Power lifting isn’t just for the boys.
It’s one of the few female-only powerlifting competitions, and this year’s iteration saw women from age 25 all the way up to 70 deadlift, back squat, and bench press hundreds of pounds at a time.
Bethany Erskine, who came in sixth in her weight class after pulling a total of 570 lbs., recently came back to lifting after a child birth-related injury.
“I wasn’t really sure that I’d ever be able to lift heavy weights again,” Erskine said in a video for Salon. “And I was really heart broken. If you had asked me eight years ago if I’d ever be lifting weights on a platform in front of people I would’ve thought you were absolutely out of your mind.”
Now though, she loves her strength.
“Feeling strong is part of who I am now,” Erskine said. “To be deadlifting over twice my body weight – I mean, it’s incredible.”
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And she loves having the support of women at Iron Maiden.
“It’s really kind of a scary and crazy thing to do – I mean you’re attempting to lift heavy weights in front of a crowd of people, and doing it in an all-female environment is just really empowering and encouraging,” she said.
Linda Lempert, who made Iron Maidens her first weightlifting competition at age 70, loves how the sport is changing perspectives on what women can do.
“Women are often not thought of as anything that shows strength and capability,” Lempert says. “I think for women to lift weights, for their own health, and also to get rid of the stereotype that they can’t is very important.”
And Iron Maidens isn’t just shifting opinions on women and weightlifting – the competitors also raised just under $30,000 for Grace Outreach, a non-profit that provides scholarship money for low-income female college students.
Lempert, who finished the day lifting 227 lbs., good for 14th in her weight class, hopes that more women will pick up a bar and start strength training.
“I’ve been told there are even younger women who can’t do what I did, which I just, can’t believe,” Lempert said. “It’s just ongoing, women just have to keep moving forward and not take no for an answer.”
Erskine is excited about how her weight lifting prowess will affect a few young members of the other gender.
“It’s important to me that my sons grow up knowing that their mother is strong,” she said.