Powerlifters Joe Sullivan and Brianny Terry disclose the hurdles of being in a relationship as elite competitors and what it takes to keep the relationship strong.
Being an elite strength sports athlete can make a relationship challenging. But what’s even more demanding is when two strength sports, elite ones for that matter, form a connection. In our latest Legends Of Iron podcast episode, powerlifting and bodybuilding couple Brianny Terry (26) and Joe Sullivan (29) join the podcast hosted by Jon Anderson, Nick Best, and Akim Willaim to discuss the challenges of being together as elite strength sports athletes. And they disclose how other competitors in relationships can keep their relationship strong.
Brianny Terry is a powerlifter turned bodybuilder. Brianny Terry holds the world record for deadlift in the 75-kilogram class. The podcast started lighthearted with Joe Sullivan jokingly disclosing how technically Brianny Terry is stronger on the Dots Score–the bodyweight coefficient of how strong someone is relative to their bodyweight, gender, etc. Then, it got real and dished out an inside look at how they handle their relationship together, despite being elite powerlifters.
Joe Sullivan and Brianny Terry on Training Together
The Legends of Iron podcast host Jon Anderson started the podcast by asking how they successfully prep for contests despite many couples’ failed attempts. Brianny Terry stated:
“Sometimes it’s just like a day-by-day thing. Like, I think we communicate like really well on what the other needs. And we both understand what it’s like to be an elite athlete, so it’s kinda easier to give the other person grace, you know. Like, lately, Joe’s been having a fucking hard time ’cause he’s tired with prep and things like that. So it’s like, I think of what I would want done for me if I was in that situation, whether it’s prepping food, preparing supplements, a pre-workout shake, shit like that, like, trying to find a way to make that person’s life easier.
And if there’s like an issue that goes past that we, I feel like, I’m more of the person that needs to cool off a little bit before I like talk about an issue. Joe kinda wants to solve it right now. So he allows me to have a little bit of space when I need it. And I can cool down, and we like sit down and talk about it. Because at the end of the day, we both realize like we are individuals, but we’re on the same team. We’re both working towards the same thing. We want the other to succeed. And sometimes that might require a little bit of sacrifice and taking some shit on the chin because that’s not the time for it right now.”
Joe Sullivan opened up about his dark and troubled past and hardships–at one point, he busted his head open by banging his head on a cement pole and attempted suicide–and how therapy helped him cope, become a better person, express his emotions, and control his anger more effectively.
As a result, Sullivan said he’s emotional, and Terry is more straight to the point. It’s easier for Terry to move on, but Sullivan takes longer to get over things. They also discussed how they want to be each other’s partners, not a coach. Which they credit with helping keep the peace and the relationship functional.
Joe Sullivan and Brianny Terry disclosed how they met in 2020 at the canceled Arnold competition and ended up deadlifting together at a lifting convention. That led to their first date, meeting Joe Sullivan’s family on Thanksgiving.
Next, the couple talked about their career highlights.
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Brianny Terry says she’s been powerlifting since 2017. And within a year and a half, she was the world record holder in the 165-pound weight class for deadlifts after deadlifting 558 lbs. And with her most recent show, Terry said she totaled 1366 lbs hitting 474 lbs squat, 292 lbs bench press, and 600 lbs deadlift.
Terry then transitioned to bodybuilding, winning in Women’s Physique in her first competition.
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Joe Sullivan has been powerlifting for a while, with his first competition in 2007 when he was 14 years old. Sullivan was a high school athlete and was all-state in football and wrestling in Michigan. And he ended up doing collegiate wrestling, which he credits wrestling for his mental fortitude. In 2015, Sullivan did his first pro total and hit 1750 lbs at 198 lbs. He went on to break the junior all-time world record in 2019, totaling 2121 lbs–865 lbs squat, 507 lbs bench, and 749 lbs deadlift. Sullivan admitted he wasn’t training smart, though. He stated:
“And then continued to train, continued to train, and wasn’t smart about it, like a lot of the time. Like, there was a lot of reckless drug use, a lot of reckless training. Still, still being the overly aggressive, like, fuck you, kill me, like go way into the dark shit to like try and do this stuff.”
He then dove in on how he went viral from a video of him squatting that got 15 million views which caused a herniated disc in his neck and other injuries to his left peck and arm. But despite numerous injuries, Sullivan broke the all-time world record squat in the open category in the 220 weight class, squatting 822 lbs, then broke it again a year later with 838 lbs.
Sullivan is fortunate that he’s been able to work through his injury due to some unconventional training. He said he got his body used to neurologically lifting the weights rather than relying on carbs and muscle glycogen–a training methodology Olympic sprinters utilize, glycolytic-style training.
Advice for Other Strength Sports Couples and Athletes
To close out the podcast, Anderson asked if the power couple had any advice for other elite powerlifting and bodybuilding couples. And on how to succeed in strength sports and bodybuilding.
Terry alluded to what she said earlier and said to put yourself in another person’s shoes and think before speaking. And recognize that your partner deserves grace and is on your team. And sometimes, you need to take things on the chin, sacrifice, and develop a sound communication system.
Sullivan followed up with that and said that you’re both individuals, and no one wants to break up. Take a step back and realize that your partner is not trying to hurt you; it’s just happening out of not communicating how you’re feeling. Sullivan acknowledges that there’s no shame in counseling or therapy and has been credited for allowing him to express his emotions better and overcoming drug abuse.
Finally, Anderson asked the couple what it takes to succeed in strength sports. Brianny Terry said it’s essential to believe in yourself to succeed as a women’s strength athlete and bodybuilder, and that consistency is crucial and to surround yourself with winners. To add to what Terry said, Sullivan said it’s essential to show up even when you don’t feel like it. And that there’s always an opportunity to improve.
The Legends Of Iron podcast provided its viewers an insight into how a relationship works between two elite strength sports competitors. Plus, they delve into tips to keep a strong relationship no matter where you’re at and what it takes to accomplish any goal. Watch this inspiring and informative podcast episode above for a full recap of Joe Sullivan’s and Brianny Terry’s interview with the Legend Of Iron podcast crew. And check back every other Thursday for new episodes on the Generation Iron Fitness Network.