Join Nick & Brian Carroll for the final part of the series. We delve into actionable takeaways you can use to improve your training, day-to-day living, and avoid the mistakes that cause and aggravate back pain.
Tune in to learn:
"Gift of Injury" is now available on Amazon.com. Click HERE to get it.
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Brian Carroll: “What unexpected benefits or realizations did I have?”
I’ve become a lot more thankful and grateful for my health…
And a bit less of a dick.
For the longest time, I thought that I was owed things. Or that I deserved things. Well, who the hell do you think you are to think you deserve anything?
What I didn’t deserve was my health.
Because I abused my body. I ate shitty. I didn’t take care of myself.
I overlooked a lot of things that Stu brought to my attention.
So you know the benefits that I spoke about before… being an athlete 24/7 and moving well… that was in the physical. But I kind of expected that after a while of putting those deposits in…
What I didn’t expect was to be a lot more humble, grateful, and thankful for my health. Day-to-day.
And just be appreciative of things outside of powerlifting, instead of ALWAYS having the tunnel vision for the next powerlifting meet.
Having it all taken away from me granted me a lot more thankfulness… in the process.
Nick Ritchey: We’re joined today by special guest, Brian Carroll, for episode 153 of the Limit Slayer Podcast.
Brian is a world champion powerlifter who went from daily, debilitating back pain with 2 crushed vertebrae…
To pain-free living and squatting over 1100lbs in competition.
In the last episode:
In response to the last episode, the Rogue Trainer called it, “The best podcast regarding no BS real world training, diet and science! Check out my great friend’s latest podcast!!!”
Thank you for taking the time to comment, share and encourage us with your kind words.
In this episode, we look at special considerations for injured and aging lifters…
So you don’t fix, or break, what ain’t broken.
We talk about how misinformation, semantics and one-upsmanship can get you in a heap of trouble.
And end with some solid advice you can put to use right away, whatever state your back is in, to become pain free and stronger than ever.
Enjoy the final episode of our series, and don’t miss out on any of the special bonuses we’ve prepared for you at the end of this episode!
The Limit Slayer Podcast Episode 153 with Brian Carroll Begins… NOW!
Hey Brian, how ya doin?
Brian: I’m great man. How’s it going?
Nick: Pretty good. Last time we had to end a little bit short because…
Were you getting a pedicure?
Or was the Mrs. getting a pedicure?
Brian: C. All the above.
Nick: [laughing] C. All the above. OK.
So I’ve never had a pedicure. How is that?
Brian: It’s good. You know something weird? And I haven’t asked Stu about this yet. But since I rehabed my back, my feet are much more sensitive.
It’s the weirdest thing.
So when it comes to scrubbing them with the callus remover, my feet are way more sensitive. So that’s really ticklish. But as far as just getting the feet manicured up, and then a foot, leg and calf massage, that’s good.
I would recommend you trying one.
Nick: I’ve definitely had the massage. I’ve never had the manicure before. Like you I’m just ticklish as all hell down there. You know they try to touch me and I’m like [giggling].
You get into it after a while though. It’s all good.
Brian: Yeah, I have to kinda go…
You know how I talk about in Gift of Injury, that visualization? That place you go to…
I actually have to go there a bit so I don’t lose my shit.
Nick: Yeah I’ve got to focus down at the beginning so I’m not jiggling all over the place. [laughing]
Brian: Yeah, it’s funny. The parallels to lifting, or sport, and life are great.
Nick: Yeah the lifting kind of prepares you for everything in life. Which is again why the book is so relevant. Especially with the spine. Because it’s involved in…
Brian: Absolutely everything. Good or bad. You might be making deposits. You might be making withdrawals and not even know it.
Nick: And that’s one of the really hard parts. Like, how do people know if they need help?
We talked about the Johari window in the 1st episode. But a lot of the time you just don’t know that you’re doing something wrong until fate happens…
You get in front of the right person. And they’re like, “Hey buddy! You might not want to bench press that way.” Or, “You might not want to lift things that way.”
And you have no way of knowing until somebody points it out to you.
…or you get hurt.
Brian: Or yes, exactly.
That’s what I was going to follow up with.
You don’t know the stove is hot until enough people tell you not to touch it. OR, you decide to throw your hand on the burner when no one’s looking. Then you learn the hard way. And it’s grooved into your brain.
Like we talked about with pain and happiness. That the very highs and lows are grooved in our brain with emotion and feeling.
And we learned that way very well .
Nick: That’s one of my favorite analogies too. The stovetop and putting your hand on the fire. Because mom can say to the baby,
“Don’t touch the fire. Hot. HOT!”
And the baby is like [cooing]. And they’re just going to touch it anyway. And they’re going to cry. And scream. But they’ve got to touch the fire to know sometimes. You know?
Nick: Let’s see. I’ve had some barbecue, baseball and beer these last couple of days. So [laughing] I’m having a good time over here.
But there was a big earthquake.
So the national exams have been postponed for the first time ever. Kind of interesting times over here.
Brian: What’s going on?
Nick: There was an earthquake. Nobody was killed or anything, which is good. But it was a 5.4 and it wasn’t on the Japanese line.
Brian: It wasn’t tiny.
Brian: No, it was pretty big. And so the next day…
There’s this big national exam. Kind of like the SAT. But it’s on the same day for all students. And it’s in 1100 schools. So they had to shut down all those schools in order to accommodate for the earthquake.
It’s been postponed till next week. So everyone’s just kind of confused. There’s a lot of chaos over here because of that.
Brian: I’m glad you’re good. Looks and sounds like you’ve been kind of hiding out and having fun a little bit.
Nick: Yeah, really. I had the day off, so it was good. But let’s get back into our stuff here. If it’s alright with you, let’s go over some of the things we didn’t cover yet.
I think I have three more things on here. Then we’ll get into some of how it’s transformed your life. Some of the benefits I’m already seeing from it. And then the major takeaways for our listeners.
Brian: Sounds good. Let’s do it.
Nick: Cool. I wanted to go straight into retirement. You talked a little bit about that in the end of the book.
How is your training going to be changing for health and longevity?
You mentioned your weight. Or possibly some power-building. Let’s just go into that a little bit because I’m curious what your training’s going to look like in retirement. I have a lot of friends that are older lifters. In their 40’s and 50’s. They’re just not able to push stuff like they used to. Maybe keeping them in mind.
How are things going to change?
Brian: Well for someone who is older than I am. Or anyone that’s put a lot of miles on their body, and kind of moving towards retirement. Or actually in retirement…
I suggest lightening the load.
And lightening the intensity overall.
That means not having to go to you know 80, 90 percent of what may have been your one rep max at one time or another.
Do things that are going to build athleticism for day-to-day activities. Whether it’s pulling the kid out of the crib, or just being able to walk or go hiking. So you know,
To be able to reach down and grab your kid out of the crib.
When you’re building a powerlifter body, ideally the hamstrings ,the back, the quads, the lats… Everything is going to be really, REALLY tight. To be like a spring. To produce that much force and stay resilient.
Well, when are you going to start laying mulch in the yard, you need a little bit different athleticism.
So what I would suggest is for people to be well rounded:
Again you can get creative with it.
Utilize less rest. Move faster and you don’t have to worry about loading the bar so heavy to still get your work in.
I mean, there’s a lot of different ways to attack it.
But as far as my training, I’m still doing the squat, bench and deadlift. But versions of those lifts. So I might do the safety bar squat. It’s better on my shoulders.
Nick: Yes. Yes.
Brian: Yeah, I’m doing a belt squat now more, which doesn’t load the spine nearly as much. I’m doing floor press, which is better on the shoulder and pecs instead of the bench press. And then for the deadlift, I’m doing elevated block pulls.
So it’s going to take some work to kind of detune the body, if you will, for a long time. And the hardest part…
I saw Donnie Thompson talking about this the other day. For those listening in that don’t know who Donnie Thompson is, Donnie Thompson was the first guy to total 3000 pounds. Super-heavyweight guy from South Carolina. Inventor of a bunch of different things like the bowtie and body tampering. And he isn’t paying me to say that. It’s just something that he’s kind of known for now since he’s retired.
But he said the other day…
The hardest part about all of this retirement and training is, getting his bodyweight from 390 or 400 pounds, down to 300 pounds. So it’s going to take time.
What’s going to have to happen…
I’m going to have to exercise more. Be more active. And do what ?
You know it’s going to start with the basics. Then we can get really cut with the fine-tuned diet.
Nick: And that’s a really tough combination for retired athletes.
Because you’re used to eating SO MUCH for competition. And having such heavy training loads. You’re just you’re burning through calories…
And then when you decrease the activity…
With 10 years of competitive eating behind you, it’s really hard to switch that off. I know. Even myself. It’s really tough. And I’m not lifting anywhere near what you guys are.
But going from super athletic to training twice a week, for example, there’s a big shift there.
Brian: Yeah. So you’re just gonna have to become competitive.
We talked about being an athlete 24/7. Being resilient and moving well at all times whether you’re mulching your yard. Or you have a chartered fishing company. Or something where you are out in the boat bending over all day.
Move well. Treat your body with respect.
At the same time, be competitive with yourself. Just because you’re not competing in powerlifting doesn’t mean you can’t be competitive. Whether it’s walking a faster mile, running a faster mile, or getting more repetitions in under a minute for an AMRAP set.
Whatever it may be.
You’re always going to have the competitive nature, right?
It’s just like the older guy that we all knew that was the cool coach. That would talk about girls with us and like, “I may be old, but I’m not dead!”
The mind doesn’t change, the body just does. Right?
Nick: Yep, “I’m not dead yet!” My dad has a T-shirt with that on it. Good old Monty Python.
Brian: When I was shown that in 10th or 11th grade… I watched it on the educational channel. I couldn’t believe they’re playing it on the educational channel. Because the only thing educational about that movie, is comedic genius, right?
It’s great stuff, but it caught me off guard.
I became a fan since then. I just happened to catch it one day when it was playing on the local educational channel.
Nick: Good old Monty Python.
Apparently the Brits aren’t nearly as enamored of them as Americans are. We just we just love that style of humor I guess. It’s good stuff.
Brian: Well, it’s weird. Because people either love it, or they think it’s ridiculous. Right? My favorite part of that whole movie is when Sir, is it Sir Galahad?
Nick: Yeah, I think it was Sir Galahad.
Brian: When he storms the castle and kills everybody. Then apologizes. Because he got the note [Nick laughing] And he met the prince at the top, instead of a princess, that needed rescuing.
Nick: They’re all dancing on the tables and you know [laughing]
Brian: You ruined the wedding, killed everybody, stabbed the bride or whatever. Yeah, it’s hilarious.
Nick: Oh my. Have you watched… do you watch Game of Thrones at all?
Because it just brought back to mind the red wedding.
Brian: Oh man I have a feeling what the Red Wedding means, especially in this context.
Nick: Yes, yes, yes…
Brian: I watched the first season and me and my wife were kind of, I don’t know… We’re probably gonna give it some more time and watch. But I’ve heard that you’ve got to make it to the second season.
I don’t think it’s a bad show. But my expectations were so high, that they were they were not going to be met in the first season. And there’s a lot of shit going on with the different kingdoms and who’s in charge. And what’s the deal with the emp, and all this.
It was taking me a while to process everything.
Nick: Oh sure. And, to be honest. There was too much dick in it, for the first season, for my liking.
Brian: Yeah, there’s just… I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand who was actually in charge. As they were all supposedly equals of the kingdoms. And then, I don’t know. I’ll give it another shot.
You suggest I do that?
Nick: Well, I was kind of on the fence for the first one. And then I just watch it with co-workers on a school night after we were done. You know, from the office. So, I wouldn’t go out of your way to watch it.
But it’s a fun show. IF you’ve got time for it.
Brian: People talk about it like it’s the best show ever made. And I mean, there’s a bunch of really good shows. My favorite show of all time is “The Wire” I think.
Nick: Same here. Definitely. Seen every season of it. I’m really sad that it stopped. Because they could’ve kept rolling with it forever. And it was magnificent.
Brian: It was a beautiful, beautiful, well put-together show.
Excellent character development. And then, the fourth season, when the most crazy thing out of the whole series happens… that totally caught me off guard.
At the convenience store. Awful.
Nick: Yeah that was definitely one of my favorites.
But I’m sorry. Back to your book and all that fun stuff. I love talking… we could talk TV… that could be another podcast right there.
You talked a bit about retirement health, longevity, how you change your weight selections…
I thought it was great how you addressed each one of the lifts as well. You’re using the squat belt. I’ve never used one of those. But I’ve always wanted to try it. Because I feel that it would be really good for, like you mentioned, longevity.
They’re not loading the spine as much.
I wanted to talk a little bit about breathing and bracing. Because these were mentioned a lot in the book. And you can kind of talk about it or read about it. But I think it’s one of those things where you want to see a video about it…
That really kind of shows how it’s working.
Do you have any go to resources for this by chance?
Brian: There’s a couple videos that Stu and I did together about bracing and creating stiffness. But to summarize it without having someone in front of me…
Having them push out laterally into their abdominals…
So there’s one mistake people make. And that’s sucking their gut in, right?
You don’t want to suck it in.
Nick: That’s Paul Chek isn’t it?
Suck-in that belly button.
Brian: Yes, you don’t want to do that.
Brian: Second thing you don’t want to do is make your belly just huge. You want to make it stiff as if you’re trying to push it out laterally right. [Yep.] So as far as breathing goes, there’s a lot of different opinions on this.
Some people like to get a big gulp of air and hold it for a 1 rep max. Some people like to get a medium gulp of air and then sip it in and kind of [sipping air sound]. Let some out. Sip some in. Get just the amount — I think McGill says 70% of lung capacity or something like that…
And that’s what I go with because every lift is going to be a little different. I might have more air than I expected and I only need a little bit of a sip, and then start a lift. Or at the bottom, if it’s a deadlift, sometimes I don’t have enough air. And I have to sip a little bit more.
And so it just depends for the squat. It’s generally a nice medium breath. And then a couple sips. And then I hip hinge and go.
Nick: OK. I think I might link to a couple videos for that then — I think Chris Duffin has one. That’s pretty good [Yeah] about how to do the breathing. And…
Brian: Duffin’s great. Yeah.
Nick: And when you talk about the pressure breaths, I think Mike Tuchscherer is really good at them. You can see it in some of his training videos. Where he gets all breathed in and then [sipping air] that kind of thing going on.
Brian: Mike and Chris are two people that are smarter than I am. And they can break down the technical aspects of it very well.
Nick: OK. I was just curious if you had any favorite videos on that. Because I think you did an excellent job of describing it. I think the book does a good job. But it’s one of those few things where you just kind of have to have a video… to really get your mind around it.
Brian: Yeah. And then the abdominal brace…
Stu does a really good job describing it in Section 2. And he actually is doing the demo of the Okinawan strength. The pecs down. The lifters wedge. Standing there being stiff with the handshake. That part and the Arrow showed the abdominal pushing out laterally. But as far as the video…
A video would really help.
Nick: And I’m sure there’s a video of Stu doing, like you said, the Okinawan brace. I’ll see if I can dig that up. Stu’s… I think he calls like the horse stance. Or something. [Yup]
OK, I’ll try to put that in the show notes as well.
So that’s breathing and bracing. Because that’s fundamental to how we’re doing all this spine stuff. Making sure that people can get into that position. And do the lifters wedge. And so forth.
Brian: It all starts with rooting into the floor.
That toe grip that we illustrate so well in the book
Nick: That was an excellent.
Brian: Relaxed foot versus a gripped foot… it’s like night and day.
We say white knuckles with bending the bar to finish off that lifters wedge, right? To apply force to the bar…
But it starts by rooting in into the floor. And actually gripping. And we say “white knuckles” when bending the bar… those feet are white too when they’re gripping the floor correctly.
Nick: And I believe it’s so important… getting that proper grip. And I think I think I saw Pavel first talking about that back in the good old “Beyond Bodybuilding.” He had some videos with that as well. And talking about the floor grip.
But you guys do such an excellent job of talking about the different cues for screwing it in. And getting that tightness…
That’s fundamental to every standing movement. Because the calves fire first in everything you do standing. So getting that stiffness down is key.
Brian: Yeah, Pavel’s great. Pavel and Stu go a ways back. And they both learned a lot from each other. And we cite him a bunch in the book as well.
Pavel’s a great mind.
Nick: Yeah. Now, we’ve kind of covered everything that I had for my big questions. A little off-topic fun stuff other than Game of Thrones.
First off, on page 74, there is… it was like an Easter egg or something…
You’re talking about facial expressions and neural drive… and then BOOM! There’s you staring down a gorilla. Right through the glass…
That was great.
Brian: Yeah. So we were at the Omaha Zoo in 2008.
I just competed at nationals. Hit my first 2500 pound total and I was lifting at 242. So we had an extra day in Omaha and we said, “What do we want to do?” Well, I hear the zoo is pretty cool… so we went down to the zoo.
It had a nice gorilla pit. And I’d never been to a gorilla pit before. Because the one here in Jacksonville was under renovation forever. [Okay] And I quit. To be honest, I quit going to the zoo when I was in elementary school.
So we went to the zoo. And I see the gorillas. And I see how much they weigh. You know the smaller one’s 250, the medium size one’s 350 pounds, and the largest one’s 550 pounds. Right?
Nick: Ah, they’re beautiful aren’t they?
Brian: Yeah. I start staring one of them down from across the way…
And that one comes over and stares me down. And the bigger one, which was the smaller of the three. I believe the smallest of the three. The one I pissed off…
Came running over at me full speed. And came and slammed against the glass… about made me wet myself! And I took off running, of course. But that was one of my prouder moments of that day…
The stare, not me running.
Nick: Yeah, pissing off the gorilla man… I mean… they could… it’s kind of like the elephant that’s tethered with a little string. Right? They get conditioned…
But a gorilla is like, “Fuck this! I’m gonna break it down!”
Brian: That’s what I thought he was trying to do, because I challenged his manhood.
Nick: Yep. All right. So that was a fun part of the book.
This this is a question I think Elon Musk, the entrepreneur, asks to a lot of people that are interviewing for funding.
“What’s one thing you know that most people think isn’t so?”
I think it’s a fun kind of question.
Brian: “What is the one thing that I know to be true that most people do not believe in?”
Yes, that’s a good question man. You didn’t let me prepare for that…
Nick: I am terribly sorry. Shall we come back to it in a minute?
Brian: No, I’m just stalling. So, there’s one thing that I think is still heavily debated. And that’s overtraining…
Overtraining, and deloads being necessary.
So I’m glad you asked that question.
We know for a fact that the body DOES get overstimulated. For one person, it might be a different stimuli for another person. Can be completely different, more or less.
But eventually, we know that nothing is linear. Eventually, you push too hard. Micro tears or micro fractures turn into macro tears or macro fractures.
And the body will break down.
Too much stimulation will end up causing insomnia. It could end up causing you to get physically ill, sick. There’s lots of things that happen when you push the body too hard. And we know that, just from a stress standpoint, when they’re going through a divorce or a job change or something, they get physically ill when they have too much stimuli.
So all the more reason when someone’s pushing physically, the body will break down regress. You end up getting sick. End up tearing something off due to fatigue.
So I’ve had a lot of debates with very smart people about deloading. And it being necessary to avoid CNS overstimulation. And their arguments is, well…
“Why do you need to deload every three weeks?”
And I say, “You don’t need to deload every three weeks.” But that’s a good rule of thumb. And it’s a good starting point. Some people can go five and six weeks without deloading.
Until something breaks off. Until they have to scale it back to every fourth or fifth week, or third or fourth week. So I think a good starting point for everyone to stay ahead of that crash.
"You want to ride the wave, but stay ahead of the crash." -Brian Carroll
So for me, every three to four weeks is perfect. Now, if I still feel nice and fresh and recovered on that third week, I may plan to push it for the third week. But a lot of times, after two weeks of pushing…
That third week my body is asking for the reprieve. For that break. And that’s just a day where I can attack weak points a little bit more. Back off the intensity. Back off the volume and load.
And I can sharpen my mental preparation, my form, and I can use that. Because we all know that you’re not going to sharpen your form when you’re handling 70, 80 and 90 percent of your best.
Nick: Oh definitely.
There’s definitely people out there that say “don’t do it.” But I think what ends up happening… you end up getting into the so-called “natural deload.” Without even thinking about it.
The same thing happens with diet. If you end up restricting your calories consciously, you end up moving less unconsciously. You can go around and can track people’s movement. (it decreases for those people who don’t believe it)
Well there’s definitely some kind of compensation…
But I think the better approach is like,
“Look, my body’s going to need to recover. Let’s let it do that every three to four weeks. Stay healthy. Keep getting stronger.”
You’ve definitely got the right mindset.
And I’ve definitely screwed that one up. FAR too many times. And it’s gotten me injured. And stalled my gains… and all that fun stuff. For YEARS (when) added together. It’s just ridiculous. So you know…
Take it from both of us. From everyone that knows what they’re doing…
Brian: Yeah. It’s one of those things that eventually… it catches up with everybody.
And a lot of people like to play the semantics game. “There’s no such over-training, it’s only under recovery.” And okay, fine. You want to say you won the argument by me meeting you in the middle there, that’s fine with me too.
You’re under-recovered because you’re training too hard.
Nick: Yup, I’m sorry. I work at a school. We have a couple English teachers. And some of them are just grammar Nazis…
And I just don’t give a shit.
Semantically, OK. You just want to be right. You are right. Congratulations.
Brian: You know what. You know we can go down one of these rabbit holes to these side topics but real quick…
People think that powerlifting and bodybuilding forums are nasty.
Have you read some of the Reddit threads on grammar? Or punctuation? Or any of that stuff?
Those people are absolutely cutthroat, and they’re talking about whether an apostrophe applies or not.
Nick: Yeah. We’re talking apostrophe’s…
But let’s write out pages and pages of semantics…
The funny thing about languages is that they evolve. They may have a perfectly coherent and good argument that, in 10 years, no longer applies.
Oh, yes. You’re right today.
Brian: As a writer, that’s very frustrating. Because you ask two people that are equally established in writing, or academically, or whatever…
And all have different opinions. And they’re both be kind of right. So it’s like what do you use? Yeah?
Nick: Well… And it comes to writing for the web. Or writing sales copy.
It depends on who you are writing for and what your goal is.
I used to write excellent academic essays. And that writing is no good for copywriting. If you’re trying to sell stuff… I’m getting better at the whole sales bit. But I used to be the world’s worst salesman.
I’d be like, “So, it kind of makes sense for you to want this right? Yeah? No. Okay, that’s fine. How about I buy it for you…”
Chris was the worst. There’s all these people who are incredibly affluent. He’s giving them his book for free at the SPA because he couldn’t sell himself. And it’s too bad because you need to know how to sell yourself in this world.
And realize that it’s not about, “I win you lose.”
It’s about, “Look. This is what you really NEED.” Like you.
You spent a couple of years writing this book. Putting years of condensed knowledge into something that costs less than a personal training session. As a collaboration with Dr. Stuart McGill, who’s been fixing backs for 30 years.
"For forty dollars, if you have any back pain… why is this not the first resource you're going to?" -Nick Ritchey
Brian: Yeah it’s crazy.
It’s full color and it’s good.
Obviously, I’m biased. But it’s a great, high quality production. It’s not it’s not something we put together at the local Kinko’s. It’s a legit book, full color, and we’re very proud of it.
But it is funny about the whole grammar thing. Because I have a friend that is working on his Ph.D. And he has to tailor his punctuation, and his grammar. Depending on his professor at the time.
Each class as has to changed it
Nick: Yeah, it’s just pandering to the professor.
I had one professor I didn’t like in university. The class was writing to convince, inform, and persuade. And I was in her boss’s class…
And she’d like flunked me.
I was like, “This is a damn good essay.”
I’m acing this other guy’s class. I’m the top student. And I talked to him about her because she was being a douche. So, he ends up talking to her…
And I end up getting an “A” on my paper. We have no more problems. It’s just silly.
Brian: A 180 degree change in your grade?
Nick: Yeah, because I was writing good essays. But she personally didn’t like me. Well, I was kind of a prick. She was kind of an idiot. And we just didn’t get along.
So, of course, that reflected on my grade.
And I understand it now because I’m on the opposite end. Because kids are doing the same thing to me as a teacher. I’m a teacher for two more months here…
So it’s Karma, right?
Comes back at you.
Brian: Oh, it does. That’s well put.
Nick: Yeah, let’s see… I wanted to ask… another thing you mentioned was Ria…
You got Ria into a powerlifting meet. How did that go for her?
Brian: It went well. She did one last October. And she grew up running track. She grew up with more of an athletic / bikini build, than like a powerlifter, big joint build. And she still pulled a 330 deadlift in her belt at 148 [nice].
And that means she did more than double body weight for her first meet. And we’ve been training. She’s been deadlifting for the last ten years with me. But she wanted to do one with me before it was all said and done.
And she total 710. A 235 squat in wraps, a 145 bench, and a 330 dead.
Nick: Awesome! Well, props to her. It’s great that she’s out there, supporting you, and getting into it a little bit as well.
That’s really cool.
So you lift with your Mrs. and I left with my Mrs.
I didn’t push her into it. We were married for like, five years before she started training with me. But now it’s a really nice thing we look forward to. You know, each week training together a couple of times.
Brian: That’s a very tight rope that you have to walk when you train a spouse.
Because other factors can influence the mood of training, and programming, and that kind of stuff. You can start getting your feelings hurt. And people get mad and frustrated.
And obviously, you’re hardest on the ones you love. So it’s difficult at times.
Nick: Oh, that’s another good point!
That could be another rabbit hole right there… just about how we’re the hardest on the ones we love. Like, I am scathing sometimes to the people I love…
Which is terrible.
But at the same time, it’s like, “Look. I know you’re going down a rabbit hole. And I’m trying to pull you out here. Just don’t go down that one.”
But we don’t say that to strangers. To strangers we’re like, “Oh, you got some fluffy, fufu, bullshit in your head? Good for you!”
Brian: Yeah, with a stranger you let fly, offend you, say some ridiculous stuff to you, and let it go.
Meanwhile you’re in the kitchen. And your wife says something. Like even just moderately, potentially, take taken wrong… you know?
And then you bite her head off…
Whereas with a stranger… you shake their hand, and walk away.
Nick: Exactly. I also wanted to bring up this video I saw in the intervening weeks. With Dave Tate in 2012…
You’re talking a little bit about “life balance.” So we’re getting kind of meta here. But you’re talking about life balance in relationships. I know he’s talked about the all or nothing mindset. I think you talked about it a bit there as well. About finding a bit more balance.
And I definitely know how if I focus in on one thing, that’s the only thing in my life for a while. And you’ve got to be mindful of not letting that stay on… that switch be on for too long. Because everything else kind of goes by the wayside…
And that cannot be year round.
Brian: Yes, so, that that video that I did in 2012 talked about having an off and on switch.
Basically, you have to have some downtime. Now, people debate balance. “There’s no such thing as balance.” “Kind of balance.” Not really.
I see it both ways.
I’m incredibly unbalanced when I’m pushing towards something. Whether it be a meet, a book or a certain goal. Right? The only way I’m able to keep the ship from sinking is, when that is not going on, my attention is focused mostly on something else. To try to make up for that lost time.
Let me give you a powerlifting analogy.
So in the off season right now, I have a bunch of different things that I’m taking care of. That I would not be doing if I were prepping for a meet. I’m spending more time with the wife. I’m more available for travel. You know, we’re doing the things that I wouldn’t be doing otherwise.
I’m getting some medical procedures done. I’m having my wisdom teeth taken out. Remember, I told you I couldn’t do tomorrow night as I’m having my wisdom teeth pulled tomorrow morning?
Nick: Good luck with that by the way.
Brian: What’s that?
Nick: Good luck with that. My Mrs. had hers out recently.
Brian: Yeah. I’m 36. I don’t know why the hell I have them. It’s ridiculous.
So yeah, it’s one of those things that I wouldn’t be doing two weeks out from a meet. I take the things that I need to get done, but aren’t emergencies, or have to be done right then. I do live in the off-season…
Traveling, spending time, eating the foods that I want to eat.
But when I’m focused on a goal, that goal is my number one priority. Within reason. So you have to have that person you’re with… you have to give them an out.
Whether it’s an NFL athlete that has the 16 week season, or whatever it is they’re playing now. Plus pre-season. Plus the playoffs. Well, when you’re done in February, hopefully your season ends in February. If you’re Super Bowl champion or whatever…
When it comes time to come back home. Spring practice comes up soon, and they start having camps and stuff. But those three months that you’re not there on the set.
You need to be making up for that time you’ve been gone.
Living in another city, traveling all the time, focusing on football or baseball or whatever it is, and making up for that lost time.
Nick: Definitely. And I’ll just mirror that real quickly.
I’m starting my own business here for 2018. So I put in a lot of weekends. And a lot of nights.
But my wife and I are teachers. So when we have vacation. That’s what we do. I am just there to play with her.
So we go travel. And we just have a good time together. And like you said, make up for lost time…
Because life gets busy.
Brian: Yeah. Because otherwise, if it’s just a continuum, over-and-over with the same rituals…
Nick: Who wants to be in that?
Brian: Eventually, that that person, no matter how loyal or dedicated they are. They’ll start to fade on you a bit.
So they need an out of some sort.
And just remember, even the people closest to you do not care about your goals as much as you do. They care a lot.
Especially your wife.
My wife. They really care. They want to see you succeed. And they want to see me succeed.
But I can promise you, they’re not as hard on me as I am on myself. So I want this A LOT more than they do. So you’ve got to keep that in mind. That you’ve got to give them some kind of out.
Every once in a while at least.
Nick: Yeah, I think there’s just some good life advice. I’ll link to that video in the show notes as well.
Thank you for elaborating on that.
Again, what I like about you… You bring a lot of real world perspective. And again, you don’t get caught up in semantics like a lot of the people do. You know, arguing about the minutia.
So it’s really enjoyable talking to you and [likewise]. Thank you. And the next thing wasn’t on the mind map, but I was wondering…
Do you have a bucket list?
Physically and professionally? Things you’d like to do?
Brian: Yeah. One of them is I want to be on Joe Rogan’s podcast.
Nick: Oh lovely. OK. Do you know Neil deGrasse Tyson?
Nick: Yes. OK. So, Joe Rogan’s podcast. That would be awesome. So why would you like to be on Joe Rogan’s podcast?
Brian: Well, number one, it’d be great for my brand.
It’d be great exposure. He’s got a big following. I’ve met Joe before, at one of his comedy routines. It was great. He’s a pretty cool dude. And the biggest thing is, I think that would help get my story, and what I can talk about, and do seminars on, and help people with.
It will take that reach the next level by having an audience and the millions, like he has.
At one time, he had 80 million downloads a month including YouTube, iTunes, SoundCloud or whatever. It was a bunch. I don’t know if it’s still that big. But that’s one thing that I would like to do from a professional standpoint.
Another is to teach courses with Dr. McGill, which will happen. So maybe one will help the other happen. [Yeah] You know what I mean?
Nick: And when just get that your bucket list out there — you’d be surprised how people will try to help you. If I have any say in the matter, I’ll see if we can get it on his radar. That’d be awesome.
Brian: I love doing podcasts because I can I can keep it really narrow, and just talk about the topics at hand. Or I can… I’m pretty well versed in different things too. Whether it be music, or TV shows, or even sometimes pop culture. So I can, you know, I like to talk politics sometimes too.
So it’s just one of those things that I would like to think I could offer some decent insight with the audience.
Nick: Yeah definitely.
I think you’d be a good fit because, with his podcasts, it’s kind of all over the place. Right? So that’s that. That would be good fun. So you hear some different stuff.
Brian: Yeah. As far as professionally, or as far as any other bucket list items, I’d like to have a house in the mountains. A secondary house, like a winter home or summer home.
Nick: Do you have an idea which state you might be interested in having one in?
Brian: Well we’re going to a cabin in North Carolina next month. So I’ll be able to give you a better answer soon.
[OK] Yeah because, I’m a southern boy. All I know is the sun and the beach. So it would be nice to have four seasons every once in a while.
Nick: Yeah, except you could probably do without the Minnesota winter. I’ll just say that.
Brian: I can do without the whole Wisconsin, Michigan, Montana. You know all that winter…
Ohio is dreadful in the winter. I get there every year for the Arnold in March. And it’s always overcast and gray, with snow. And a lot of the time, snowy sludge everywhere, with ice.
Ice, and snow, and mud is nasty.
Nick: Yeah, that said, if you ever have the chance to go to Norway, or get up to Svalbard, or somewhere by the Arctic north…
Polar night, polar bears and all that stuff… it’s just friggin awesome. And ice caves, glaciers… it’s absolutely gorgeous. You don’t see that during polar night, because it’s freaking black out. Which I didn’t realize. And spent a whole lot of money on…
Getting to the airport, there was an avalanche. So we sat around the airport for like, a day.
Brian: Another thing that is going to happen sooner than later is an Alaskan cruise.
Nick: That would really be fun!
Brian: Yeah, as far as bigger things than that, nothing huge.
"I just want to be happy and live a decent life." -Brian Carroll
And you know, I have my health. So I have that. That’s the biggest thing through Gift of Injury. I’ve got my health back. Not just the return to lifting which, is obviously an added bonus. But not having day-to-day radiating back pain is pretty damn awesome to.
Nick: Yeah, and if you can keep that up…
Hopefully you’ll live long, and strong, for a good long time.
All of us.
All we can really hope for is living a good, healthy, long life. Right?
Brian: Right. And then, you know, another thing Nick is…
Writing the book with Dr. McGill’s a bucket list item too. I didn’t know it would happen, this quick. But I’ve got to add that to it as well. That’s pretty damn cool.
Nick: Yeah, props to you for that. Just getting together with him and making it happen…
And making it happen so quick! But I think it’s one of those things where it was just kind of meant to be. He had this stuff in him, and you’re the perfect case study. And then putting things together — I’m really glad you guys did the collaboration.
It turned out really well.
Brian: I’m glad that people are enjoying it. Earlier I saw Mark Bell had Stan Efferding…
Stan Efferding is one of the only top powerlifters and bodybuilders that did it at the same time. He could look that way and still total 2300 pounds in wraps, like Stan did. And obviously Mark’s a former good powerlifter in his own right. Total 2600 at 308 at one time…
But they were talking about Gift of Injury earlier. Because Stan is utilizing the principles of getting his back in shape. As he’s turning 50. He just turned 50 a couple weeks ago. And had good things to say about Stu’s work. And my work.
And the word’s gonna spread. So that’s pretty cool.
Nick: Oh for sure. And you got…
How did you get Bill Kazmaier on onboard with the forwarded?
That’s pretty awesome too.
Brian: Yes, Stu and Kaz go way back.
They’ve done work together a long time ago. And they have a really good relationship. I’ve only met Kaz one time. That was at an expo. But obviously, he’s familiar with the work because he saw what we were doing together. And it’s been in the works for about 5 years now. For a little over four and a half years.
So I couldn’t think of a better person to endorse it than Kaz.
Nick: Yeah definitely. And Stan — he’s getting up there in the years. But he’s still a freaking beast. My goodness. He’s still been posting stuff online.
How does this guy keep doing it?
Brian: Yes, Stan is one of those guys that’s good at everything.
And Mark Bell told me that a long time ago, when I was one of the first powerlifters to write for Mark Bell’s magazine. Back in 2009 and 2008/2009. And Stan was too. And Mark said to me one time, he goes,
“Dude, your articles are great. So were Stan’s. But Stan is pretty much great at everything.”
And if you listen to Stan talking, he’s extremely intelligent. Very cerebral. And it’s not a surprise that he is able to turn pro in bodybuilding. And then break world records in powerlifting. Because he’s smart, and he’s very methodical with everything that he does.
And it has a rhyme and a reason. And that’s, to me, a sign of very high intelligence.
Always having a purpose to what you’re doing.
Nick: Yeah. So he’ll focus on…
He’ll get good at something, and then get it out there. Because again, knowledge without application is kind of worthless. [It is, yeah].
So let’s get back into the takeaways for our listeners, being mindful of the time here. I’ve really enjoyed…
I could just go on tangents with you forever, it feels. But what are some of the transformations you’ve gone through. I want to look at like how life has changed.
What are the most salient or unexpected changes from this process?
And then a few more follow ups on that.
Brian: OK, so you want to start with some of the biggest changes in my life since this book process? Or since… where do you want me to go with that?
Nick: Since the rehab process.
Since you started working with McGill. So more or less, just focusing in on the injury. And then the biggest changes to your quality of life, for example.
And then, what was unexpected that just came out of the process?
Brian: The biggest things to take away are moving well, and being good to my body.
And just realizing that, “Hey dummy, the body is a limited resource.” If you’re going to burn a candle on both ends, don’t expect to be able to go in and lift at Team Samson, and be anywhere near 100%.
So I was making more deposits and withdrawals. That is a big thing that a lot of people… they don’t look at it until they’re way overdrawn…
And they’re bankrupt.
They’re like, “What happened to me? Man, I was just lifting well last week / month / year. Had no pain.”
A lot of injuries are cumulative. And we think they all of the sudden, they just happen. When they’ve been mounting for days, weeks, months, years… even decades sometimes.
So the biggest thing is moving well and not abusing your body. And learning to say no. You know, you have people that ask you to move. Well now, when I have people asking me to move, or to move their refrigerator…
I politely say, “no thank you.” Because here’s the thing…
What’s worth more to me?
My reputation of maybe saying “no” to somebody… or my back health?
I’ve already been down that road before. So man, I’ve learned to say “no” and avoid situations that compromise by my back, and my health.
And I’m just smarter overall with what I put into my body.
Nutrition. That’s a big, BIG take-away.
You don’t need to eat like a bodybuilder to perform like a powerlifter. But you don’t want to put a bunch of junk in your gas tank either, and have extra body fat. And you want it to burn efficiently.
So again, it’s not going to be a chicken and rice diet for everybody. But it’s not going to be a McDonald’s diet for most people either. I don’t think it should be. Especially when you start mixing in simple sugars and saturated fat. And we know what that leads to…
Not good stuff with your heart and arteries.
Nick: Yeah, I think when it comes to diet…
So I used to be… you can see me right now on the on the cam… I’m about 189. And that’s a little heavy for me right now.
But I used to be 250 pounds. And that was pure FAT.
I was not athletic. I played video games. I used to be friggin huge. And when it comes down to it, it’s really just, “Eat really well most of the time.” And then, when you’re not going to, you fucking enjoy it.
But pick your battles.
And once the apple pie stops tasting good… don’t have five more pieces of it. You know? It’s really picking your battles. And then just realize, “OK now is a good time to stop.”
That’s all there is to it.
Brian: That’s a good point.
And we’re not going to say, “Hey, there’s no time off. You’ve got to push forever. You can’t ever eat junk food.”
Have your junk food at times that are a little bit better planned. Like after a training session, when your weight’s on point.
Not when you’re already overweight for the training cycle, and you decide to eat it because you’re stressing. Be very strategic with the times that you cheat, or you do the things that that may or may not be so good for your body.
You need to always pick your battles, and decide if the juice is worth the squeeze, in everything that you do.
So going to the next part of the question.
What unexpected benefits or realizations did I have?
I’ve become a lot more thankful and grateful for my health. And a bit less of a dick.
You know, for the longest time, I thought that I was owed things. Or that I deserved things. Well, who the hell do you think you are to think you own you deserve anything?
What I didn’t deserve was my health, because I abused my body. I ate shitty. I didn’t take care of myself.
I overlooked a lot of things that Stu brought to my attention.
So you know the benefits that I spoke about before… being an athlete 24/7 and moving well? That was the physical. But I kind of expect that after a while of putting those deposits in…
What I didn’t expect was to be a lot more humble, grateful, and thankful for my health. Day-to-day. And just be appreciative of things outside of powerlifting. Instead of always having the tunnel vision for the next powerlifting meet.
And having it taken away from me — granted me a lot more thankfulness in the process.
Nick: And that’s one of the things that’s really interesting.
When it comes to thankfulness, some people just aren’t grateful for anything. But one of the easiest ways to be happy is to just find things to be thankful for. And obviously, when you’ve had them taken away, then you’re you realize it more when you’re missing them.
One of the big takeaways from positive psychology is like keeping a gratitude log.
One of the things I do with the Mrs., or try to do with the Mrs. every night before bed, is just sharing three things that I’m grateful for…
That we enjoyed together for the day.
Or that I appreciated about her.
Or something like that… and it’s a very it’s a simple little exercise. But it gets your head in the right place. Makes you feel good.
And mirroring what you said, you’re not entitled to shit.
When you’re a kid, you feel entitled to the world. Because kids are inherently selfish. That’s what they are. But a lot of adults, they don’t grow out of that until they’ve overcome a whole lot of difficulty.
And some people never grow out of it.
They’re just 60 year old entitled bastards nobody wants to talk to…
Brian: Yes, the same kid that says “mine” and snatches his toy back.
Well, we see a lot of adults like that too.
And they think that they’re just entitled to whatever. And they’re still snatching their toy back or whatever it may be, 30 years later. That’s the person that most people don’t want to be around because they’re selfish and self-consumed with all of their needs.
So I’m thankful that I’ve learned through them.
You know, the school of hard knocks. You know a lot of just slowing things down. Being grateful for what you have. And understanding that no, things aren’t perfect, but there are a lot better than they were. Or they could have been.
So that’s like my mantra now.
Nick: Well that’s a damn good mantra to have, in hindsight.
We kind of went into advice towards your younger self. Be more grateful. Stuff like that.
Is there any other advice that you’d give to your younger self?
We’ve covered a lot of this, but is there anything we haven’t covered that we’ve missed on the radar?
Brian: Well, even the last couple of years I’ve had problems with being patient with the process…
Whether it be writing a book, or you know, a PR in training. And some things were kind of loose with my discipline at times. So maybe my training would be perfect. Maybe my diet would be perfect. But I would skip my vitamins and supplements every once in a while…
Or maybe those three components were good, but my sleep sucked. Or I had other drama and stress in my life that was self-inflicted. There would be five moving pieces and only three at a time would be just right (camera: Nick mimics juggling).
So I wasn’t always controlling what I should control, or what was controllable. And I’d be juggling like you led onto there…
Having everything right, but not always at the right time. Because I’d be undisciplined and sometimes be impatient.
So man, that’s huge.
It’s huge for me realizing that, in the last little bit of time, that there’s things that I’ve overlooked. Even though at times, I thought I knew everything.
Nick: That’s a damn thing about aging. My dad says, “You know, I used to have all the answers when I was 16. And now, I’m not so sure.”
Brian: Yeah. “I don’t know,” is a good answer a lot of the time.
Nick: Or “it depends” is a go-to.
“Right. Yeah, okay. It depends… let’s get into more specifics.”
Then we NEED to get into semantics. Because, like (for example) I’m giving you a lot of broad questions.
Well, what’s the time frame?
What’s the context?
I try not to talk too much because I want to give you a lot of time. But you also need some time to setup that context. So you can answer the question more easily.
Brian: Yeah, I would definitely go back and tell younger Brian,
“Be patient. Be more disciplined. And understand that it’s a 20 year game, not a two year game.”
Nick: You mentioned in your book your… not a 10 year vision, but your future plan. You said maybe getting down to about 200 pounds…. you also mentioned possibly a power-building book coming out that you’d be working with.
Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Brian: Yes, so Tucker Loken, who’s a bodybuilder. Danny Vega, who’s a powerlifter. He ran a half marathon and he’s a former college football athlete. Just overall great athlete.
Us three are putting together a power-building book. Which is going to take components of powerlifting and bodybuilding, and kind of meet in the middle well. Where you will not be stage ready, and you won’t be powerlifting meet ready, but you get to be somewhere in between.
Because you’ll look the part. And you’ll be able to lift the part. So that’s what a lot of people want right now. They want to be able to NOT be the person that’s “all show and no go.” Like some people say a lot of bodybuilders are.
So we’re putting together something that’s going to be great for the average gym goer. That doesn’t want to specialize in one thing. But wants to look good and live well.
It’s going to be a hybrid approach to powerlifting and bodybuilding.
Nick: I’m looking forward to that because, like right now, I’ve been going through…
I alternate hypertrophy and strength blocks. And basically, I’m not looking to compete anytime here soon. I’d love to compete again in the future, but I need a proper setup for that. I’m in South Korea. I don’t have a really good gym. I don’t have the implements, and so forth.
It’s just a pain in the ass.
It’s possible, but it’s really, really tough. So I’m just trying to look better. Be strong. And increase work capacity. So keep on increasing the work capacity. Keep getting stronger. Looking better. That type of thing.
I’m looking forward to your collaboration.
Brian: And we’re going to also have some things for people with a limited assortment of implements or equipment…
For the person that also travels in the hotel room. They can only do bench, dips, pushups… bench dips on the bed… And they have access to some bands or whatever.
We’re not talking about the really nice Hilton gym downstairs that a lot of the hotels do actually have now. So we’re going to take it for the business person that travels a lot too. Not for the powerlifter or bodybuilder.
The gym pop if you will.
Nick: That’s something I tried to get Chris to write five years ago.
I was like, “My dad’s on the road. I know a bunch of executives that want to get a good workout in the gym. And they’re missing that resource.”
So definitely, put that out there. I’m sure people will just eat it up.
Brian: Still a lot of the same basic principles.
You know it’s a little bit for the higher reps as such. But a lot of hypertrophy training in there. And we’ll still have the basic squat, bench and deadlift work. But you know how you go about would be a little bit different.
Nick: OK. I’m going to go with some of my takeaways off-air to save your time because I know you’ve got to run here pretty soon.
So let’s go with things that everybody can take away here.
So athletes can go buy a copy of your book from your website: PowerRackStrength.com
And I think regardless of level it’s going to help them assess and self-coach themselves. But also, they can use this book with their coach.
I know I’m going to be giving my copy out.
Now that we’ve had our interviews. And I’ve highlighted the hell out of it. I’m going to be giving it to my co-workers to do and to look at, and my clients to talk about. And then we can work on some of the stuff together. I think that’ll just make people, help them shore up their weaknesses.
And be stronger than ever.
Any other advice… what are your big three takeaways for athletes that you think they’ll get from this book?
Brian: #1 is if you are hurt, back injury is not a life sentence.
#2 best case scenario, you avoid the back injury. We’ll tell you how to build a nice and durable strong core. And we teach you how to end up doing the powerlifts with good form.
Another big takeaway is this book is not just for strength athletes.
It’s for the person that wants to be able to do things pain-free. Or someone who wants to avoid maybe a back injury. Or someone that had a back injury a long time ago and wants to get back into training a little bit. And is interested in and lifting.
I think that most people should do some form of the squat, bench and deadlift no matter what their training goal is. Whether it be a trap bar or a goblet squat. Or a dumbbell press.
They’re all forms of the squat and deadlifts
Nick: Or the variations you mentioned earlier.
A lot of my populations are aging and their joints aren’t nearly as good as they should be. So rack pulls instead of from the floor. And all that good stuff. Definitely.
Brian: Yeah. So this will apply no matter what level and what your end goal is.
It will it will help you, and especially for any clinician chiropractor, physio, physical therapist. You’re going to be working with a lot of strength athletes in your time. And a lot of people that want to be able to get back to powerlifting 101. And that’s to be able to stand up with the hip hinge. Right?
Stu shared a story that you talked about how powerlifting 101 is pulling your hips through. And we break down the basics. To the most basic thing you can think about with the hip hinge…
And we take you all the way to world class performance. With the squat, bench, and deadlift. So there’s something in there from a to z for everybody.
Nick: And I’m probably going to spend 15 minutes on that. I’ll make that a bonus or something with all the takeaways. So the McGill 3 that you talked about. Learning the lifters wedge. We had the 90 year old story back in episode 1.
I also wanted to get to, “When in doubt…”
There’s always the “do it yourself” (DIY) the “done for you” (DFY) and the “done with you approach.” (DWY)
Tell me if I’m wrong here, but the DIY… I’m just going to frame it and then throw it to you.
So DIY – not too serious. If there’s no hurry, you can always try to do things yourself. And then if you’re not successful, you can get outside help. And I only recommend that if money is a real problem, right?
You can always do things yourself and maybe take some pride in that.
But I know with weight loss, if I would have gotten a coach, it wouldn’t have taken me 12 fucking years to figure it out…
And that’s just because I was a poor college kid. And I didn’t know any better. And I didn’t know someone I could trust for that advice.
That was pre-Internet as well.
Like now, the Internet exploded with good advice. There’s a lot of shit, but when you learn how to filter it, there’s a lot of good out there.
So the done-for-you (DFY) approach is more for celebrities and pro-athletes. People are managing their diets or supplementation. And maybe keeping them legally safe. Like, “My coach just gave me this thing I’m supposed to take,” right?
So DFY for celebrities and pro-athletes.
"But a lot of the time, the quick fix is not the best. If you want to do this, and enjoy these benefits for life, you’ve got to make it your own." -Nick Ritchey
And then there’s the done-with-you (DWY) approach. Which I think, tell me if I’m wrong, but I’m thinking that’s probably your recommendation…
Get a good coach.
Work with somebody.
Just to quote you earlier, you said, “This adjustment was as much mental as it was a physical and it would involve a total 180 degree turn in my approach.” (That was) when you were first talking about working with McGill.
So you have three articles on your website. I’ll point people to those as well. Maybe you have more on coaching. I think those are all great resources.
But what’s the greatest value of a coach for our listeners?
I’m cutting some stuff short so we can get you out of here.
"The greatest value of a coach is to help you avoid the mistakes that they have either made, or they've seen made. Over, and over, and over." -Brian Carroll
And you know, you hit the nail on the head with the 12 years of dropping the bodyweight.
Go in with an open mind because there’s a reason why you’re going to that person. Because you either did it yourself and messed it up.
Or worse, like I did.
I tried to rehab myself and I messed myself up worse. Or you have no idea what to do. So why not go to the source? Unless money is a huge problem. Then, you know, get some books.
And at the end of the day…
They’re like your accountability partner, in a lot of ways. And if they’re not pushing you… And making you question some of the stuff that you’re doing now… For instance, they’ll say, “Well Brian, how come you do that?”
You know, you always need to have a purpose for what you doing.
And if you can’t answer right away, why you’re doing what you’re doing, the chances are that what you’re doing might not be good for you.
So always have a purpose for what you do.
And that coach will keep you accountable to that.
And I think that’s one of the biggest things that the coach…
If a coach is always patting you on the back and saying “Yeah, that works.” Or never giving you alternatives [rah rah rah!] Yes, And never giving you alternative suggestions for what you’d like to do…
Then chances are, they’re not paying you too much attention.
I am accepting clients. I coach people from general population to athletes that may have hurt their back or had setbacks. Or people that want to avoid back injury and have resilient strength for a long time.
I talk with, Skype with, and coach with those athletes as well.
And the best way to get in contact with me is through PowerRackStrength.com
We’re getting ready to totally redo that website. So the search function for articles and everything is going to be much easier. And it’s going to be a lot more up-to-date. So we’re really looking forward to that here the next month. So hopefully, by the New Year’s.
Nick: I know Stu recently had his whole website redone.
is it going to be the same guys doing yours?
Brian: Different guy. I thought about looking at him. But then, the original guy that did my site sent me to someone that was even better than him. Because PowerRackStrength started off as only a place to sell books. It wasn’t going to have any content or any of that stuff.
So it’s grown quite a bit. It’s not really in its best form right now for what I’m trying to do.
So we’re going to totally redo the whole thing and showcase a lot more of the coaches and the athletes. Articles organized better. Shop easier to find. The whole nine. So I’m really looking forward to that.
Nick: Good luck with that.
I just wanted to say…
Your book, Gift of injury, is one of the few books that I really recommend EVERYONE read.
I really wish I’d had this book when I was first starting out. You talk about one of the big things of coaching is, for my engineering friends, there’s this constant feedback loop. This constant self-correction…
Because the body changes faster than the mind.
You have to keep on getting your mind ingrained in the right thinking processes. And if I would’ve had like a coach, if I had this book and he was like “Read this book. Go read Gift of Injury.” I do all my highlighting and stuff, and he’s like “Alright, now go read it again. And tell me three things that you picked up this time that you didn’t get from the first reading.”
That would have been extremely helpful for me.
So this is one of the books that I really recommend to everyone.
Our connections breaking up…
You’ve got an appointment. Do we have time for the +1, = and -1 real quick?
Nick: Perfect. All right. So +1, who inspires you?
And who would you love to learn from?
Brian: Oh, there’s a lot of people I’d like to learn more from.
Pavel. Any young buck that’s up and coming in powerlifting inspires me to sharpen my game up more. Learn more. Anyone that comes out with a good product. Anyone that brings something to my attention, that may question some of my principles. And makes me want to sharpen up more, and make sure that I’m on the right path.
I think questioning things is great. So Pavel’s one I’d like to learn from. I would like to spend more time with Dr. Stuart McGill and work on more performance aspects. Obviously Stu is someone I would like to spend time around.
He has such a great deal of knowledge with everything he did in powerlifting and strongman. So those are the three people. Obviously, I’ve worked with Stu extensively. But in person, not as much as I’d like to. Only four or five times or so in person.
Those are the three that come to mind right away.
Nick: Okay, great. Who would you like to collaborate or work with?
I know you’ve already got the power-building book coming out.
You’ve got a course coming out with Stu.
Do you have any other seminars or anything that you’re going to be doing here in the near future?
And is there anybody else that you are thinking of collaborating with in the near future?
Brian: Seminar’s. I have a couple planned. I’m going to be updating the website soon.
I’ll be all over the country in the next year and maybe even out of the country. In the U.K. and possibly Spain for a couple different seminars. Yes, so the words growing which, like I mentioned Rogan earlier, that would really help spread the word.
And doing great podcasts like yours really helps spread the word.
A little bit of your time. New listeners learn about Stu and I. I don’t have any collaboration planned or any that I want to think about now until I get the finished power-building. Stu and I get this book up and out and holding its own with the promotion.
The power-building book…
I’m going to revisit cutting weight and do a second version of that. But I think some opportunities will present themselves over the next couple of years as more people read Gift of Injury and see what I’m about.
Nick: I’m sure you’re going to have a ton of options. So good luck with all that.
And the last the last thing was, who is the ideal client that you want to work with?
Brian: An online client that listens well. Someone that…
Trust me, most of all my clients are online.
People come see me every once in a while, but I’m working on opening up a facility that’s not Team Samson because that’s out of Driggers gym that I’ve been training at for 14 or 15 years.
I want my own facility where I can have, basically, a lab there.
Where I work with athletes. Teach them proper form. Teach them to move well. Pull performance out of. Keep them from getting injured and the whole nine. So that’s something in the near future that I’m really going to work on having to start small.
And I’m really looking forward to doing that.
But the ideal client is the one that trust me. Understands that I’ve been there. And that if I don’t know the answer to their problem right away, I’m going to work with them to help get to the bottom of it. And get them back on track because that’s likely why they hired me. Because they’ve hit a roadblock or they’re hurt.
You know the worst client is the one that knows it all, and it doesn’t want to listen.
Who wants to pay me to repeat back to them what they told me.
That’s the worst one.
Nick: And there’s a lot of those. Sadly.
Brian: Yeah, and it stinks.
Because a lot of that time, they start off listening to you and and roll in with you. Parallel what you’re trying to accomplish. Mirroring, if you will.
Then after a while, they start getting loosey goosey. They start adding things in.
And the worst one is when they add things and they hurt themselves. When they’re getting out of injury and they want you to figure out how to get them pain free again. That’s very, very frustrating.
That’s the worst type of client.
The one that does too much, hurts themselves because they get ahead of themselves. They think they can handle this load. They’re only supposed to go to 225. They go to 455. They hurt their disc again, and they say “fix me.”
And I’m like, “that’s not how this works.”
Nick: Yeah, well, I think that’s a good place to stop here.
I am going to close off the show. Good luck with your other meetings.
Thank you again Brian for spending so much time with us.
It was an absolute pleasure!
Brian: Thank you so much for having me once again.
Have me on anytime you need me. Let me know and I’ll be on it.
And thanks for letting me promote “Gift of Injury” with Dr. McGill and myself.
It’s been a great time.
You’ve reached the end of episode 153 of the Limit Slayer podcast with Brian Carroll.
For the next episode, I was contacted by the 4th largest running website in the world, and asked if I would like to interview their CEO. So I read up on the guy, did my due diligence, decided to give it a go.
We got on Skype, hit record – and had a blast.
Now, I stopped running about a decade ago. After coughing up a shot-glass of blood every morning for a month… but that’s a story for another day.
Runner or not, I think you’re going to find these episodes very interesting.
That’s next time.
But before you go, don’t forget to check the show notes for THIS episode.
We’ve got videos for you on breathing and bracing with Chris Duffin and Mike Tuchscherer. Videos on how to perform the McGill big 3 with my old training partner, Muscle Russell. Who I got to visit in London at the start of the New Year.
You can download a 1-page cheat sheet for Gift of Injury. With the most important takeaways, page numbers for key concepts, templates, resources, etc.
PLUS an activity sheet, giving you 3 things you can start doing RIGHT NOW, to get, AND KEEP your back STRONG, and PAIN-free, for life.
Just visit LimitSlayer.com/BrianCarroll
That’s B.R.I.A.N. C.A.R.R.O.L.L.
Thanks again to Brian, for writing an excellent book, and coming on the Limit Slayer Podcast to share it. The wisdom you’re spreading has SO much potential to improve lives. I want to get it into as many hands as possible.
And to help make that happen, I’ve prepared 3 special gifts, just for listeners own a copy of Brian’s book.
The first gift is the best, and only available to the first 10 people who order Gift of Injury from the link in the show notes.
The second gift addresses the ONE major shortcoming of Brian’s otherwise excellent book. So you can extract the book’s full value on the first go.
Regardless of speed, it’s available to everyone who owns a physical copy. Just don’t forget to claim it!
And the 3rd gift, well, you’ll just have to visit the show notes to find out what it is, and how to get it…
Episodes, downloads, links and bonuses – you can find it all at:
Thank you for listening.
And till next time,
Join Nick & Brian as they discuss:
And the one thing you can't do alone...
"Gift of Injury" is now available on Amazon.com. Click HERE to get it.
Brian Carroll: The reason why McGill is so good at what he does… he has these provocative tests that the MRI doesn’t always reveal. The test reveals certain evidence that the MRIs don’t. Because you can have someone with a terrible MRI that is completely symptom and pain free. And someone with a great MRI that has tons of symptoms and pain. So that’s why surgery just isn’t a fix.
You might go in and make the MRI look a little bit better possibly, but not take away the pain. Especially if you have multiple pain generators. Surgery is not a good start for sure.
Nick Ritchey: We’re joined today by special guest, Brian Carroll, for episode 152 of the Limit Slayer Podcast.
Brian is a world champion powerlifter who went from daily, debilitating back pain with 2 crushed vertebrae, to becoming pain-free and squatting over 1100lbs in competition.
In the last episode we looked at what non-athletes can learn from athletes, how Brian avoided surgery, got pain free, and stronger than ever. We did a quick overview of his latest book, Gift of Injury, co-authored with spine specialist, Dr. Stuart McGill.
Special thanks to Mustbbilling who left us a 5-star review on iTunes saying,
“Amazing interview with Brian Carroll. Inspirational case study of what the human spirit is capable of and provides the motivation and stimulation to help anyone begin their own journey. Looking forward to the next interview.”
Thank you so much for sharing what you enjoyed and helping others discover our podcast. I couldn’t agree more with your feedback and know you’re going to LOVE part 2.
In this episode we’re going to pick-up where we left off and cover:
And finish with some excellent advice on how to get your back pain-free, and keep it that way, for the rest of your life.
Let’s get this party started!
Hey Brian, how are you?
Brian: Hey, thanks for having me back, man. How’s everything going?
Nick: Going great! I want to talk about athletes today. Could you tell us what athletes are going to get out of this book?
Brian: Athletes, in the best-case scenario, will adhere to a lot of my hard-won wisdom. And Stu’s science and knowledge. They’ll avoid my path and not end up hurting their back too bad.
The injured strength athlete or athlete would gain a lot of knowledge. Especially considering what I didn’t know at the time about back injury and how to properly progress. How to diagnose and assess.
Then slowly build a three stage program to getting strength back. And do it right with a proper progression using the algorithms that we have in the book. That teach you how to be your own coach and self-assess.
Self-diagnosis and move forward with getting your life back.
Nick: Have you heard Stu’s story about the ninety year old woman?
Nick: Would you like me to share that or what would you like to share that with our audience? Because I think for the non-lifter it’s an excellent story about how this stuff is relevant at any age.
Brian: Yeah. Share that. And then I’ll add on to how it applies to stuff around the house. Like you’re going to talk about here.
Nick: Perfect. Stu shares a story in one of his interviews about this 90 year old woman… I believe he was at a physiotherapist conference.
They had this lady who had terrible back pain.
To the point where she couldn’t sit down and get up off the toilet. So they were thinking of moving her to a nursing home. You know, it’s one of those terrible things that we all have to think about facing.
You’ve got your community.
You’ve got your family. All that stuff. And then you’ve got to uproot everything. Go be taken care of by somebody else. And lose a lot of freedom in the process.
So he gets this lady up on stage. Does this assessment, like he talks about in the book. And then, basically teaches her some powerlifting 101…
And then he had her sitting down and standing up — without pain — a few minutes later. With basic powerlifting 101.
She’s not deadlifting 3x her body weight. She’s just learning how to do the basic movements that most of these physios and have no idea how to do properly. And the final result is…
She gets to stay in her home.
Brian: Yeah, [laughing] that was a great story.
So that shows you this book isn’t just for somebody who wants to compete in strength athletics. It’s not only the foundation of building resilience, but progressing back to getting back where you need to go.
Whether that’s back on the platform. Or back to moving around the house without having to go into assisted living.
The lifters wedge and the shortstop position of a proper hip hinge and pulling the hips through at the top. The stand is a basic human movement pattern that we need to learn and do correctly.
Nick: And gets corrupted if there is pain.
Brian: Yes. Just like lifting form.
Basic movement patterns get corrupted where there’s pain because we go around the pain. And a lot of the time it ends up looking really goofy.
Unfortunately, that pattern gets ingrained. Good, bad or worse.
And it sticks with you. You have to break that pattern.
And a lot of what happened with me was having to relearn the basic moves as well.
Nick: We’ll get into that a bit more. And how you relearn the movements. Because if you’re stretching your hips out, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to be able to use that new mobility in your movements necessarily.
But let’s get back to where we left off. You mentioned people doing some silly stuff in the gym. And then I raised [laughing] the idea of seal pilates on the ground. Which I believe was a Dave Tate comment.
Could you tell us a little more about that?
Brian: Yeah. So that was a weekend conference where a bunch of big names were lifting at. And we were doing some coaching and some speaking. It was a cool weekend.
I remember Dave making a comment about the McGill big 3 that I was doing. He was joking. But he was wrapping up the weekend. He had the microphone and made a joke about it because I wasn’t lifting. I was adhering to my Rehab Protocol.
I think the story ends with a good ending.
With that said, it goes to show you that I was there with a bunch of lifters. It would have been very easy for me, if I wasn’t locked in on my goal, to go and lift just because of my ego.
No matter if people were picking on me, making fun of me, and making light of it. The people who knew the deal, like Dave, knew that I was putting the work in.
And I was going to end up in a lot better place than most people realized.
Nick: I couldn’t agree more. It was, [laughing] such a good visual though!
When I see people on the ground doing stuff, like when I’m doing the McGill big 3… if seals were doing pilates [laughing] that’s what it would look like!
Brian: I was a big guy. So yeah, that was good.
Nick: In the previous episode, we talked a little bit about your injury.
In case somebody is just joining us, you had a fracture disc and a split disc. We talked a bit about the recovery process.
The first part was basically to get you out of pain.
And the second part was to chase performance. So let’s go into those a little bit more now.
To get out of pain, we talked about how pain corrupts. And for injury, I just wanted to quote Stu real quickly here (about your injury):
“The tissue damage was substantial. One of the nastiest fractures I’d seen in my career.”
And this is a guy who sees a lot of damage, right?
Nick: “And how he had been continuing to compete and train was beyond me, but he’s a superb athlete with obvious talent whose lifting had been corrupted by his effort to compensate for his injury.”
So talk a little bit about the causes of the pain. And maybe a bit about how Stu said the majority of clinicians had never been trained to perform the type of assessment that he was doing on you.
A bit about that process.
Brian: I obviously had a very bad back injury. L5 was crushed. And my sacrum was split. And I had no disc between L4-L5, L5-S1.
The deal with that was a lot of movement patterns that I was doing day to day were actually perpetuating that injury. It was one of those things where they had to be relearned.
And it was a process.
We saw the MRIs. We knew that I was jacked up when we got to the lab clinic. But he does a very provocative testing that not just anyone knows how to do.
He can do tests to see if you’re flexion intolerant, extension intolerant, compression intolerant… and we did those for a couple hours. They corroborated what he saw in the MR — the nerve roots and everything.
This is from thirty years of him being in the lab, understanding the causes of pain, the injury mechanism and how to reprogram to move around that pain. So, once we did that, it was as simple as not doing those movements. And for me, that was flexion and compression.
24 hours a day I was being really bad to my body.
Once I realized that, I immediately changed my posture on that day. It was a big deal, but not just anyone can perform that kind of an assessment like he can. To identify those pain triggers and how to move around the pain.
Nick: I had to bite my lip there… you said HOURS of assessment?
Brian: Yeah. We did stuff in the clinic for hours. He had me laying prone, supine. He would test my hips, test my sacral area, my lumbar area, my cervical area, my thoracic area.
We did all kinds of tests.
Nick: A little different than the 20-minutes “you need spine surgery” appointment? [laughing]
Brian: Yes. We did a test and I thought I had something wrong with my hips too. But he said, “No, your hips are fine. You’re just going into flexion under load under the squat. Getting some butt wink. And that’s what’s causing you pain. Your hips are fine. You’re just getting some neuro referral there, causing you a little bit of flare up and tingling.”
Nick: I had a high level physio tell me that if there’s no pain, butt wink is OK. But there’s a whole lot of different stuff going on with butt wink.
Could you maybe riff on that for a minute?
Brian: Stu says that he won’t argue with people about butt wink.
And he says he doesn’t argue with the kids on the Internet about butt wink. They don’t understand the biological processes and what it takes to maintain a healthy, resilient spine.
And so that movement under load, that bending of the sacral rolling, pelvis rolling whenever you want to call it… eventually will cause discs to delaminate. So micro-fractures wind up creating macro fractures. And so on and so forth.
But Stu would be able to explain the science better than that.
It doesn’t make good use of your depth either. If you’re trying to squat deeper and you’re tucking in and your knees are shooting forward, that’s inefficient as well
Nick: Yeah, when it come to arguing with kiddies on the Internet, I kind of like the argument from authority in this one. It’s a logical fallacy. But at the same time, like a high level physio versus a spine specialists talking about the spine… I tend to go with the spine specialist.
Brian: Right. I guess some people are of the thought they don’t want to worry about the details. Paralyzation by over analyzation, or whatever people say…
The details do matter. That’s the bottom line.
Nick: Definitely. One of the comments that I pulled from one of your interviews was that the injury itself might not really heal, but it can change or adapt.
Was that true in your case, or did it pretty much heal up?
Brian: Okay, Yes. So I guess you’re talking about the MR. The MRI might not change a whole bunch and show a bunch of healing or whatever, but it still becomes pain free somehow?
Brian: Yeah. So I experienced a whole bunch of tissue healing. The proof’s in the pudding there in section one when they showed my before from four and a half years ago. And my after from July 2017, You see disc remolded that didn’t exist before.
You see a bone that remolded and it filled back out. My sacrum isn’t fractured anymore. L5 actually looks like a normal L5 vertebra.
The coolest thing is I have discs where I didn’t have them before.
They were completely flattened and crushed. So this doesn’t just prove that the process works. Keep in mind that during this time I took over fifty 1000+ pound squats in this time in those four years since the first MRI.
So it wasn’t like, “Okay, I retired from any kind of heavy lifting. I only invested in my body. I didn’t pull anything out. I moved well. I didn’t lift any heavy weights. And all I did was walking, the McGill big three and general fitness exercise and look at my spot.”
NO! I actually PUSHED the human potential once again. And still my MRI changed that much.
Nick: Yeah. When I saw that, it just floored me. Because it reminds me of fake weight loss. Where they’ll start off skinny. They’ll take their after picture. And then they’ll bulk up [laughing] for the before picture.
It’s almost like we had like this nice, beautiful spine that you decided to beat the shit out of for the before picture….
It obviously the other way around. But it’s really impressive.
What happened to your back there?
Brian: Thank you. The reason why McGill is so good at what he does…
He has these provocative tests that the MRI doesn’t always reveal, right?
The test reveals certain evidence that the MRIs don’t. Because you can have someone with a terrible MRI that is completely symptom and pain free. And someone with a great MRI that has tons of symptoms and pain. So that’s why surgery just isn’t a fix.
You might go in and make the MRI look a little bit better possibly, but not take away the pain. Especially if you have multiple pain generators. Surgery is not a good start for sure.
Nick: Yeah, and I don’t see it in my notes right here, but I know Stu talks about it like being like a mechanic. He isn’t like, “yeah, just send me a picture of under the hood of your car and then I’ll fix it for you.”
NO. You’ve gotta get in there. You’ve got to see what’s going on. You’ve got to see it from different angles. You’ve got to play with it a little bit.
You can’t just look at a picture and know what the problem is. You might have an idea or see something that might break in the future, but that’s definitely not the whole story.
I really liked how he went through the diagnosis first – THEN then looked at the picture for more details.
The second part was chasing performance.
You found what the problem was. You built your training around it. You build a strong foundation. And you made progress while avoiding setbacks.
And we mentioned ego a bit, but I would like to delve into depth a bit more about ego. The good, the bad and the ugly if, if we could.
Brian: The first phase of getting out of pain just consisted of walking and stabilizing the core and getting rid of the pain. A lot of walking. A lot of the McGill big three.
The biggest thing with ego is this…
I had to have enough ego to not be scared of the loads that I’ve lifted. And to expect to get better. But also, ego also caused me problems and didn’t make me back off before I was in the sorry state that I was.
So, I needed to harness that ego, right?
Harnessing the ego meant putting that much effort into what I was told to do and nothing more, nothing less. And knowing to trust the process that I would return back to lifting.
For some people, it’s what helps them be successful. It also helps them fail. So, I think being self-aware is key. And understanding that sometimes it’s better to back off and not push so hard. And understand that maybe your ego isn’t going to get stroked as much doing walking and core work versus squatting 1200 pounds.
But understand, you need to think long term.
Nick: Definitely. It can be a great thing for pushing yourself. But it can also be really hard holding yourself back.
There’s actually a good amount of research and psychology on this for growth and fixed mindsets. The people who embrace challenges, criticism and effort…
We call that a growth mindset.
It helps you have higher achievement. Because, like when you were learning from McGill, and he’s showing you all this new stuff… You went in there with a beginner mindset. You said you had to put your ego aside in order to really get the most out of that process.
And that’s exactly what the growth versus fixed mindset literature would predict.
But then, if you have a fixed mindset… when you desire to look good, you avoid negative feedback. The consequence is, of course, lower achievement — possible reinjury.
There are a lot of tie-ins with psychology and what you’re doing here.
You seem to have a lot of the right stuff together. Which doesn’t surprise me because you’re a world champion. But you’ve really got a lot going for you.
Brian: Yeah. Thank you. So the last example you gave me, or the example you gave about the person that listens. It’s kind of like iron sharpening iron. That’s what I would like to think the synergy between McGill and I did for me.
I wasn’t too closed minded to learn more.
You’ve gotta pick your battles.
Understand that at the same time there’s gonna be some things that maybe I thought I knew better than him. But I wasn’t even gonna go there. I was going to go on there as a complete beginner.
And ended up laying down to a really good foundation. For me to start over.
And kind of reassess what I thought I knew.
Nick: Yeah. And that’s hard. To say, “Maybe I don’t know. Maybe I do.” Cause if we walked around and questioned every decision we made…
That’s paralysis by analysis.
So you have to have some confidence. But know when to turn it on and off. Which brings me to the coaching process. You went in. You started working with McGill…
When is coaching a luxury and when is it a necessity?
Brian: Just generally speaking?
Nick: Generally speaking,
Brian: I think everyone should have a coach of some sort. Whether it be a business coach and mentor, a lifting coach, a nutrition coach… whatever it is, someone that gives them an outside perspective that you’re paying them for or trading in some way. They can help keep you accountable and not be yes-men to you. And call you out.
So you can be that athlete that can accept criticism and do better. Versus just having a bunch of people around you that are just there to kind of live it up with you and pat you on the back no matter what you do.
I think a coach is very important in just about every aspect of life.
Nick: When people say, “I don’t have money for coaching.” I would recommend rotating your coach. Stick with one for a while, on the most important thing. And then, if you need to go get another coach, fine.
Take the beginning of lifter. Obviously, work with people over the Internet, but they need to get somebody local who knows what the hell they’re doing. So they can show them in person, because it’s just like looking under the hood.
You can’t just look at a picture and go, “Ahhh, do this,” and then try to do that real time over skype. I just don’t think that’s very effective.
But after you’ve got the basic lifts down, you find another coach for whatever’s next on the list.
There’s the Johari window again from the previous episode. There are things that other people know that you don’t know. And you find those out the most quickly and easily by hiring a coach who knows their shit.
Brian: Yeah, I guess one of those things that I would consider competing or going after a specific goal, a luxury.
What do luxuries cost us?
They costs us money. So maybe if you’re not at a point in your life where you can afford to hire something out, I’m not saying you don’t want to read and learn and mess things up on your own and learn from it and all that stuff. But I guess it’s one of those things…
You’ve got to have your priorities right in your life because training for athleticism and anything beyond just general fitness is a luxury.
It kind of goes with being disciplined in other areas of your life. Maybe not getting that $4 cup of Starbucks every day… and utilizing that resource for a coach.
Like your book, Gift of Injury.
We haven’t touched on this yet, but I absolutely love the title. So, tell us about the gift. Why is it a gift?
How can it be a gift?
Brian: I don’t think I would be in this place that I am right now, being more of a complete lifter. Or coach and writer for that matter, if I wouldn’t have got hurt the way I did.
When paths are smooth-sailing, it’s easy to get comfortable and think you know it all.
If I were to continue that path that I was on, if I didn’t get hurt and have to regress and learn so much, there was a lot I wouldn’t have learned. I was forced to learn so much because I wasn’t learning it the easy way.
So I think that it was a gift to me to learn about how the details matter so much. How your body is a limited resource. And how you need to outsource help at times when things are big and you have really big goals in mind.
Nick: Yeah. I wanted to pull a quote from McGonigal that really supports you there. She says, “Choosing to see the upside in our most painful experiences is part of how we can change our relationship.”
She’s talking about stress here.
But in general there’s this idea of the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset. If you see it as an opportunity to better yourself, there is something to be said, like you said, about going through it the hard way.
Obviously, avoid the hard way (if you can). That’s why you write a book and you’re like, “don’t make the mistakes I did” because you know firsthand what those are and the consequences of them. But when you learn things the hard way, then it gives more of a profound, lasting impact.
Because you know it from firsthand experience.
Brian: I’m not sure of the exact science behind, but we tend to remember when something really hurts us or affects us pretty clearly. And we kind of keep that in the back of our mind.
So a lot of this stuff that I’ve learned over the last five years, I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I can tell you that much.
Nick: Yeah, insofar as the science on that… there’s something called the Losada ratio. With positive and negative experiences, we basically need about five positive experiences to cancel out one negative one. It just leaves a deeper groove on us. That’s how we generally feel with emotions.
Brian: Yeah, that makes sense. Guys thinking really happy, really sad the stuff. In the middle, it kind of just blurs together.
But this book gives a lot of elements of very high and very low, doesn’t it?
Nick: Oh Jesus [laughing]. Yeah, your low points and high points… I really liked how forthcoming you were with everything as well. A lot of people just wouldn’t talk about, what they’re going through because they’ve got an image online.
They’ve got to look good for Instagram, and all that bullshit, right?
But you’re real honest. You’re down to earth. And actually, I wanted to tie in on that with our last podcast. You said, I’m quoting you here,
“So many people are trying to make a career out of complicating the simple stuff and it’s just not necessary.”
So I’m curious. What are people over complicating today?
Brian: I’ll give you an example. Let’s say strength training. Someone with a very modest background in strength training. They want to jump into something like Sheiko or a Bulgarian squat protocol where they’re squatting three or four times a week.
And then of course we have people lining up to sell it to these people. You know, you’ve got to build load tolerance. Over time. And loading a barbell on your back three or four times a week for beginner could be a death sentence. Putting them in a situation like I was way sooner without being nearly as strong as I was.
So I think that you start somewhere in the middle.
We always make things so complicated where it has to be so extreme. We’ve got to squat four days a week. No rest. And no this. And no that.
Well, why don’t we start very simple? And if it works like, the way I trained in high school was very simple, as I needed to get more complex, I added more things and learned and move forward with it. But…
You don’t need to be squatting three or four days a week or benching… some of these programs have people bench squatting and deadlifting three days a week and for a beginner.
I don’t think that’s necessary.
Nick: Yeah. Even if you’re a pro doing that, it takes a hell of a toll on the body.
Brian: Yes. If that’s what it takes for you to max out your human potential because you know one didn’t work after a while… Then two worked for a while. Then it didn’t. And now three works now, fine.
Everyone’s wired a little bit differently.
But that’s a very, very small percentage of people that would need that much stimulation.
Nick: So one of the things that’s going on is prescriptions. Well people… The thing is though, this has always been going on to my understanding. People always go for “what was Arnold doing in the golden days of bodybuilding?”
“I’m going to take his program and look just like Arnold.”
So what’s the flaw in that thinking? [laughing]
Brian: The flaw is that you’re talking about the 0.01% of the population, even the athletic population, with that much of a gift.
Arnold was so psychologically and physiologically gifted, that most people will never understand how blessed he was with genetics. And looking at someone like Phil Heath, I don’t care what you take, or what you eat, or how you train…
You’re just not going to look like Phil Heath. Unless you ARE Phil Heath.
The problem is, people blindly emulate what they see posted. And you know what the problem with that is? Other than the obvious with genetics?
Photoshop that you see on the Internet. They’re being lied to, to sell a product to them. And unfortunately, they’re giving them false hope.
Nick: Yeah, which is another one of the reasons why I’m so happy you’re here with us today. Your story is genuine and it’s inspirational in the best of ways because of what you’ve done.
And there’s no faking your MRI. Well, I mean you could Photoshop that I suppose [laughing], but the results that you are able to squat 1100 pounds again shows us that it was not faked [laughing]. You wouldn’t be supporting that (kind of heavy load).
Brian: Yeah, I probably would have been in big trouble around 400 pounds if nothing changed. But nonetheless, we got lucky in a lot of things.
Luck is a big factor. You’re in the right place at the right time. You’re doing the right things. Luck tends to find you.
And I think we got lucky with the situation. But there were a lot of absolutes that we controlled.
Nick: Luck favors the prepared as well, right?
So you were doing a lot of the right things?
Nick: One of the things that was said (in the book) was, make sure you have minimal strength for health and longevity.
What is minimal strength in your mind?
Brian: Well, it’s going to depend if they’re trying to be a power lifter, or an athlete, or everyday person. But the basics, you know, being able to do a body weight squat, being able to have a good hand grip where you’re not dropping everything, or you’re not progressing too fast on the deadlift and having to use straps before your grip’s ready to pick up what your back can hold.
So the minimal basic things — being able to balance on one leg. You know, if you can’t balance on one leg or stand on one leg, then you probably shouldn’t be loading a barbell up to squat.
Just the little things.
If you can’t do a push up then you probably shouldn’t be doing a bench press. So just the little things like that I consider minimal strength. And then, if you’re trying to be a powerlifter, of course, it’s a couple of deviations beyond that.
Nick: Okay. For the absolute beginners, I remember Chris used to always start them off with… Like for squatting. He wouldn’t just have them get under a bar. He’d have them do a goblet squat, make sure that their feet were in the right place, and all that.
You talk about this in the book. And you have some really nice progressions. So I was really happy to see that.
Brian: Yeah, basics.
And if you can’t do a goblet squat, or a bodyweight squat correctly… you put the barbell on there and then you have the thoracic spine mobilization involved. Then you’ve got all kinds of stuff to worry about.
So the basics, rooting into the floor, hip hinging, rhomboid squeeze, chest down, locking the lats in, and keep it in a nice neutral spine, in neutral head position. And once you can master that, if you’re a beginner, then think about progression to a barbell squat.
Nick: Playing on that, like the next step… So we had the absolute beginners. McGill says, “you’ve got to earn the straps.”
Tell us a little bit about straps, grip work and your experience with the hook grip.
Brian: Okay, Good question.
To me, straps should never be used unless you’re a competitive strong man or you’re trying to do some overload set. So again, it’s down the road a little bit from a beginner.
What you don’t want to do is, and I kind of hit on this earlier, is make your grip so weak or your back so much stronger than your grip that it’s a mismatch.
That can lead to injury too. So everything starts with grip.
Being able to bend the bar and solidify a nice starting point, gripping the floor with your feet, gripping the floor with your bar. And then, once you’ve mastered the technique and you’ve lifted good amounts of weight consistently, and you want to overload on occasion… THEN you can earn the straps.
But not just simply because someone’s hands are weak or soft do you just let them put straps on the bar right away and let them move forward.
Now, the person who’s really mastered their grip would be somebody who hooks Olympic style. Or a hook grip where you kind of tuck their thumb under the bar and wrap your fingers around it. Those that can do that with longer fingers and less fat hands… they claim to have an ironclad vice. They basically say they never drop a deadlift.
It’s painful. A lot of the pressure goes on your thumbs. You have to build up the tolerance. But those that can do it on the deadlift have a little bit of a leverage advantage because they could get their chest up a little bit higher without an over under grip.
They’re not as likely to tear a bicep.
And of course, you have the developmental issues with the back. When you have one arm that’s pulling the weight up a little bit higher, the musculature of the back is going to develop a little bit different too.
Nick: Yeah. This is something where I wish that I wouldn’t have like my…
My natural lift is the dead lift. That’s where I excel. So I was deadlifting close to 600 pounds pretty quickly. Whereas my bench press is still just absolute shit [laughing]. That’s just how my levers work.
But I definitely experienced the twirling a bit. You just naturally, when you get to those heavy lifts, you want to rotate. Which is not good for your spine. It feels like shit if you go too much on that.
And I’ve tried the hook grip, as you have. And you said it didn’t really work for you. It didn’t really work for me either. But I think I might have been a little too aggressive with it.
Brian: It’s very painful. Those that advise it say not to pull reps with it at first. And yeah, a lot of people that pull over under start to helicopter. And it’s not just the back.
Other people tear packs and biceps when they let the bar get out in front of them. Especially that underhand as it kicks out. I’ve had days where my chest has been super sore after deadlift days.
Nick: The next topic we’re getting into is what McGill called “strength wisdom.”
Which, from the Westside viewpoint, is the chaotic stuff. Like the bouncy bench. You’ve got the bamboo barbell. You’ve got bands with a kettle bells and stuff on that.
Could you tell us a little bit more about the strength wisdom that McGill mentioned and why it matters?
Brian: Yeah, so you want to be, you know…
We talk about training for chaos. We’ll be ready for anything having an asymmetric load whether it be a carry or loaded on a barbell. Or a bamboo bar bench. Or you can even take it a step further and do a bamboo bar bench and only load one side.
This teaches you stability.
And this is a mind muscle connection of being very tight and locked in under load. No matter what happens. And this could translate in many different ways.
One example could be, not just for your stability, but what happens if someone accidentally bumps your barbell when they’re walking by in the health club?
If you’re not ready for something like that, or any kind of stability, you could fall off the bench tearing your pec off…
Bar going on your throat — whatever, whatever it may be.
But if you’re used to having to stabilize at all times, you could be ready for something like that. And we can talk about a heavy load, or someone’s maxing out and they start to get a little shifty with it. Having that strength wisdom, the balance back out and stabilized, could be the difference in not just making the lift, but from tweaking a tissue.
Nick: I don’t remember from 10/20/Life if you talked about strength wisdom, but when would you recommend people start incorporating it into their training?
Maybe with some very light loads… which implements would you recommend? And when should they start putting it into their programming?
Brian: I would recommend anyone that wants to be more of an athlete and look like a one, start off with some suitcase carriers. That would be the one I have everyone start with and that’s just simply carrying a kettle bell or dumbbell in one side and walking really fast. But controlled with it.
Switching sides and developing that stability.
The next step up from there would be a bottom-up kettlebell walk. That’s more strength wisdom. And then we could progress later on down the road with the barbell stuff with the loads that I talked about.
But I would start everyone off with carries. Start them off light, and use those conditioning tools in your workout.
Nick: This is why farm boys are so damn strong, because they start with that stuff, early.
Nick: Build a damn good foundation.
Brian: Throwing some hay. Punching cows. Yup.
Nick: What advice do you have for gym members?
We always have to keep going back to who’s our population because we have a really broad range here, right? From mom and pops, who are going to be listened to this, to elite lifters.
So what advice do you have for people that are in popular fitness boxes, power lifting gyms, crossfit gyms, training at home and non-athletes?
Just in terms of making sure that they have good backs. And they’re not in pain. And they have good movement patterns?
You’ve got a basic gym membership. You’re going in there. You’re just training for health to feel good. Are there any exercises on machines or things that people should be avoiding?
Just to stay safe?
How can they make sure that their backs are going to stay in good condition?
Brian: Do’s: proper warm up, core stability before you train, break a sweat.
Do basic movements. If you can stand while doing them, don’t sit. Whether it be overhead press, or what have you.
And you’re pretty much carried through with a good foundation there. And that’s a good way to start.
Don’ts would be any kind of a sit up, or weighted sit up, or leg raise. I would avoid any kind of good mornings until you have really good a control of stability under load because that’s one that can go wrong really quick.
And just too much at first.
Try not to mix Olympic lifts when you’re new to training. That’s a highly skilled lift that people should be doing after years and years of training, and starting when they’re very young. That sport picks their athletes. The athlete doesn’t pick that sport. Those people are very gifted for that.
So that’s five do’s and don’ts as far as your health club.
And that applies to Crossfit.
Try not to do too much conditioning before you do your heavy work. Fatigue ends up as the cause, a lot of the time, of tissue stresses. So try to do your heavy stuff fresh. And then do your cardio, your conditioning, towards then end of your workout.
Nick: Wow. Lots of good stuff there.
I think you’ve covered most of it in the book. You had your do’s and don’ts. You talked about the sit-ups. You talked about doing too much. The Olympic lifts, that’s only for the people that are selected…
But what I don’t remember being mentioned was “stand, don’t sit.”
That’s a really good point for integrating everything. Could you maybe just riff on that a little bit more?
Why standing instead of sitting?
Brian: Let’s say you’re sitting in a military press. Depending on the positioning and the seat, you might be actually sitting into a little bit of flexion under load while pressing overhead. Which a lot of the time, if you have a back condition, or you’re susceptible to that, then your disc’s just about ready to bulge on you with a little bit of stress there.
Could be the end of your back-health.
But at the same time, don’t sit when you can stand. With anything, just be on your feet more.
You know what I mean?
Or do a standing overhead press. Do a barbell row and instead of a seated chest supported row. It isn’t something you always have to stick to. But if in doubt, if you have two choices A and B, go with B. Standing.
Nick: That’s excellent advice. It just prompted the idea of the standing desk. Do you have a standing desk? Is that something that you’ve incorporated as well?
What do you think about those in general?
Brian: No, I get up and walk about every twenty minutes or so. Through my house if I’m working at home. And I go for multiple walks each day.
I don’t have a standing desk.
I’ve considered it, but one thing that I’ve been fortunate with is, I’ve never been sitting intolerant. It’s never bothered my back once I got everything under control. Because before, everything bothered my back.
One thing I do suggest if you do sit a lot is a lumbar support pad. You kind of put it under the small of your back and pump it up.
Nick: BackFitPro.com right?
Brian: Yeah. I’ve traveled with these. I have one in my car and I have one here at my desk. So I definitely suggest doing that.
A standing desk for some people may be problematic. They may have bad feet. Or, you know, I would definitely recommend having a nice padded surface if you’re going to stand for long periods of time.
But again, the key is not sitting too long and not standing too long. So find a balance there.
Nick: Yeah, I did the standing desk for about a year and a half. It ended up killing my feet in the long run. And I found like you, if I just get up and move every thirty minutes…
I’ll set a timer.
I just get up and move every thirty minutes. That keeps you good, you know?
And the back support, as you said. If you’re going to be sitting a lot during the day, definitely. Good stuff there.
Now I’m mindful of the time here. I think maybe we should go into what was not mentioned in the book, and then talk about how it empowers people.
Give our listeners some really strong takeaways in the next episode.
Resources & Next Episode…
You’ve reached the end of episode 152 of the Limit Slayer podcast with Brian Carroll. Thanks again Brian, for sharing your time and expertise with us.
On the next episode we’ll pick up where we left off.
We’ll conclude this series with specific movements that help save and rehab your back, mistakes to avoid so you don’t hurt yourself, and convert what you’ve learned into immediate, actionable advice.
You can find the transcript of our interview, links to Brian’s other podcasts, products, resources, my one page summary of the Gift of Injury and more at:
If you enjoyed this episode, and know someone else who would enjoy it, you can make their day by sharing it with them.
And if you’d like to make our day, leave us a five star review on iTunes telling us what you enjoy the most about the Limit Slayer Podcast.
Thanks for listening!
And till next time,
Join Nick & world champion powerlifter Brian Carroll as they discuss:
"Gift of Injury" is now available on Amazon.com. Click HERE to get it.
Brian Carroll: Think of this analogy.
You're walking down the street and you constantly stub your big toe. I can inject it with all kinds of Lidocaine and painkillers and everything, bandage it up, but until we address the gait problem that toe is never going to heal up because you keep picking the scab and stubbing it.
I say it's no different with your back.
If you're constantly causing the injury over and over, it doesn't matter what I shoot into it, it doesn't matter what we do to brace it, doesn't matter what we do until we address the issue and the injury mechanism and take that away -- and then we allow to rebuild athleticism.
Nick Ritchey: Brian embodies the saying, "it's not over until you quit."
Three time World's Strongest Man, Bill Kazmaier, wrote the forward to his new book and says,
"Brian's story is truly inspiring as it demonstrates the power of sound rehabilitation." -Bill Kazmaier
My own mentor and former co-host, Chris Young, before he was taken away early by leukemia, called Brian a "true gentleman," and a lot of other good things back in Mighty Cast episode 107.
Three things about Brian that stand out to me the most are that he has squatted over 1000 pounds in competition over 50 times. He has multiple world records in three different weight classes totaling over 10 times his body weight in power-lifting competitions. And Brian is chock full of wisdom.
In this interview we're going to cover Brian's transformation from the lowest of lows, to the highest of highs. From sitting in his car, considering eating a bullet, to getting pain free and stronger than ever.
We're going to look at his book, the big ideas that you can take away from it, and the details that make a difference.
We'll talk about a 90 year old woman that got to stay in her house because she was able to fix her back pain with some basic power lifting 101.
And we're going to look at how this information has impacted both of our lives and leave you with some takeaways that can change your life for the better, forever, if you implement them.
And now let's get to our guest.
Hey Brian, how are you doing?
Brian: I've been doing well Nick. Thanks for having me. It's been really right at three and a half years…
Kind of hard to believe how fast time has flown.
Hope everything's been well with you.
Nick: Yeah. I don't know if you know, but last time you were my surprise birthday present. My birthday is on the 19th and you were on the show on the 17th.
Brian: Oh really? So he surprised you with that. That's pretty cool.
Nick: Yeah, definitely. I was tickled pink then, and when I saw your new book come out I was I was tickled pink again. So I'm looking forward to getting into that with you a bit today.
Brian: Sounds good man, ready to do it.
Nick: Well, I think we should start off with what happened because I know you were starting the recovery process the last time we talked. You had some videos on YouTube with Dr. McGill. I was watching those and following your progress.
We were all crossing our fingers rooting for you.
But man, you had a hell of an injury, which the book goes into quite a bit.
The book is "The Gift of Injury" by Brian Carroll and Dr. Stu McGill. You had, a crushed L5 and a split sacrum.
For our readers that don't know what that means, we all know what a donut is. A crushed vertebrae is kind of like a crushed donut. If you're were just to step on that thing. And the split sacrum is kind of like if you took a bite out of it.
Brian: Yeah, it's a substantial injury and I wasn't aware that it was that bad until I got up to Canada that day.
But the sacrum is the foundation of your spine.
And if you don't have a strong foundation, you don't have anything. So obviously that was not just going to cause me problems in power-lifting but day to day life, so it had to be addressed.
And in Gift of Injury, we give you the good, the bad the ugly, top bottom of everything we did to beat this injury and then make it back. So I'm looking forward to talking about it.
Nick: Yeah. Definitely.
When you were going to the other doctors they were saying you might never lift again, you might have to have a spinal fusion.
You tried some pain meds but those things have diminishing returns. Obviously you were down in the ruts. You kept looking though for another option and one of your friends helped you out a bit.
Nick: And that was that, right?
Brian: That was it in a nutshell. That's how it started a little over four 1/2 years ago and I haven't looked back since. So it's pretty cool, it sounds like kind of a made up story but that's about how it went.
Nick: Yeah, well it is it is really one of those...
Like a Rocky story because he's kind of down in the dumps and then he gets back to the top. I know in your book you go into more detail.
I don't want to overstep my bounds, but we all have dark thoughts when things are bad and you were sitting there with a gun in your glove compartment…
Brian: Yes, it was a pretty dark time.
And I just left the third doctor in just a couple of days, third surgeon, and it was a whole shenanigans with them of course. And so I was pretty frustrated at that point, because I just wanted some kind of positive direction whether it was surgery or not, or some kind of definitive solution.
So yeah for a couple of minutes, I definitely considered going a different route with the rest of my life, if you will.
But I wisely only let that be thought and not any kind of action. So I ended up becoming a little more headstrong a little more determined after that. And I'm sure a lot of people who have had severe back pain can relate to those dark moments.
Nick: I think anybody who's been just at wits end with pain can pretty much relate to, “If you ain't got your health you ain't got nothing,” right?
You really appreciate your health when it's the worst. You really want it back.
Brian: Your body is a limited resource.
When you think you're in your teens or 20s, or even your 30s like I did, you think, man this athleticism lasts forever. I'll always feel this good, I'll always be this strong, I'll always be this agile, I'll always have this much energy.
Well, that’s not the way it works.
If that were the case people would be running around with these kind of weights in their 70s.
Nick: Definitely. And I think you make a really good distinction in the book too between your biological age and your training age.
I believe you were born in 81…
But I would say your training age compared to most people's around your age...
Nick: We'll get into what you decided to do for health and happiness a little bit later, but I think you definitely made a good choice there.
You talked about a few things that I haven't heard and some of the other interviews. You went into it in the book.
The system is kind of… I’m all pro medicine.
I know with my former partner, who you know would be on the podcast were he here, he was big into skepticism. He was big into following the medical procedures that are backed by evidence and so forth.
And so am I.
But that being said, you hit on a sore spot which is, there is a system. There is a pipeline and you have a track when you do go into the medical field and you follow it. If you have back pain, you know you're going to see how severe it is and then it's likely to end up in surgery.
And your story is refreshing because I was talking to several friends and family members in the last couple of weeks and they're asking, “So what kind of surgery did he get? What drugs was he on?” This, that, and the other thing.
And I would reply, "No surgery. The rehab process, to my understanding, didn't involve a lot of drugs. Maybe some painkillers. But there wasn't surgery.”
They were floored by the fact that your spine was in the condition it was in -- and that it recovered at all.
So would you like to talk a little bit about the bone callousing process?
Was that just happening through proper loading in recovery ?
Or did it involve some kind of electrical stimulation?
Or something else?
Brian: OK, so let me preface this with:
1. You know, it's not me just digging on doctors as a whole.
I have doctors that are friends, close friends actually, but they understand the flaws in the system and it works for a lot of people, but unfortunately a lot of people it doesn't work so well for, and they end up on painkillers.
None of my rehab contain any medication, opiates or any kind of anti-inflammatory drugs, above some occasional ibuprofen and I've taken Voltaren before. That's more for my hip arthritis in my knees especially at this point.
It was one of those things that Dr. McGill, the bone callous thing, he experimented on with a couple of lifters, or people before but none of them were trying to come back to bear so much load once again. It was just going to be more body weight, day to day stuff.
Loading with 1,000 pounds of pressure on your back is quite a bit different.
This book is not just for someone who wants to lift a bunch of weight. It's a far outside the box story of someone who got out of pain that was not supposed to be, and returned to athletic endeavors.
All the more reason for the person that's a stay at home mom, or the dad that can't pick his son up out of the crib anymore without back pain. All the more reason for them to understand if they do the right things and they move well and they rebuild that athleticism in their back again, they'll be able to do these things.
It's not a death sentence. I just took it to the way extreme.
All the more reason for the person that isn't trying to, that they can accomplish this. So let me just say that.
But the bone callousing, Stu can explain the science a lot better, and in the book the science is explained pretty thoroughly. But basically, we give enough stimulation for the bones to lay down scaffolding. To fill in those breaks there and to rebuild and remold and remodel.
Over time, proper progressions of dead lifts and squats and carrys, and things of that nature helped everything gristle and build back up. But the biggest thing is was not working in any pain, and not trying to go too much load too fast.
So we varied our intensities very nicely like I outlined in 10/20/Life, my strength training book. And we really took our time rebuilding it. I mean when I started back squatting again, I started back at 65 pounds on the squat. And that was a barbell back squat.
I just squatted 1,185 at one time, so I really started over as a beginner. So the biggest thing was dropping the ego, listening to Dr. McGill because he was the expert in his field, and letting him do his thing. And fortunately, one of these experiments worked with the bone callousing, and this book is basically a giant case study on this.
Nick: And as you mentioned it's an excellent case study. Because not only were you, again this is helpful for everybody not just world class athletes, because what it shows is that you can go from essentially being in worst case then you a grandmother that just fell down and fractured her back, to squatting 1,100 pounds again.
So, if your goal isn't to squat 1,100 pounds, it's kind of goes without saying if you're just doing body weight activities -- you can probably improve at least to that point.
Brian: Yeah. Yeah, that's an easier goal to accomplish. Just getting back to the normal day to day stuff.
But I think...
"One thing that people should keep in mind is all of us are athletes -- our goals are just different." -Brian Carroll
Someone's athletic goal might be a really fast landscaper outside and do a lot of volume with cutting yards, or someone might be trying to be, or excel in some other job, be fit or whatever it, is be a really good personal trainer. So they have to treat their body and not use it up doing things that are going to damage it. So we want to be cautious of the of the things that we do.
Always being mindful for picking something up we're bracing, we're utilizing that lifters wedge. It started off of me when I was coming back from injury I'd lean on the sink with one hand and I would brush my teeth and do a hip hinge.
So I think if everyday people treat themselves as athletes and really try to be the best at what they're doing and with good movement, day to day ingrained, I really think that it would help a lot of people stay out of the rehab purgatory if they would think of themselves as simply an athlete.
Again like you talked about doing a hip hinge when brushing your teeth. I've been doing that for years just because I thought,
"Why would I not keep my spine integrity while I'm doing basic activities like brushing my teeth?" -Nick Ritchey
But that's a common one where the first few times you kind of catch yourself, and you're like... AH! Just tighten a little bit down there and then we're good.
Brian: Same thing. I talk about the landscaper, or the person that's trying to be a great roofer or a contractor.
It doesn't matter how good they are at something if they're hurt and beat up and can no longer do it. So it's a matter of just taking care of your body and just being mindful of everything that you do every day.
I'm not saying that you can't have some fun, but there has to be a pros and cons. Juice has to be worth the squeeze and everything we do. Instead it just of be kind of being reckless and then wonder why we're feeling like we're 80 when we're 40.
Nick: That's a hard, hard ask for a lot of things.
If you've ever moved things around on your desk and you reach for where your pen used to be and it's now in a different position.. you can do that for a year before you go "OK, it's in the drawer."
If you move things around your kitchen, you reach for a glass and it's somewhere else… it takes a while.
I don't think people give themselves enough slack.
People are really hard on themselves for common human behaviors. It's part of our patterning. That's how our brain works, it takes shortcuts. And there's no reason to feel bad about it.
Just, when you see an opportunity to improve -- take it. Right?
Brian: Yes, so it's a whole 'withdrawals and deposits' analogy. Make too many withdrawals out of your bank account and what happens?
You end up bouncing, or overdrafting, or going bankrupt. Same thing, you can be athletically bankrupt and you don't have to be an athlete.
Again your body can just be flat worn out, start treating it better and make some deposits back in it, and you'll be pleasantly surprised what can happen.
Nick: And so I know Chris Duffin, you're familiar with him. I like think a lot of his guys have the word “anti-fragile” on them, but there's this book series by this guy called Nassim Taleb and he talks about anti-fragility.
When I see the anti-fragile logo on a lot of their stuff, I think about that book all the time because it's all about breaking down and rebuilding stronger than ever.
And that seems like a lot of what you did with the spine here. But it's a delicate balance to strike because if you break too much, you can be out of commission or require surgery.
Brian: I did reference Duffin there.
And we want to build anti-fragile strength.
"We don't want to be scared of load or movement. We want to stabilize and minimize the risks of what we do. And build resilience over time." -Brian Carroll
Slowly building it up.
The porridge that's not too cold, and the porridge is not too hot. You want it just right.
Well you need to start, especially with athletes or someone coming back from injury, or you know your million dollar athletes, or your general population, whoever it is.
You start with somewhere right in the middle, because you don't want to do too much for no reason, and especially if they're going to make gains off a small amount and you obviously don't want to hurt them.
But you don't want to do so little and that I'm not making any gains and wasting their time.
So it's all about finding that sweet spot and it directly applies to the bone callousing and rebuilding and the anti-fragile analogy you made there earlier about the cup and the cat.
It's one of those things that it's got to be just right, and it takes time to do that. But always err on the side of caution, is the way I put it.
Nick: You don't want any career ending injuries, especially if you're a beginner.
"It's the top and the bottom, the absolute newbies and the world class athletes that seem to overdo it one way or another." -Nick Ritchey
You had a great section about ego, but let's get back to that in a minute.
I want to jump back, if we could, for just a second because we talked a little bit about Stu. I'd like to talk about him a bit more because I really love how you paired with him, and then you really have the best of both the science and practice in this book.
Could you tell us a little about Stu?
So our listeners who aren't familiar with him will know a bit more.
Brian: Dr. Stuart McGill is out of Waterloo, Canada. He was a professor there for about 33 years.
He taught...he was over the whole science department actually, I believe. Kinesiology and spine biomechanics is his background. And he's worked with some of the top athletes in the world, a lot of them that we can't talk about.
Some are pretty public like George St. Pierre or Blaine Sumner, that have come out and given him credit for a lot of the work that he's done with them.
And obviously I've worked with him, and I know countless other athletes and colleagues of mine that are powerlifters that work with him.
But he is the authority on low back pain, pain causes and disorders, and rehab. And we paired up and, like you said, his science complements my real world validity and the methods that I come up with over time.
And I've inter-fused a lot of the things that he has taught me through this process and it kind of made me a complete lifter. But I was lacking a few things, you know I was a little sloppy with some things that I talk about and I wasn't so cerebral approach at all times.
He helped kind of fill in those gaps for me a bit, and Stu is one of my mentors, and he's a mentor to a lot of people. And actually he's was just over in the UK not long ago doing his courses, so his website is BackFitPro.com if you want to read more about him.
He's got a couple of really good books, too. I think the most popular one right now is Back Mechanic. It's a great book, but the guy's just a genius.
Nick: Yeah, that's one that I'd really want to get in and read in the future now that I've seen it referenced so many times. Not only is the book called Back Mechanic, that's pretty much who he is.
If you’ve got a problem with your car, you go into the car mechanic. If you have a problem with your back, you go to Stu and he fixes you up. Same kind of thing.
As long as you do your part, don’t overdo it and all that stuff.
“Porridge not too hot, not too cold.”
I love that analogy. That's great.
Nick: Yeah. It's always about how we make this stuff relatable to people so they can latch on to it, remember it, and then hopefully use it in the future. So it's not just abstract.
That's why I brought up you and Stu.
Because again the marriage of the science and the practice… because of his position and the books he's written and how he's helped clinicians.
People who you know really latch on to the science will go 'OK this book has some credibility,' whereas you're just a strong guy to them. They love to see the science behind it.
But a lot of people are skeptical of science. Everybody's pulling their shit from Pub Med, cherry picking, and putting it together to do something that supports the conclusions they made beforehand, right?
So then they see you actually implementing this and it working. And they’re like, “Oh, great! So now I know that this stuff works because this guy used it.”
Then, for everybody who can appreciate both, it’s like, “Wow! That's a really, really powerful synergy.”
Brian: Yeah, Stu ran the lab there at Waterloo for 30 years and conducted countless experiments and studies.
Hundreds. And that's why he learned, and then he would test it in the clinic. You'd have the lab there and the clinic next door. And he would test things with his athletes and injured people, and it turned out really well. As you can see.
Nick: Yeah, definitely. I'd like to get into some of these details a bit more in the next episode. But let's talk a bit more about your book here. If you're all right to move on to that?
Nick: We already talked a little about the injury. At the start of the book, in section one you’re talking about your early years. There were all these great little lessons that I learned from my mentor, Chris. And your mentor, Skip Sylvester, gave a lot of the same advice.
I believe Jonathan Byrd also lifts with you down there quite often. A couple of things like “strength is a great equalizer,” “eat a lot and train heavy…”
I mean, we love these things.
It's common knowledge that goes around. It's part of the making of a lifter.
And think we both feel the same about bodybuilding.
I love bodybuilders, those are tough sons of bitches to do what they do. But I believe you said,
"There was nothing appealing to me about eating super small amounts, sucking myself down, then prancing around onstage feeling like death." -Brian Carroll
Brian: Yeah, I did a couple bodybuilding shows and it just wasn't fun because you don't eat much, you feel bad.
The diet is the hardest part. The training isn't hard.
So yeah, I don't miss that.
Nick: Yeah. I've tried that. And getting super lean, not so fun.
Want a four pack? Just lift heavy. Eat good. Don't get too sloppy, and you're fine.
But getting super lean?
No fun, just no fun.
Brian: It's a whole other level of care and maintenance like 24 hours a day.
Nick: I saw your picture also when you were 17 and you were benching more than I do now at 33.
Brian: Yeah, I focused too much on the squat and the deadlift at that point, I was just benching 3 or 4 days a week which is ridiculous.
But you do a lot of silly things in high school.
You follow suit. But a lot of things didn't really make sense to me so I stopped doing them.
Nick: Power lifting is not for everyone, right?
But you love it, I love it.
We've all got our own things and like you said you got to just be mindful. Where's that going to put you if you're not using right form?
You’ve got to be aware 24/7.
Brian: Yeah, exactly.
Nick: All right. I wanted to go into something just for our listeners.
I mentioned the Johari Window in the outline because you talked about when you were having difficulties with your back. You said you'd done literally everything you knew how to do just...
And then when you don't know what to do, a very helpful tool is something called the Johari Window. Draw a 2x2 Matrix on a piece of paper.
You've got things at the top. There are things that “you know that you know,” and then there are “things that you know you don't know.”
When people hear I’m a math teacher they're like, "Oh, I don't know math at all." They know that they don't know math, right?
So you've got things you know, and things you know you don't know.
Then there are other people on the side of the grid. There are things that “others know about you,” and things that “others don't know about you,” like private information, secrets, whatever.
This 2x2 grid gives you 4 boxes.
And one of the boxes is “things that others know about you, that you don't know about yourself.”
An example is the guy at the party that's just a totally weird dude, and everybody is trying to stay away from him…
But he doesn't know he's a weird dude!
Brian: Yeah that's always awkward.
Nick: Yeah. So you got that guy, right?
But it's not just social skills and parties, it's knowledge gaps as well. So when you were thinking, “Look I've done everything I know. The people that I know in my network, they don't seem to have something for me.”
"To get answers, you may need to go outside of your network." -Nick Ritchey
Which you ended up doing.
You ended up going to Dr. McGill. And then you found out some stuff that he knew about you, about bracing and these various little things to help you recover -- that you didn't know about yourself.
I just wanted to highlight this because when people don't know what to do, often they'll just throw up their hands and give up...
Instead, remember the Johari window.
“It ain't over till you quit, but if you quit, it's over.”
Brian: Right, exactly.
So I was definitely on the cusp of getting desperate and there were things that I simply didn't know that were pointed out to me when I when I met Stu in his life clinic that they were just, I knew but I just didn't realize it wasn't doing them properly.
It's kind of when someone tells you you've been a jackass for a while. You kind of noticed it, but not enough to do something about it. That's kind of the same thing.
Nick: Yeah. And we've all felt that before.
Definitely. It's like, “Oh, I was such a dick.”
Brian: It's like, uh maybe I thought I was rude.
“Oh, actually you said this, and you said that…” and next thing people are letting you know how you acted, you're like, “Oh my god. Yeah, you're right.”
It was like an intervention for me mentally and physically was Stu just reminding me that I started over as a beginner. I wasn't too big, my ego was not too large to start completely over and act like I knew nothing.
So I went in there with a clear, a fresh slate, clean slate.
Nick: And good on you because people get caught up in their egos and their pride. And that's why they often continue to get injured over and over, and over and over again…
And some people never learn. They never learn.
Brian: Yeah. Sad to see, but you can't help everybody.
Nick: You said in the book, your source of frustration was just realizing that there were many flaws and they were perfectly avoidable. And once Stu brought them to your attention, it seemed obvious.
One of the quotes that I like is basically, "A wise person sees the obvious."
Brian: Right. So there's a lot of things that I was doing that were so obvious once pointed out, and a couple of my injuries, my pain causes and injury mechanisms were flexion under load, and I was compression intolerant.
I was always either sitting or standing in flexion, or I was loading my back in compression awkwardly, doing the normal things day to day, whether it was picking something up off the floor, tying my shoes, or grabbing something, opening the door, or brushing my teeth like I said earlier, lifting the toilet seat.
It was things that he pointed out that I didn't think had any bearing on my athleticism and that was like, “Why didn't I think of this?”
Of course everyday when I do this it hurts my back, why didn't I stop doing that?
Nick: Yeah, and I know in another interviews, Stu likened it to picking a scab.
You've got some inflammation no doubt going on there, and every time you do that it's just like picking the scab, and you know it's not going to heal if you keep picking the scab.
Brian: Yes. There's a couple different things that people like to do to pick the scab, even on purpose because they think it feels good.
If you have a scab on your palm or the top of your head and you scratch it, you're scratching because it itches and it feels good to scratch it.
The problem is you're not going to let it heal.
So when Stu talks about the silly stretches or whatever for someone with a low back disorder they're blindly doing stretches thinking that they're going to heal the back by stretching it out, it feels good for a little while, but you're just picking a scab.
So that's one way when people are actually thinking they're helping but they're hurting themselves. An analogy I give at a lot of my talks when I went on speaking to athletes or coaches is…
Think of this analogy.
You're walking down the street and you constantly stub your big toe. I can inject it with all kinds of Lidocaine and painkillers and everything, bandage it up, but until we address the gait problem that toe is never going to heal up because you keep picking the scab and stubbing it.
I say it's no different with your back.
"If you're constantly causing the injury over and over, it doesn't matter what I shoot into it. Doesn't matter what we do to brace it. Doesn't matter what we do until we address the issue and the injury mechanism and take that away." -Brian Carroll
And then we allow to rebuild athleticism.
Nick: Yep, I think that hits the nail on the head… and I hate stubbing my toe.
Brian: Yes. It doesn't feel good.
Nick: No fun. So section 1 was all about you and your story of how you became a lifter.
Part two was all about recovery and building resilience.
Wow, there's a lot in section 2 there with all the moves and the exercises and all the little cues for doing that stuff -- for building stiffness and stability.
There's the big three from McGill, which will we'll get into in a minute. But one thing that wasn't mentioned was, I saw some of your YouTube videos where he had you doing some modifications, like where you had the McGill, the reverse curl up, and he had you doing the opposite arm and leg to do some neural firing, trying to move just right around the joint there and so forth…
Were there a lot of things like that that were not in the book or just a couple things specific to you?
Brian: There were just a couple of things that we just thought would get a little too convoluted, and then some we could do for a second edition. We were just running short on space as far as keeping the integrity of each section.
There are a couple of things we have to put out and save for the next edition.
But honestly I don't do the reverse curl up, the McGill curl up, with the neuro muscular pulse much. He was kind of just showing me that for my own use if I wanted to kind of up the ante a little bit to curl up.
But I'm so not good at those.
Once I got good at them I hated them so much, because they kicked my butt, that I started doing stir the pot. So I progressed to stir the pot, which for me was a little bit more, it was better for a power lifter, me needing that stability and not any really flexion.
I kind of had a built in excuse, but it was back by a little bit of science there. So yes, I kind of snaked my way around that one. I'll still do curl ups, but I get more bang for my buck by doing some high repetition stir the pots.
Nick: I was I was surprised with the reverse curl a bit because literally, you're an inch off the ground when you do it right.
When I first tried them, I went a little too high and I didn't get the same experience. When you do it right, that isometric that contraction against yourself… my god, it tears you apart.
Brian: Yes. And you don't need to move the cervical spine hardly at all to do that. Just enough to get a little bit of motion and a little bit of stiffness going. You want to push out laterally on your abdominals and then make them make them stiff.
So that's what it's about, that neuro-muscular contraction, and there's a place for it obviously in power lifting and everyone should be doing it that has back pain as part of the three pronged attack.
The curl up, the rolling plank, and then of course the bird dog. Anyway, I still do them as part of my warm up, but I don't push the ante up with them.
Nick: And then section 3 is all about the blueprint in action. It was really fun to see your progression. And for people who haven't read 10/20/Life, definitely pick it up.
I'd probably buy it after Gift of Injury, but obviously it's whatever's most relevant to you.
It was really interesting reading 10/20/Life and then seeing this recovery blueprint. Then little tweaks and see how things evolved over time with the jumbos and the combos and all that fun stuff that have to change I think kind of by necessity as you as your training age at least goes up…
Again biological age doesn't matter when it comes to training.
Brian: Yes, so work the 10/20/Life is a philosophy, so it's ever changing ever evolving. And some things I've gotten wrong, some things I've gotten really right, and some things I wanted to expand upon and give more options with as we tested. You know, it's ever-growing for sure.
Nick: And you also went into the Arnold in 2014 which was about 10 months later. You were in this sorry state, and then 10 months later, here you are gearing up lifting crazy weights.
I was really impressed by the thought process that was going on in your head.
Why don't you tell our listeners what you were thinking before your final deadlift attempt?
Because you nailed the squat, you hit the bench and then things weren't quite feeling right in your back…
Brian: Yes. So ten months after seeing Dr. McGill the first time, I started progressing forward and was competing in 2014 Arnold XPC to win that thing again.
I was ahead on the squat and the bench, and I didn't even need a very big deadlift, and as I was warming up the little bit of load on the squat and the extreme extension on the bench got my back a little bit irritated.
So when I went into deadlift that evening, it didn't feel right so I shut it down and took it to a deadlift even though I could have got first place with a first attempt deadlift.
And that was another growing point for me.
It was very hard because I knew that, OK I could go out there one time and pull the weight, secure the win and then sit back and hope that there wasn't too much damage from that one dead lift. But then I thought back to the time of how much pain I was in this meet just a year before, and at that point it was a pretty easy decision to shut it down even though it hurt.
Nick: And practicing what you preach by telling people not to overdo it.
Again, when people are beginners and when they're elite, when something's on the line, that's when you want to push it the most…
Just seeing that restraint, I think that speaks volumes about your character.
My jaw dropped. That was really impressive to me.
Brian: Thank you. It was like I said, it was a tough time for me.
"Just because you're doing the right thing doesn't mean it feels good at the time." -Brian Carroll
Brian: There's a lot of things we had to do that we didn't want to do but it was clearly the right thing, so there's still some emotional consequence there. But I got through it. We've got a better plan together and the rest is history.
Nick: And I think the last part for that section which people will be interested in, but I think always gets blown out of proportion, is the weight loss.
Several years ago I made a course on weight loss and talked about the mismatch between going into the doctor who is 100 pounds overweight, and them giving you advice on how to lose weight.
You went in and had a similar experience.
They talked about the caution against the lifting, but they weren’t like, “Brian, you weigh nearly 300 pounds. That might be contributing to some of your back pain…”
Could you tell us about some common-sense weight loss?
Brian: Yeah, so...
"If you're injured, you've got bad knees, bad hips, a bad back... the first thing you need to look at is if you're overweight..." -Brian Carroll
Especially depended on what your goal is, you need to look at yourself and say, 'man, you know what's the average person weighing that's doing the same endeavor that I'm after?” Or job that I'm doing or whatever.
Do a real self-assessment and be self-aware.
One big thing with me is, you know I've gotten bigger and fatter since I was hurt and not lifting as much, I would think instead of the whole lifting bit they would have went right for the jugular right away and said, “hey man you're awful big. A bigger guy is generally going to be a little rougher on his spine than a smaller guy.”
So if they would have said, "Why don't you try to do a little bit of dieting" you know and pointed me in that direction… if they would have done that, who knows, I might have started to solve at least a little bit of that myself.
So one of the solutions for me after the failed Arnold 14 comeback was dropping some body weight and then coming back down to 242, where I ended up winning the Arnold in 2015.
And I've won it a couple times since actually, as well.
Nick: Yeah, you got in some great shape there. Looking good and lifting like a monster. That was excellent.
And you seem to be feeling better at the lower weight class.
Brian: Oh for sure, I feel great. The weight cut does suck. I'll talk about that a little bit with the glycogen depletion and the water loading and all that good stuff.
It did suck cutting weight, but...
"Day-to-day being 25+ pounds lighter has felt so much better on my back and body. It was the missing piece, in many ways, of my final recovery." -BrianCarroll
Nick: I'll mirror that with my father, who is getting up there in years. When he loses weight… if he gains weight his knees will start hurting. If he loses it again, he’s just fine.
He went to a dance one night and his knees just were wrecked the next day because anytime you're doing any kind of impact like that, it's several times your bodyweight. And it's really, really tough on the joints… just from your weight and gravity.
Brian: Yeah. So that night he was a dancing athlete man. He was pulling some athleticism out that his body didn't want to give him.
Nick: The final section of the book is all about training wisdom.
And there is a ton in there. Wow!
I just wanted to mention we've already talked a little bit about thinking like an athlete and moving like an athlete 24/7 because there's 168 hours a week outside the gym.
One of the things I didn't see mentioned was sleep.
I was curious if, because we spend a lot of time sleeping, did you talk to Stu at all about sleeping postures on your back, side or belly?
Did he discuss that with you at all?
Brian: Yeah, we did. And my exception was I wear a C-PAP. So I can't sleep on my belly, and it's optimal for those especially with a back history to sleep on their belly.
So I was kind of stuck, I would lay side lying a lot of the time with the pillow between my knees. That was the most comfortable, on my back was probably the least comfortable, but I still did fine with it. Maybe a little bit of support under my lower back, I know at BackFitPro.com they sell a lot of back cushions.
I have one here in my seat that's, you just pump-up to fit the curve your spine and it kind of meets there and makes a sitting dynamic, instead of you know a little bit of flexion or putting stress on your back.
So I never experimented with any of the pads for the bed because I didn't really need them, but ideally I would be laying on my stomach. But I just can't do it with my C-PAP mask.
Nick: Yeah. I’ve enjoyed sleeping on my stomach most of my life. But I'm curious, do you know the proper form?
Do you put a leg out? Anything about... or I'm maybe barking up the wrong tree here...
Brian: Whatever feels comfortable is what I would say.
Nick: Yeah. OK. Because I’ve heard, “Don't sleep on your belly, it's bad for your back,” and I'm thinking, “I don't think that's true.”
OK, moving on to technique like the sumo versus conventional deadlift. I thought you had a ton of great tips there. You talked about butt wink…
I’m just giving the listener a preview because they need to buy the book to really get the value from this.
You go into the sumo versus conventional, butt wink, lifters wedge, fixing weaknesses… and I wanted to draw a parallel between your 10/20/Life and Gift of Injury.
Is it a fair assessment to say this book is a bit more about addressing the movement pattern, whereas 10/20/Life is more about addressing the strength deficit?
Brian: Well, yeah. Yes and no. I think that the Gift of Injury is a little more detailed with the exact science to maintain the back position for the back injured athlete. So there's more nuances pertaining to that, especially with the squat and the deadlift.
But I think at the end of the day the goal is still the same, we just changed the wording a bit. Again, 10/20/Life, strength being the ultimate goal and...
"With 'Gift of Injury' the ultimate goal is maintaining that athletic resilience, and then building strength." -Brian Carroll
So we kind of mixed some of our cues together in Gift of Injury and kind of made it our own that way. And I think they're a bit better than Gift of Injury, honestly.
Nick: Yeah, it went into great detail. I saw a lot of Mel Siff popping up over and over again. Chris turned me on to Mel Siff and I absolutely love the guy. He was a friggin genius who went away far too soon.
There are many excellent, EXCELLENT coaching cues.
You talk about training mindset and purpose and programming. The programming section was pure gold as well. On page 116 there are some things that get you thinking, “Am I doing the right thing?”
Because again, as with moving the pen or pencil on the desk, when retraining your movement patterns, you get into your gym routine and then you need to adjust when things change. But you get into a routine and often don't switch things up when required.
Brian: Yeah, I'll ask someone when they're doing something just to kind of test them out. It might be at a seminar asking them what they do to warm up, or it might be a gym I'm visiting and they're doing something that may be common or maybe something rare, and it’s just to see where they're at with their training.
I'll ask them, "Why are you doing that?"
And more times than not, they don't really know. They don't have a real explanation as to the purpose of why they're doing that.
And that's a problem.
Nick: Definitely. Which, I think it's a great segue to, “seal pilates on the ground...”
You've reached the end of episode 151 of the Limit Slayer podcast with Brian Carroll. On the next episode we'll pick up where we left off.
In addition to seal pilates, we're going to be going into greater depth on the topics covered with Brian today.
Thanks again Brian, for joining us. You can find the transcript of our interview, links to Brian's other podcasts, products, resources, my one page summary of the Gift of Injury and more at:
If you enjoyed this episode and want to spread the love, you can make our day by leaving us a five star review on iTunes and telling others what you love about this podcast.
And finally, to get the most out of this series please check out the show notes, or go to Brian's website which is:
And get your copy of Gift of Injury.
Till next time, thanks for listening.
And Stay Mighty!