Bill Briley: Bloody but Unbowed

What’s your training background? I know you were already lifting weights when you were in the Army; how did you get started with lifting?

I was a late bloomer when it comes to lifting. To be honest I was a traditional New Year’s resolutionist. I made up my mind to join a gym 1 Jan 2009.

What caused you to finally pull the trigger and start a training program?

I knew I always wanted to have a muscular build, I was just too lazy to commit until that New Year’s resolution. I had no idea what I was doing…While in the Army we maintained a certain level of fitness to pass physical fitness tests, but morning “PT” as the Army called it was designed to maintain soldier fitness and almost all improvements beyond that required some extra effort on the soldiers’ part which in most cases didn’t happen.

And what led you to start training at home?

No gyms within a close drive to my house. It would take me forty minutes to get there, ninety minutes training then the drive home. It turned the gym in to a 4 hour ordeal.

What did you start your garage gym with?

I started with a beat up Smith machine I found on Offer Up. After that I made my squat/power rack.

bill briley deadliftsYou also built deadlift blocks for your garage gym, what other DIY projects have you done?

I have made a decline bench, seated bench for shoulder pressing etc, preacher curl with seat, deadlift platform, strongman log out of telephone pole and a few other small things here and there.

You posted that you now have 700lbs of weight in your gym; where’s your favorite place to buy weights, do you get them mostly from Craigslist or Play It Again Sports?

I picked up most of the 45s at play it again. Our local store in Fayetteville, Ga has a pretty steady flow of good equipment so I drop in every once in a while just to check it out.

List your garage gym equipment. What do you plan to add next?

Smith machine with chest fly and cables, fully functional squat rack, all benches from incline, flat, decline, preacher curl, multiple strong man logs, axle bar bell, several traditional barbells, farmers carry bars, trap bar, deadlift platform and a small set up dumbbells.  I would like to buy a legpress/hack squat combo machine.

How did you get into strongman?

I was deployed in 2011 and a fitness magazine had Derick Poundstone on the cover. Read his article and was hooked on the sport. The variety and challenges the sport offers keeps things interesting.

What are you best contest results to date?

I have only competed in the civilian world once and that was heavy weight novice-1st place.

What are your best numbers?

  • Squat 485
  • Bench 400
  • Deadlift 600.

How does your family see strongman? Is it pretty much that crazy thing Dad does or are they into it?

bill briley shows his wife holding his strongman log

My wife got a new appreciation for strongman after she saw me compete

My wife tolerates strongman but I think she got a new appreciation after she saw me compete. She had no other reference of what strong looked like until she saw men unable to even pick up the farmer walk bars.

Speaking of crazy things, tell me what led to you doing overhead presses in just a towel.

Been working shoulders a lot lately, and went to garage to get my phone charger and thought, wonder if I can press that with no warm up. Sometimes I go out the next morning and think man, I lifted heavy last night and can’t move the bar not warmed up.

I’ve seen plenty of people work out in their pajamas and one dude in a gas mask while I was deployed to Iraq but you are the first one to ever work out in the towel! Is that the most unusual outfit you’ve ever worn to train?

Yes, that was a one and done sort of thing. I’m sure my brain will come up with other crazy ideas in the future.

Switching gears, you almost died a year ago. Talk about what you learned about yourself from the experience.

I wish my injury was as cool as a lifting accident but I stepped off a small porch and slipped. my leg sort of went behind me and I sat down on it. I didnt know it at the time, but I had ripped my quad which lead to blood clots going in my lungs and heart.

You said you that part of your left lung died; what was the road to recovery like?

It was a challenge and still is when it comes to cardio. I have to use my rescue inhaler a lot these days. Its an injury that I just have to live with.

With all of your health problems, it would be so much easier to quit strongman and just pursue general fitness, whatever that means, what drives you to not give up on your dream?

I enjoy the challenge and camraderie associated with strongman.  I can’t let medical issues dictate my life so I just push forward. I have always been competitive both in civilian world and Army. I couldn’t live my life without competing at something.

Bill Briley doing T Bar Rows

I try to do traditional muscle group training and toss in strongman events on those days.

How have you had to adjust your training so you can still pursue your dream of competing successfully in strongman?

I try to do traditional muscle group training and toss in strong man events during those days. I have noticed if I just devote all my time to strongman training I end up losing power on other lifts that aren’t really challenged while doing strongman. It’s a  very shoulder driven sport so  a lot of the training consists of tons of presses.

You paid for training to learn how to properly do Atlas Stones. Before that experience, you hadn’t paid for training you said in a long time. Do you plan to make workshop attendance or seminars a part of your yearly training plan going forward?

I earned my personal trainer certification but prior to that I never paid for any physical training outside of strongman contest prep.  I do however recommend someone with no experience to seek out quality training before jumping in to some program online. For me, I suffered some bad shoulder problems early on from trying to go too heavy too fast. The money for training really is money well spent.

What are your goals for 2018 and 2019?

Keep training and competing. Competing in February 2018 at the Palehorse Challenge in Spartanburg, SC.

Have you considered doing other strength sports, like Highland Games, Grip Sport or track and field throwing events?

Funny you should ask about Highland Games because I was just looking in to that. I think strongman and Highland Games have a lot of similarities. Big men lifting strange objects.

You can follow Bill Briley on Instagram @bill.barbell

About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on Amazon.com.

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