Interview With Light Weight Strongman Champion Brad Cardoza by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com
1) Critical Bench: What got you into strongman training?
I fell in love with strength sports when I was in high school. I then went on to Syracuse and UMASS where I threw the hammer and the discus. I was setting a couple of school records. When I graduated from school I moved to Boston and met coworker John Sullivan who eventually convinced me to give strongman a try. After training with the group of guys in Andover I fell in love with the sport!
2) Critical Bench: Tell us about your strongman routine? How do you train?
I am a firm believer in listening to my body when it comes to program design. I usually don't know what I'm going to be doing that day until I get there and see how I feel. When preparing for a competition I will usually hit events twice a week and I train at the gym two or three times a week. During the rest of the year (off season) I spend most of my time in the gym. I might train events once a week.
A normal week of training will involve lots of Olympic lifts and variations like 1 arm snatches, lots of single leg support exercises like Bulgarian squats, step ups, and lunges. So a typical lower day may look like this
The other two gym days will be upper days. One day consisting of some speed and max effort presses and the second day consisting of heavy rows and pull downs.
Event day is a little different. Unless I am training for a specific competition, I will usually play it by ear. I will normally hit 4 or 5 events, which would usually consist of an overhead event, endurance event like a medley, explosive event like tire flip, a grip event and of course stones.
There is no reason for the last one besides the fact that I LOVE DOING STONES !
3) Critical Bench: What competitions have you entered? How did you perform in the events?
During my first year of competing (2003) I competed in quite a few NAS events and ended up doing quite well for a newbie. During my second year I won my pro card by placing first at the Azalea Festival competing against a great field of light weights including Wessels, Nowack, Mazza, and Lambousis. I ended 2004 by placing a respectable fourth at the Pro Strongman National Championships.
My next comp was a pro-am was put on by Art Mcdermott at the Highland games World championships. This comp was special for me because I was to be the only lightweight in a field of heavyweight pros and amateurs. The line up was Dan Ford, Walt Gogola, Grant higga, Jim Glassman, Derek Hurley and a bunch of other great competitors. I ended the day placing 2nd overall to Dan Ford only missing first by 1 point which would have been there had I completed 1 one rep in the log press (that sucker was awkward !) Even though I placed second, this was my most proud finish to date.
In spring of 2005 I won the 12th Annual Central USA strongman challenge Pro Am. Another great competition, Eric Todd and I were neck and neck until the last event. I think I squeezed out 2 extra reps on the car dead to win it! Chad Coy did a great job putting this show on.
Lightweight Pro Nationals 2005 was the biggest competition of my life. We knew that one, if not two competitors would be invited to worlds after this one. Besides the injuries that I have been dealing with for some time I felt great coming into this one. After winning stones (final event) I put myself .5 points behind Kevin Nowack and secured my place in China for Worlds!
During training for china I managed to tear my right soleus badly. I wasn't sure if I would make it but after two weeks of intensive therapy and some magic ankle braces I was on the plane ready to go. Long story short, I ended up tearing my right bicep during the tire flip in the first event. I attempted the conan's wheel and pole push the next day and then was told to withdraw. I didn't regret anything and I knew I was risking further injury by competing. I wasn't about to let a couple of muscle tears stop me from taking advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.
(for more details about Brad's strongman journey, visit http://pinnaclestrength.com/pages/4/index.htm )
4) Critical Bench: Do you train at all right now? How hard is it dealing with your injury?
- The calf tear and the bicep tear are both very hard for me to deal with. Because I didn't get surgery on the calf and the recovery will take quite some time. It has been almost 6 months already. The bicep should come back to close to 100% but I probably still have a few months to go there as well.
The first few months post surgery were very depressing. Since I started hitting the weights again recently I feel much better, however it is very hard for me to be happy using chest machines and doing 30lb dumbbell curls. Hopefully in another few months I will be able to start hitting some more explosive movements and pulls, this will make me a happy man!
I do plan on making a return, the only question is when? I'm not too concerned about coming back as strong as I was before, because I know it will take some time and I have to be patient. I know I will always be strong, and that is all I need to know. Will I ever be known as one of the strongest lightweights in the country again? I don't know the answer to that question. I do know that when I can start training heavy again I am going to give it everything I can and be happy with the outcome, whatever it may be.
For now I have to focus on Excel Sports and Fitness, and getting healthy. I know that all of my strongman experiences have definitely changed my life for the best, and I just hope there are more to come in the future.
5) Critical Bench: Tell us about some of your most impressive feats of strength that you have performed before?
Here is just some of my better performances over the past few years.
12" Log clean and jerk 300 lbs
first lightweight in the country to load the 420 stone
farmers walk 315 per hand 150 ft. no drops
18" deadlift 860 lbs
1 arm snatch 175lbs (need heavier dumbells)
car deadlift true 650 lbs 6 reps
deadlift 700 lbs
my most impressive feat of strength isn't a feat of strength at all. There is no better feeling than to beat an entire field of competitors that are all stronger than you, in a sport called strongman. I am always nervous, always think I'm going to lose, never the strongest guy there, but in the end athleticism and determination always seem to carry me to the top
6) Critical Bench: What would you like to tell the future generation of strongman what to do when they train, and what would you like to tell them not to do?
Train athleticism and speed! There are so many guys out there that are my size and trying to move weights that the heavies have trouble with. You will eventually break down, as I did. If you are 250 lbs or lighter you will benefit from being quick on your feet and explosive more so than being able to pull 800 lbs.
Also train smart! The lower back can take quite a beating from this type of training. Makes sure you are only doing heavy pulls once every 7 to 10 days. Let the low back recover. I spent too long doing stones and deads every week, and all I have to show for it is a herniated disk.
7) Critical Bench: Tell us about your most hardcore strongman story?
Besides the Abdominal hernia, umbilical hernia, torn pec, torn hamstring, torn soleus, torn bicep, herniated disk and various other injuries I've competed through !
I guess that would have to be the deadlift at the Azalea. It was great, during my 860 pull in the Partial dead I broke some blood vessels and blood started pouring out of my nose! Then when it was time for my attempt at 900 lbs it started again but I couldn't lock it out. So, I'm sitting there trying to hitch the weight and every time I pulled, more blood would gush out all over the floor. The crowd loved it!
8) Critical Bench: I think that is the most hardcore weight lifting story that Critical Bench has ever delivered before! So, What has been your most memorable moment?
China! The people I met, the friends I made, and the events I competed in before my injury! This was definitely my most memorable strongman experience.
9) Critical Bench: what is the toughest part about strongman training and what is it about strongman training that you love so much?
- The toughest part about strongman training for me was the amount of time I had to put in, in order to be competitive with the other pros out there. I trained events 1 hour and 20 minutes away, so my event days were always literally a day long. I enjoy every aspect of strongman training, but sometimes it is hard to get yourself up on a Saturday morning to go load the 420 stone a few times then deadlift, log press, sled drag, farmers walk.....you get the idea. Besides that and training through all of the injuries I have had to deal with, there really isn't anything tough about it at all. You just have to be a little crazy!
10) Critical Bench: Tell us a little bit about your family life?
I had a great family life growing up as a child. I have a younger brother Ben, and my parents. They have always supported me no matter what I was trying to accomplish. Due to complications when I was born I came out with a detached retina in my right. I have been blind in my right eye since birth and my parents still supported me when I told them I wanted to play football, be a bouncer at the bars in Boston etc....
Without the values I was taught and the support I received over the years from my family, I would not be where I am today.
11) Critical Bench: What are your future goals?
Very simple, get healthy! Right now I don't have any plans to compete again. I am going to wait until my arm and calf start feeling better. As soon as I feel like I am 80% I will start training again. It's going to be a long process and I have to be patient.
12) Critical Bench: Any final words?
Thanks for the interview! I suppose now would be the time to plug my new Personal training Facility. Training partner/friend John Sullivan and I are opening a training facility in Waltham MA. We will be in full swing by June and should have a grand opening by late May. Excel Sports and Fitness can be found on Bear Hill rd between exits 26 and 27 on 128/95 in Waltham. We will be fully equipped with top of the line powerlifting, strongman, and Olympic lifting equipment and will be available for private one on one, or team sport specific training. You will be able to find more information at excelstrength.com which will be up very soon!