Going on the Record with ATWR Holder Heidi Howar

TAGS: Heidi Howar, JP Carroll, all time world record, westside barbell, interview, meet prep, weight, Louie Simmons, weight loss, injury, recovery, powerlifting, training

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I sat down, which in this day and age means I emailed back and forth, with 30-year-old Huber Heights, Ohio, native and all-time world record holder Heidi Howar. We talked shop, her training at Westside, being an ATWR holder, and ultimately, we about the traumatic injury she suffered recently while chasing yet another all-time world record.

Heidi isn’t into sports, as some might think with her being as strong as she is. She jokes about being in ballet and tap. “You know, the crap your mom makes you do when you're her first daughter.”


RECENT: How I Trained for a 600-Pound Bench


She gave softball a run for a couple of seasons, but that also didn't stick; she just wasn't into sports.

After the birth of her daughter, Heidi wanted to get back in shape and just be healthy. Falling into the “cardio is king,” or in this case, queen, mindset, she realized early on it just wasn't cutting it for her. She soon found herself in the weight room, where she started to enjoy strength training. After attending her first powerlifting meet as a spectator, she knew right there and then she wanted to be on the platform.

Hitting the platform for the first time in December 2013 weighing in at 128, Heidi competed raw and totaled 765 pounds via a 315-pound squat, a 150-pound bench, and a 300-pound deadlift, securing her a first place spot in her first meet. Fast-forward to last full meet at the WPO, she competed at 132 in the multi-ply division, where she totaled 1504.6 via a 617-pound squat, a 385.8-pound bench, and finished the day off with a 501.5-pound deadlift, racking up a 760.91 wilks.

Heidi currently holds the ATWR squat of 617 pounds in her respective weight class. She also holds the deadlift ATWR at 535, and her 1,505 total is also an ATWR — to top all that off, she has the strongest female coefficient on the planet.

In July 2018, Heidi was offered a sponsorship to train at Westside Barbell Club in Columbus, Ohio. She recalls sitting across from Louie Simmons and being offered the chance and taking a few days to answer.

At the time, she was training with a great group of girls for four years and had great coaches in that timeframe as well. Knowing she would have to travel hours to train, leave behind people she appreciated and learned from, and accept the fact she would be pushed physically and mentally more than ever.

Heidi explained that there is nothing wrong with remembering where she came from while starting a new journey to better herself. All of these thoughts were overwhelming and scary, but she accepted the challenge— in some weird way, she even welcomed it.

Her first week at Westside was like a punch in the gut. She THOUGHT she was conditioned. She quickly realized she was wrong. Every single movement Lou tested her on, she struggled. She wasn’t used to struggling so much. She recalls him loading the cambered bar on the deadlift platform with an 8-inch box and told her she was going to do a max conventional pull on the 8-inch deficit. She thought to herself, “This is insanity,” but she did it. She got better every week and saw there was a method to his madness.

Having a new home and a new view, Heidi has her eyes on the 148 class and wants to take down a 1,600-pound total. Heidi walks around in the 150s, so her cuts to 132 were brutal. She is very lean, so 20 pounds is like 15 percent of her overall body weight. What she endures in her meet prep to make weight while still putting up ATWR numbers is impressive.


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Heidi knew what weight she needed to be each day, what to eat, what to feel, and exactly how much water to drink that day to make it. She usually wears a suit in the sauna because she doesn’t sweat. She normally water cuts most of it and then saunas off the last six or so pounds.

The worst part for her is spending so much time in the sauna. She says it can fuck with you, but she never lost sight of her goal, ever. When it got tough, she would go through the lifts in her head and just repeat her numbers to herself.

Heidi loves all three lifts, but if she had to choose one, it would probably be the squat. She has a love/hate relationship with squat because she feels so good about it, and then she gets in full gear and is in tears. “It’s all uncomfortable, and it fucking sucks, but that’s why I love it.”

With it being such a challenge, she had to earn every pound. Her glutes sucked, so her pick-up was shit. Once she fixed that and her full gear pick-up, she became a little more comfortable and chased ATWRs with the squat, the lift, she loved to hate. The world record squat was 556. When she first went for it, she squatted 560 and fell into the rack, so it didn’t count. She waited six months to get it, but she finally got it. Now she’s worked her way up to 617 at 132.

With all the positives and world records, Heidi has had some tough physical challenges to overcome between taking down the huge numbers. She endured a traumatic injury at her last meet attempting: a 415-pound bench at 148 which she needed if she was going to break the ATWR total at 148. She suffered a compound fracture while locking out the 415-pound ATWR attempts. I’ll let Heidi explain this part in her words; I don’t feel me paraphrasing it would do her telling justice:

This arm has been giving me trouble for years, but I never really imagined anything this severe. Actually, a year ago, I got a small fracture in it benching my opener at the women’s pro-am. I’ve been trying to bench 402 at 132 for quite a few meets. Fast forward to this meet in York, Pennsylvania. I always wanted to compete at York Barbell Club. If I had hit all my numbers, I would have broken the 148 ATWR total. I PR’d my squat, PR’d my bench, and I had finally benched 400! In the warm-up room, my bench usually feels awful. It felt great. Like really good. I had the confidence to finally bench something over 4. I took my opener at 385, smoked it, took 400 and smoked that, too, so I jumped to 415. I remember taking this, and I got it off my chest just fine and then seeing my entire left arm snap right in half. I can literally still hear this snap.

That will never go away. I remember saying, “No, no, no,” and then just screaming. This can’t be happening to me. I was almost waiting to wake up from a bad dream. It was real. I knew I broke my arm, but I couldn’t look at it. I heard someone say my bones were sticking out, and then I freaked out. It was excruciating. It took a really long time for an ambulance to get to me and everyone just kept telling me to hold on. Over an hour later, I was still in so much pain. I got to the hospital and at that point, I was begging them to give me something or knock me out. The trauma team cut off my bench shirt and all my clothes to prepare me for emergency surgery. I remember them telling me they had to put my bones back in, and then I could go to sleep. That’s the last thing I remember.

I broke the radius and ulna. I have plates in both of them. It’s been three weeks, and the recovery hasn’t been too terrible. I learned how to do everything one-handed. I don’t have any nerve damage and I can extend my arm full range. I’m back in the gym doing what I can. I’m using specialty bars or Zercher harnesses to get my squats in. I’ve already started to mentally prepare myself for getting myself back under the bar for benching. I know it will be difficult, but I can do it. I’ve talked to people that have had this injury, and that has helped a ton. The people in my corner are amazing, helpful, and positive. The support I have received during this has been incredible, and I thank every one of you. I will be back stronger.

I’ve had the pleasure of training with Heidi, and she is humble and only has ever spoken highly of anyone she's come across in her journey for greatness. Heidi is the real deal, a meathead who’s willing to do what it takes to become, and in her case, stay the best.

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