I begrudgingly ordered salmon, a baked potato, and a salad as I sat with Dave Tate for lunch at a bar and grille. Dave ordered a bunch of fried s$%^ I couldn't eat.
I was chasing 2700 at 242 for the fifth year in a row. So, I made my rounds in Columbus; I benched with Dave Hoff on Wednesday night at Westside and spent Thursday with Dave Hoff and JL Holdsworth at the Spot Athletics. On Friday, before I left to go back to Jax, I met with Dave Tate for lunch before going to my last training session at Westside for squat night. It was our first sit-down in years, and catching up was fantastic and more valuable than I ever thought.
"Well, I can tell you this. I've sent books (Gift of Injury) to or suggested your book dozens of times to those close to me in back pain. The book is fantastic, and you are needed to help others get pain-free with what you have learned and are doing with Stu...more than doing a few more meets. [If you asked me] your impact on the sport will be far more significant in helping others than hitting more world records and winning more meets."
I knew he was right, but I wanted more during this time, yet the end was in sight. I wanted something that would satisfy me or allow me to say, "OK, I'm good with that." Unfortunately, most of us can keep achieving and never be satisfied. The saving grace for me was after another few more years. I was ready to walk away and no longer loved or enjoyed the day in and day out of the grind. I had the choice, and I made the correct choice. It was time for the next thing. I was fortunate enough to go out with something I was happy with and accepted.
Many times over the years, Dave Tate has elaborated on Phase 2. Dave was one of the first people I watched from a distance move away from his powerlifting love and move to Phase 2—building elitefts. We've had many discussions on this over the years and how hard it was for him to push two giant boulders simultaneously. When I say boulders, I mean massive pushes of effort needed in one direction. If you are trying to move two challenging projects at once, you are likely to fail at least one, if not both.
What is Phase 2? It's the second part of your lifting life if you choose it. Many of us want to stay in the industry. We pass on what we have learned and try to help those avoid the mistakes. But, unfortunately, you cannot help yourself avoid mistakes.
Others must hit rock bottom and learn the hard way. I fall into that category, and I can relate well. I've always been in or out. Yet, I take pleasure in assisting all three cases. Every client case is unique and comes down to negotiation.
Over the last five years since the release of Gift of Injury, I have slowly helped powerlifters with back pain. Of course, I coach powerlifters, but many of them are formerly back-injured clients inspired by Gift of Injury who want to get back under the bar. Much of my time is spent on back-injured clients, from pro athletes to lay people and everyone in between. Plenty of good powerlifting coaches can execute effective programming for their clients.
Helping as Many People as Possible with Back Pain
Now that my lifting time is behind me, it's much easier to see where I need to go and what my passion is. My goal is to help as many people as possible regain their robustness and get their life back from a back injury and pain, no matter the level of athleticism or the goal. I've been fortunate to work with royalty, strongmen, powerlifters, bodybuilders, UFC fighters, Green Berets, SEALS, Rangers, NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL players, washed-up athletes, as well as many average joes like moms and dads who want to get their life back to play with their children.
My current focus is consulting those with an injured back who need direction to regain their life. Unfortunately, there are few people out there who do this effectively. I get emails from those let down by the medical system in North America and worldwide. The system fails because the clinician needs more time to spend with the client; even if they did, they need the tools. We are actively trying to make a difference.
Six weeks ago was the elitefts SWIS. For those who don't know, SWIS was started by Dr. Ken Kenakin of Toronto, Canada. Going back to the late '90s, the symposium was lined up with presenters like Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, Kaz, Ed Coan, Charles Poliquin, and so many others. The purpose of SWIS is to bring together all of the best information from the physical therapy, chiro, powerlifting, bodybuilding, and coaching world in a one-weekend symposium.
The last time I spoke at a conference was in 2019, and I was extremely excited when I was invited to speak again in 2022. Ken asked me to talk about back pain and deadlifting. As this is something I communicate daily with clients, it presented a fantastic opportunity to share what I see every day with clients.
"The most common reasons I see people with back pain (concerning the deadlift) are lousy technique, poor programming/exercise selection, and poor core training."
Coaches can resolve much of this via proper coaching, but you can only teach what you know. My goal was to help educate those in attendance on how to avoid the most common issues I see daily.
At the end of the weekend, I again met and spoke with Dave. He was busy the entire weekend, helping the weekend run smoothly (which it did). He shared some personal thoughts on the transition we had discussed over ten years ago in 2012 at the S4 Compound, followed by the 2018 talk at lunch. In 2012/2013, I was about to be forced to walk away from the sport due to my back—Phase 2 didn't seem like ten years away.
By FAR, Dave is one of the most significant and positive influences in my lifting life and career that I've ever had. The sage advice and wisdom he has given me, whether it's advice about the gym, court, or just life in general, the years we did not speak were missing a significant influence on my life and lifting. He's one of my most powerful influences, and I will never forget his impact.
The industry can be challenging. Powerlifting is a mess, and sometimes we wonder why we even bother. I know I did. We kill ourselves to lift in a half-assed tiny hotel ballroom, with 50-75 fans sometimes, mostly dragged out by the family. Local dart competitions at the Hilton have entire expos, with 20k in prize money, but powerlifting is what it is, and I wish it were different, but it isn't. It will not change, which is the way it should be.
Regardless of where powerlifting is going, it got me here. I'm glad I did all I did, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I'd do it again and wouldn't change a thing.
It was and is all worth it.
I can see it now.
Thank you, Dave.
A competitive powerlifter since 1999, Brian Carroll is one of the most accomplished lifters in the history of the sport. Having lifted at the elite world-class level since 2005, Brian has well over a decade of world-class lifting experience. He has totaled more than ten times his body weight in three different classes, and both bench pressed and deadlifted over 800 pounds in two different classes. In his career, he’s totaled 2500 over 20 times in 2 different weight classes. Most recently (10.3.20), Brian set the highest squat of all time (regardless of weight class) with 1306 pounds at a bodyweight of 303 pounds.