athletes · competition · weight lifting

Big women and strength

Very few people can imagine anything good at all about being large or fat.

(I’m still not sure what language to use about size. I think I prefer “big.” See Fat or big: What’s in a name?.)

If that’s you, if you can’t think of anything good about being big, then you should go read 5 Things I Miss about Weighing More Than 300 Pounds by Kelly Coffey. It’s a terrific article.

Here’s one of my fave bits:

Being fat gave me natural physical strength. As a thin person, I have to go out of my way to be strong. Despite daily strength training I’m nowhere near as powerful as I used to be. Once upon a time I could confidently lift a couch into and out of a moving truck (a U-Haul, not a truck in motion — being fat never did give me super powers). Today, I labor under the weight of heavy things. I miss the natural, organic strength that I used to take for granted, the sheer power born of moving under the weight of my own fat day after day.

Trading strength for a smaller size makes it clear there’s a loss. It reminded me of Holley Mangoldin.

I worried about U.S. Olympic weightlifter Holley Mangoldin’s decision to take part in the Biggest Loser in this post From the Olympics to the Biggest Loser? Say it ain’t so Holley.

We say “strong is the new skinny.” But really, few people mean that. The strongest women, like the strongest men, are big. That’s why lifting has weight divisions. And we tend not to see pictures of strong women like Holley on the “strong is the new skinny” fitspo posters.

Of course, not all big women are strong. Just like not all thin people are marathon runners.

And some small people are very strong. See Rebecca Kukla’s post I was wrong. She’s half my size and can deadlift more than me.

But generally speaking big people are stronger than smaller people. And that’s especially true for big people who work out. Everything we do is strength training. Try running and doing burpees wearing a weighted vest. (Some of the people I do CrossFit with do just that.) Welcome to my world.

8 thoughts on “Big women and strength

  1. Bodybuilders all the time bulk up and gain fat in the off season to get bigger and stronger. Then they lose the fat for competition. Do they lose some of their strength? Yes. But not all of it. And then when competition season is over – back to bulking up they go. The actors, Chris Hemsworth and I think, Henry Cavill followed such training methods to play Thor and Superman, respectively, in the movies. Alot of people think Hemswoth doped, in order to achieve what he did in so short a time (only 6 months, I think). I wouldn’t be surprised if this were so, given the startling changes in only 6 months. As an aside, Hemsworth then lost 30 pounds by running everywhere, he says, and eating almost nothing, to play the lead in the Ron Howard movie, Rush. He most certainly would have lost a great deal of his newfound strength doing this! But the women still loooooooove him.

    1. That’s about appearance, not strength. Powerlifters don’t bulk and cut, they just bulk.

      Not that it’s bad to have appearance goals, but this article is about strength. Bodybuilders are not judged on how much they lift.

  2. I worried about Holley too at the time, but she seems to have taken it in a healthy way and has not turned into a weakling, nor has she become tiny. But she is smaller than she was. I follow her on FB because I’m interested in her progress.

    I suspect she was able to keep her strength because she prioritized that, while taking off a moderate amount of weight that she didn’t need that was creating issues with joint pain, etc.

  3. Right on! I’ve always been a big girl. When I found weightlifting is when I stopped fighting my body and started embracing how big and powerful it is. There are still challenges– where some smaller women may have trouble putting on muscle and gaining strength, I have to work hard on conditioning and speed.

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