weight lifting

Bigger, better, stronger? On women and weightlifting

There are various myths around size and fitness that just have to die. Take the myth that thin equals fit. Go die a fire-y death! How about the myth that large women can’t run or bike? Go jump off a cliff!

But the one that I find just puzzling is the idea that large women aren’t strong.  From the BBC: “Rebecca Roberts is “morbidly obese”, according to Body Mass Index (BMI). She’s also one of the UK’s Strongest Women. Newsbeat has been speaking to people who say that “bigger is better” – and that their size is an advantage in their jobs. Rebecca has overcome bullying during her childhood and says she’s learned to embrace her bigger size and weight.” See Bigger is better’: The weightlifter

But why is the strength of bigger women a surprise to us?  It really shouldn’t be.

We’ve written about it here. See Big women and strength.

Among other things it’s why there are weight classes in competition. The strongest women overall are also the largest. It’s why it’s sometimes to useful to think of strength relative to your body weight. You can disagree about the numbers but it’s why strength benchmarks use bodyweight as a guide.  According to 9 Essential Strength Benchmarks for Women you should be able to deadlift 150% of your bodyweight and bench 75% of your body weight.

That’s more meaningful than thinking of it in terms of bears. (I can deadlift something between a black bear and a panda, FWIW.)

But even large women known for their tremendous physical strength aren’t immune from the pressure to look smaller, to be lean and trim.

I was shocked when  U.S. Olympic weightlifter Holley Mangold decided to take part in the Biggest Loser. Read about it in this post From the Olympics to the Biggest Loser? Say it ain’t so Holley.

In the end she didn’t do that well on the show,Ousted ‘Biggest Loser,’ Olympian Holley Mangold.

And she didn’t make the next Olympic team, U.S. Olympic women’s weightlifting team complete; no Holley Mangold

There I wrote. “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.”

I think we ought to start admiring really strong women and having a mental image of them when we say, “Strong is the new skinny.”

Here’s one more, closer to home. See B.C. nurse still the strongest woman over 40 in the world

At 42 years old, Ferguson has only been taking part in strength competitions for two years — earning  gold in the Master’s division of the North American Strongman Championships in 2015, then going on to claim either the top or runner-up positions in numerous other competitions in B.C., Canada and North America.

To win in Raleigh, Ferguson had to lift metal logs, run with a 500 lb. yoke on her back and deadlift a car as many times as possible in 60 seconds.

 

I’d like to be able to deadlift a car. It’s Bike to Work Month again and lots of people in my newsfeed are sharing this older clip of a very strong man moving a car out of the bike lane. A girl can dream! #goals

2 thoughts on “Bigger, better, stronger? On women and weightlifting

  1. I like this post a lot. My N=1: I was a big strong woman who decided to go about a muscle-sparing weight loss plan, got smaller, kept lifting, and somehow I was shocked at the fact that I lost strength… it’s been interesting to get my head around that change in how I see myself.

    Liked by 1 person

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