I made a return to the Arnold Sports Festival competition platform this past weekend in Columbus, Ohio. The Arnold Sports Festival features nearly 100 different events and sports with over 200,000 spectators spanning over four days.

 Arnold Pro Deadlift

This was the ninth time that I have competed in the Arnold Pro Deadlift event. I have been fortunate to win this event six times, but I have had a five-year break since my last appearance. In addition to the Pro Deadlift event, I have been involved in the Arnold Sports Festival in many ways since 2002. I have been a competitor and judge in the Arnold Pro Strongman event, helped run the biggest grip contest in the world with my brothers Karl and Wade, and have participated in multiple strength seminars.

Training Prep

My training could not have been much worse leading up to this contest. In December, I was very optimistic that I would be able to pull in the low 800’s. Training was feeling great and I was moving weights in the gym that I had not lifted for several years.

Unfortunately, a string of minor injuries, medical issues and one of the worst Minnesota winter in the last 20 years took a toll on me. Several lifters on the roster dropped out this year, and I decided I was not going to be one of them. Getting a chance to compete in the Arnold does not come easy and at the age of 52 I am not about to take anything for granted.

The Competition

With all the dropouts the Men’s Class was very small, but the Masters II (>50) Superheavyweight Class was well represented. Multiple time Arnold competitor, Sean Culnan, was also back on the Arnold platform after a several year absence along with USA Powerlifting veteran Eric Kupperstein. Sean and I are good friends and longtime competitors. We have been competing against each other for 25 years, and have represented USA together on several World Teams.

 Taking the Platform

It is always a challenge to get warmed up at the Arnold. The main EXPO stage is a good distance from the warm up area, and all athletes are introduced prior to the competition. This results in a longer delay than usual between your last warm up and the first attempt.

Keeping this in mind, I opened very light with 670 lbs. On my second pull unfortunately, I had a slight bobble at the top with my 716 lbs. and it was turned down 2-1. Sean opened with 711 lbs. and pulled 744 lbs. on his second. I needed to pull 750 lbs. to move into first and break the Masters II American Record.

I did not want to jeopardize being stuck with 670 lbs. so I decided to attempt just what I needed to move into the lead. The lift went up slow, but smooth and I temporarily moved into first place.

Sean stepped up next and pulled a long hard pull with 760 lbs. to win the event, and re-break the >50 American Record. Congratulations to Sean on winning the Arnold Pro Deadlift!

Overall, it was great to be lifting back at the Arnold. I am satisfied with pulling 750 lbs. and placing 2nd considering how my training went, but I am disappointed that my training did not go better. It is still a quest of mine to get back over 800 lbs., and after a short time off, I will be training towards making that goal.

Train smart, stay healthy, set your goals high!

Hall of Fame Powerlifter Brad Gillingham

Brad Gillingham

Brad Gillingham is a Hall of Fame Powerlifter who is a 6-time IPF World Powerlifting Champion and has more than 30 IPF World Championship medals under his belt.  Brad is the co-owner of Jackals Gym where he coaches a variety of athletes.  Brad is also strength and conditioning coach for wrestling and volleyball at Southwest Minnesota State University.


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