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Look Like A Lady, Lift Like A Man: Banishing Female Powerlifter Stereotypes

What is the first image that comes to mind when you think of a female powerlifter? Could it be an axe swinging bearded lady? Or maybe someone with a pretty face attached to a He-Man body? Well neither could be further from the truth.

Most women fear powerlifting because of the stereotypical reaction of society towards strong females. A woman who is too masculine is normally viewed as unladylike and in most cases is seen as a misfit trying hard to be like men. In reality, there is nothing wrong with a strong woman but people live within the confines of what is considered generally acceptable, and a powerlifting female is usually viewed by most as too strong for her gender. To that end, many women who would like to engage in this disciplined sport shy away because of how they would be perceived. Their quest ultimately hindered by gender stereotypes.

What people fail to realize is that it is possible for women to powerlift without becoming “too big and bulky”. Through specific weight training routines, they can obtain toned bodies and wonderful physiques minus the bulkiness and masculinity that is often associated with power lifting. In order to understand this fully we must first understand the difference between building muscle strength and building muscle mass. So here it is in a nutshell:


Our muscles are made up of many fibers. These fibers are recruited to help complete a task anytime we engage in activity. Some activities require more fibers to be recruited than others. For instance, the fibers needed for you to pick up a glass of water are less than the fibers needed for you to deadlift 200 pounds. Gaining strength and power is done when we train our bodies to activate more existing muscle fibers as opposed to growing new ones. And on the other hand, building muscle mass is creating more fibers altogether. So basically training for strength and power does not require bigger muscle!

With fitness and nutrition awareness being at an all time high, the days when people would pack on mass by any means necessary to acquire strength are diminishing, especially among females.  Physique is celebrated more than ever nowadays and being in shape is an advantage for powerlifters.  We see more and more women joining the ranks of this sport because they are learning that you don’t have to look like a man to be strong. Through proper diet and specific training female powerlifters can learn to deadlift, squat, and bench press hundreds of pounds without having huge Schwarzenegger biceps. Not to mention powerlifting is a fun and exciting sport with many health and mental benefits.

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author: Chanae Smith

Chanae Smith is an aspiring Fitness Model, Bodybuilder, Power Lifter, and mother of two. She is a Certified Personal Trainer at Knight's Gym in Philadelphia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of PA and two PA state powerlifting records. Chanae received her Personal Training Certification in 2013. Primarily using weight lifting to regain her youthful physique, its no wonder she has become a die hard advocate in support of weight training for females. At Knight's Gym she has helped develop and facilitate various trainings that incorporate the use of weights sensitive to the needs of women.

Nyla Prince

Awesome!!!!! I trust your instructions and guidance through my journey!!!

YaLanda Graham

It’s so wonderful to see this. I often hate it when woman say that using weights will have you looking like a man. I look forward to following.

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