Samson location, I’d have no training partners and not enough spotters to get me through the cycle. It’s a double-edged sword. But there come times when something needs to be addressed: I’ve had athletes who can barely bench 315 weighing 275 try to tell me how to set up my bench press training, how we should train as a team, and why I don’t know what I’m doing. In the older days, I would have been all over someone like this and likely ran them off long ago. We didn’t tolerate people giving opinions about strength when they weren’t’ strong. This is MY fault for letting it even get to this point. It’s another thing I learned about training with a team. Sometimes it’s better to run members off sooner than later. Men with egos the size of Dave Hoff with the lifting ability and self-awareness of Pee-Wee Herman is a recipe for them to train alone.

Lifting has been my life

Not everyone feels as passionate about lifting as I do, but it’s been so important to me for so long, over 25 years straight – that it brings out the absolute best and worst in me. I’m at the point now, where I don’t want to feel these lives or death (feeling) moments anymore, and the whole deal is just too stressful. Not the lifting, but the grind. Ever since getting hurt and seeing McGill in 2013, I wanted to keep pushing and get back to where I would do something I would be personally proud of doing. I was asked by Tate and other people what that meant; I didn’t know. But I’ve battled with cutting down to 242 off and on for over a decade, actually closer to 15 years. For a while, I had to stay under 270; otherwise, my back let me know. But after taking time off last year and retooling my squat, building a stronger core and base, changing brands of gear, and getting some help from the greats in the sport, I had a lovely training cycle, especially for all of the variables listed.

Was it a perfect one? No, I tore off my R bicep a month out, pulling an opener deadlift, and it almost cost me the meet. I struggled in the new gear for months, but I kept pushing on and doing the best possible. It’s not been comfortable with twin newborns. I think my recovery tanked after the births, which lead to injury and sickness about every other month. But this is life, it happens, so you keep trying to figure out how to get it done. You always find ways to get what you feel is essential. Look no further than a crack or pill head. They get their fix at any cost. Poor analogy, but you get the point now. We do what is important to us.

So after a couple of days and an MRI, I wanted to follow through with my commitment to Bert and Mindy and pushed forward doing squat only for the following five weeks. I didn’t tell any more about the injury because I didn’t want people telling me it was dumb; I already knew it was stupid and risky. But a biceps (a fully useful one) is not necessary for day to day life, so I was willing to risk it for a big squat. Training proceeded ahead nicely, and two weeks out, Rudy and Ant, Byrd, and others came over to squat, and I went 1205 with room to spare. I shut it down and gave my suit and brief to Rudy to shorten the length by about ½ more than we had already done. Rudy knew gear adjustments better than anyone and was instrumental in achieving the highest level.

Different mindset

I went into this meet with a different mindset. For one, it’s only a squat day, so the pressure was off. But more importantly, I was looking forward to lifting without worrying about the scale. This was one of the first times I’ve ever gone into a meet and ate what I needed to all week. My eating program was the following modified vertical diet: Eggs, OJ, Greek Yogurt, carrots, Chipotle, Cheeseburgers, and Coca-Cola Classic. For the last few weeks, this is what I ate, going right into the meet. As my body healed and filled back out, and I recovered from the injury, I felt more robust by the day. At one week out, after some confidence-boosting conversations with the team, Rudy, Byrd, and my wife Ria, I started to expect big things from the meet. In the past, I’ve always wanted to manage my expectations as not to be disappointed with a bad outcome. In this sport, you won’t meet your hopes and expectations most of the time once you start approaching the limit, at least your human limit. This time, I was confident that I was ready for a big squat, and we all were going to find out what I can squat. Like a more critical, drive for 10hrs, maybe become dead training day.

Meet day

So after weigh-in at 303 and eating more cheeseburgers all day, while keeping in my Greek yogurt, carrots, and OJ (so my stomach is happy), I went to bed at 309 and slept great. I had a pleasant and relaxing day with my friends and family and was ready to get after it, as I had nothing to lose. I’d mentioned attempting 1300lbs to a few people, and surprisingly they didn’t laugh me out of the room, as my best squat in comp is 1185 prior.

My strategy was to open light with 1125 and then go from there, with a lot of flexibility built in as I wasn’t sure what would happen. At breakfast, I was angry and frustrated, which I always get before a big lift. Food took a long time to get to us, and my anxiety was already ramping up. This lasts until my squat gets over 1000, then I can start lifting. This might sound ridiculous to some, but working up to a 12-1300 squat is daunting just from a volume and time perspective; the higher you go, the more the risk and the more you have time to consider the risk.

From there, I typically look calm, but on the inside, I’m always questioning whether I have it in me or not. It’s like a bipolar battle of “you’re good, no, you suck.” When will the embarrassment happen?? What’s going to go wrong today? No, I got this.

Warm-ups felt excellent and fast, ending with 1005. My attempts went:

1126

1216

1281 308 and all-time WR

1306 308 and all-time WR

After my second with 1215, I knew that whatever I could un-rack, I could likely squat. This was also Byrd’s prediction. After this lift, I got a little punch drunk and just let everyone handle the numbers and let my guys take over. The plan going in, if all was going my way, was 1281 on a third, to break the all-time squat record, regardless of class. After that went, I accidentally called for 1306 (as I said I was out of it) since my client and friend Oso had called for 1300 on this third. Ame asked me for my 4th if I wanted to go to 1306, and for whatever reason (not knowing what Oso called), I agreed to it.

Everything went perfect for the 4th: My wrap, my suit, the timing of it all: 1306 got me a little shaky out of the rack, and once it settled and no Achilles or calf muscles popped (I knew my back would hold, but the small muscles were concerning to me) it felt very manageable. I ALMOST chickened out and scratched it. I was afraid that I was too greedy with three squats over 1200 and didn’t want to blow apart. I already had the All-time squat record for 308 and the most significant lift done in competition. Luckily, I knew that if I passed, I would never live this down from Byrd, and I guess I was ready for whatever consequences would come, so I ignored everything in my mind & body and took the weight. This fear is something I’ve dealt with all my life. Sometimes I’m right, like with my biceps; I knew I should shut it down, but I can’t in a meet, so I pushed ahead and SNAP. This time, thankfully, my instincts’ were wrong, and I hit the squat with room to spare. You truly never know what will happen in, during, and after a training cycle. There indeed are too many variables, especially with equipped lifting. It’s completely exhausting.

The week of the meet, I pretty much knew that this was going to be my last meet. I pretty much sum up my thoughts in this video, so no need to elaborate. And in the rest of these videos, I have many people to thank, so please check them out. The short is I have two beautiful babies and a wife I don’t want to steal time from anymore. Not just time in the gym, but time being distracted and checked out, time in the future if I get sick from this, and not being stressed and consumed with lifting 24/7. So many things I’ve ignored over the years to be the best lifter I can be. If it wasn’t about the body or lifting, I missed it. It’s time to move to phase two of my life.

Wrap-up

In 2019 & 2020, I realized more about what building a team looks like. It’s hard work and ugly; you have to sort through people and meet people where they are. The ability to grow and learn is far more crucial than ability. People know the right things to say, but Rarely will someone become a great training partner, but I have 6 of them right now, and for that, I’m thankful. Now I have more time to focus on them and my business. It’s been an excellent change form.  For those of you building a team or looking to make one, my advice is not to seek out people but let them come to you. When they do, tell them what you expect as a training partner, and in my case, I needed commitment and help for my goals, and in return, they would get help with their training. Be very clear and keep them accountable. When they are no longer holding their end of the deal, become unreliable, or other, send them down the road packing sooner than later, especially if you can afford the slot to be open. Training here with me doesn’t cost anyone money, but it’s not free. Nothing is free- everything has a cost: your dedication, pitching in and commitment, and being coachable. Relationships have to be a win/win and meet in the middle. One thing I learned from Adam Driggers that has stuck with me is, “here at Samson; everyone brings something to the table – whether loyalty, hard work, connections, ability or drive. Nobody takes without giving.”

In the future

For the next few months, I will be focusing on getting my bodyweight down, getting healthy, helping my team out, and seeing their goals come to fruition. I’m going to lift with them, but they will be my focus while in the gym. They helped me do something great, so it’s now my turn to give them every tool and help them as much as possible. I have some clients doing big things, namely Derek Wade, John Oso, and Ant Hobaica. I can live vicariously through them, but for now, I’ve had enough of the rat race. I’ll be updating my blog about my team and my clients, along with whatever it is that I’m doing. I’ll be working on updating PRS, too, as I’ll be carrying my very own PRS CBD isolate the line, overkill knee wraps, and more. My focus will be on helping as many people as possible, and not so much destroying my body, but living vicariously through them. Thank you to everyone who has supported my brands and me.

I’m so grateful that I got to at least do some squats in front of my wife and two daughters. This alone made the weekend for me! Remember, as I say in 10/20/Life when confronted with fear: are you being a pussy, or smart?  When you let me know how to really figure this part out, please let me know, because I’m still working on it.

The best is yet to come.

 

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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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