“Lifting will make you look like a man”, “that muscle will turn to fat quicksticks when you stop training”, “weights and women are just unnecessary”. These are just a few catchphrases and myths we are all familiar with when it comes to women and powerlifting. Fortunately, none of them are true and this Sunday, sixty women will be competing in “Ladies of Lifting”, a novice powerlifting competition for which registration was booked out within 48 hours.
Ladies of Lifting is the brainchild of Burley Strength owners John Sheridan and Simeran Maxwell who held the inaugural novice powerlifting competition last year. “We wanted to create a positive space where women of all ages and fitness levels could explore their full potential and help a local community organisation at the same time,” Mr Sheridan explains.
“Women are often under the misconception that strength-based lifting is bad for them or will make them big and bulky. This is a total myth and if they do find the secret to quick bulking, they would make a fortune in the fitness industry with dudes!”
All proceeds from the event will be donated to Beryl Women Inc. a specialist domestic violence service and refuge working within a feminist framework aiming to empower women and children to live a life free from violence and abuse.
If you’re confused about exactly what powerlifting is, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Powerlifting, often confused with weightlifting and CrossFit, is a strength-based sport. There are three lifts members of the sport attempt to master; squats (a bar on your back with balanced weights on either side of the bar that lifters hold and squat from a standing position and hopefully get back up), bench press (we all know this one) and deadlift (picking up a bar with balanced weights from the floor to standing position and hoping you don’t drop it). In the Ladies of Lifting, women will have three attempts to reach their maximum weight and gain a total overall score of their highest squat, bench press and deadlift.
Medina Hajdarevic is an elite Powerlifter who started to explore strength training in 2009. “I was scared that a 60kg deadlift would give me a back injury, so like many women who start strength training it was very light weight high rep work to begin with. I then got interested in bodybuilding and finally decided I wanted to give competing as a powerlifter a go in 2013 and I haven’t looked back since.”
Ms Hajdarevic believes that once people begin to do research and work with knowledgeable people who have good reputations in the industry, myths and worries around getting injured from weight training slowly dissipate.
“I think the biggest myth is that women themselves sometimes think they ‘can’t’ lift heavy weights or that they’ll injure themselves,” she says.
“Surround yourself with good coaches and good team members who know what they are doing, build your knowledge base, your technique and then you’ll feel confident and prevent injury.”
Ms Hajdarevic believes all women should try powerlifting. “Your body does so much for you, we all jiggle, don’t let that stop you from experiencing fun new things. There really is nothing more empowering for a woman than powerlifting. You go from thinking why aren’t my legs smaller to wow look at these things they can squat that! Learn to use your body, respect what it does for you and you’ll learn to love it.”
Ms Hajdarevic’s best lifts to date include 205kg Squat, 82.5kg bench and a 182.5kg deadlift.
Robyn Martin, Manager of Beryl Women Inc., is thrilled to be engaged in the ongoing partnership with Burley Strength and Ladies of Lifting.
“The money raised will go directly toward assisting our clients, not into a general budget but specifically programs that assist children or women directly,” she says.
Ms Martin reminds us all that women seeking refuge sometimes don’t have a thing with them when they flee violence. “Depending on what the client needs are at the time. It might be school items, school uniforms, book packs that will help them fit in once they enter the refuge. It could be purchasing clothes and helping with food. It is essential money that Beryl Women Inc. needs to support our clients with essential daily needs that we often don’t have all the funds required for.”
All Canberrans are welcome to watch the competition on Sunday kicking off 11am at Burley Strength gym, 147/9 Gladstone St, Fyshwick and are invited to actively participate in social media to encourage the women who are lifting on the day.
Top, Medina Hajdarevic. Photo: The Barbelle Club