Depending on your perspective, thirty years ago is either as fast as a blink of an eye or as long as a lifetime, a lifetime if you're looking at things from the lens of a 25-year-old and a blink of an eye if you're looking at the world with regards to the formation of the planets, solar system, or the universe. In general, when we talk about thirty years and we take fast changes like technology out of the equation, thirty years ago is fairly recent. Thirty years ago, you could still jump on a plane and listen to a CD. Thirty years ago, you could look back in history at the moon landing or footage of the destructive power of splitting the atom.

Let's change perspective yet again, this time from the world’s view of a woman. Travel back in time some thirty years ago. If you're a fly on a wall in the right room, this would put you right in the middle of a great debate, the debate being should women be allowed to run the marathon in the 1984 Olympics. Why was this even a debate, you ask. Truth be told, women at that time were looked at (by the men in charge of the International Olympic Committee) not only as too physically weak to run the marathon but also as a liability because the concern was that they could die participating in a sport that so many men couldn't physically complete.

I know—WTH, right? The current record for the women’s marathon is two hours and fifteen minutes. For us powerlifting, non-marathon runners out there, many consider running to the fridge for our next meal a good run. Imagine running a mile in five minutes and fifteen seconds and then doing that for 26.2 miles.

Looking back, I'm not sure which is more degrading—believing that a woman couldn't physically handle the training or competition of the marathon or the act of actually forbidding women from competing in the marathon.

Thank goodness men of today are far more sophisticated than they were in 1984. They would never presume that a woman lacked the physical ability to compete in a sport, right? Right? Unfortunately, enlightenment doesn't always come with time. We still hear some guys at the corporate type gyms say things like, “Seriously, honey, you keep lifting weights and you will look like a man.” “Hey ladies, let me show you the right way to do that, although my guess is that you girls are just at the gym to meet a guy anyway.” “I go four or five sets, but being a woman, you probably should cut that by 50 percent.”

As a male powerlifter, I would like to think that there is a difference between how a male powerlifter looks at a woman powerlifter versus how John Doe, member of blah blah blah 24-hour fitness this and that, looks at a woman powerlifter. But truth be told, I have no idea nor do I have some amazing insight or clairvoyance into the world of women powerlifters that gives me the credentials to help you, the male powerlifter, ‘see the light’ and understand more when it comes to women powerlifters. What I do know is that if men are from Mars and women are from Venus, there are some bad *ss powerlifters on Venus and it would behoove us Martians to learn about these amazing powerlifters. I also know that if you want insight into something you know next to nothing about, talk to someone involved in that something…and that is just exactly what I did.

I spent some time talking with and interviewing some currently active women powerlifters. These lifters range in experience from brand new to the sport to seasoned competitors. They were asked a number of questions, but the best question, for our purposes, is, what five things should men know about women powerlifters?

Here are their top twenty answers. I hope that this information helps you gain some insight because I know it definitely opened up my eyes to a great many things.


    1. We’re not training with you to date you.
    2. We’re here to train just as hard as you.
    3. We know what we are doing.  Advice is welcomed as long as it is not demeaning.
    4. Don’t be afraid to spot us.
    5. If you think female powerlifters are “too manly,” you should probably lift more.
    6. Don’t coddle me in the gym. Just because I am a woman doesn't mean I won't train as hard as you.  Because of my size, I won't be able to push as much weight as you, but I will definitely try as hard as you.
    7. Don't assume because I am both a woman and a powerlifter that I am dumb.  I know lifters in general have the stereotype of being dumb and shallow.  I am neither.
    8. Don't assume you know me from the way I look.
    9. When you say "women powerlifters" most people instantly have a stereotype in mind.  Many would assume that she must be a big, burly, manly looking woman that just wants to be a "dude" deep down inside.  Trust me, this is so far from the truth.  I have no desire to have bits and pieces hanging between my legs.  I love being a woman.  I like makeup, fashion, high heels, nail polish etc....just like most women.  I just happen to also like pushing a lot of weight.  I do not look like a man, nor do I want to be a man. I want to be a strong woman.
    10. We pay attention to detail, so give us feedback. Don’t just say “good job” and move on.
    11. We want to be challenged and coached. We are comfortable training with guys…don’t baby us.
    12. We can usually handle more volume, so while following the same training as the guys can be good, know that our training needs are different as well.
    13. Let us take more warm-up sets. We can’t just “quarter, plate, quarter, plate” like you guys do. Let us build volume in our warm-up sets.
    14. We don't want to hear we're too muscular. We are not lifting to impress you!
    15. Just because we lift weights we are still feminine in every single way.
    16. I don’t like when you just stare like you’ve never seen a woman lift weights before. SAY SOMETHING!!! Nice ass.....good lift.....great body....anything.
    17. I don’t need to take it easy because I’m a woman. I want to go hard and lift heavy.
    18. I can't speak for all women, but psychologically everyone does things for a reason, nothing is accident. With that being said, as a person who did not feel confident before I started lifting, the stronger I got outside the stronger and more confident I felt inside in everything I did as a mom, wife, and employer. We lift and continue to lift for ourselves. Even though we complete with each other we love to help other women to feel empowered as well. We love to be intense when we lift but we may celebrate as a girl when we dominate the weight. Contrary to what some people think, we love being women and we are not lifting to be a guy.
    19. How men react, respond or identify with female lifters is more a reflection on their own self-esteem and value for women.
    20. If a women lifting can be a game changer in a relationship, that’s on you.

Women Powerlifters Who Contributed to the Top 20 List

Julia Ladewski:

  • APF Senior National Champion (2005, 2006)
  • #1 Ranked 132-pound female in 2003
  • Elite level powerlifter in 123, 132, and 148-pound classes
  • Best lifts: 463-pound squat, 275-pound bench, 424-pound deadlift, and 1102-pound total


Amy Wattles:

  • Nationally ranked Strongwoman, Highland Games and grip competitor
  • Multiple national championships in multiple strength sports
  • Holds world records in grip and has qualified for and competed in the World’s Strongwomen Championship

amy wattles strongwoman stones 051414

Dawn Maroscher:

  • AWPC World RAW Bench Press Champion, 2010
  • AAPF National RAW Bench Press Champion, AAPF National RAW Powerlifting Champion
  • APF Female Lifter of the Year, 2010
  • Raw bench press: 215 pounds at 143 pounds

dawn top 20 powerlifters 051214

Renee Dean:

  • AWPC World Powerlifting Champion RAW
  • Masters/Best Female Lifter

renee top 20 powerlifters 051214

Kristin Johnson:

  • Lifetime athlete, first year powerlifter
  • Current numbers: 215 raw bench press at 181 pounds

kristin top 20 powerlifters 051214

Janel Vegter:

  • Novice raw lifter
  • Current numbers: 360, 200, 360

janel top 20 powerlifters 051214

Crystal Tate:

  • First year competitive powerlifter
  • Current numbers: 335, 185, 425 raw

Crystal top 20 powerlifters 051213

JuJu Yang:

  • First year in powerlifting

JuJu top 20 powerlifting 051214

Sarah Shepherd:

  • Novice powerlifter without any competitive experience

Sarah top 20 powerlifter 051214