More power to you

Inclusivity a trademark of powerlifting community

Hao-Yi Sim gets ready for a squat.

Photo by Daniel Crump

“Do you even lift, bro?”

It’s a phrase that has become synonymous with the notion of big, muscle-bound guys who spend their free hours beefing up at the gym. But if the field of 57 competitors at Brickhouse Gym’s recent powerlifting competition is any indicator, inclusivity is part of the sport.

“Unlike other sports that expect you to have perfect physiques, with powerlifting you can never judge a person’s ability to do the sport by how they look. You could have a tiny woman barely five feet (tall) deadlifting hundreds of pounds, and a (larger) person may be doing the same,” Jocelynn Johnson, one of the competitors, says.

“People of all body types, ages, medical conditions and disabilities do this successfully.”

Powerlifting is a form of strength training that consists of three different kinds of lifts: squat, bench press and deadlift. In competition, each athlete gets three attempts at a maximal weight single lift using a barbell loaded with weight plates for each discipline.

Powerlifting is also a Special Olympics, sport with one of the competitors being the Barbenders Powerlifting Team.

“A lot of times, you might think powerlifting is a lot of heavy weights, and that seems intimidating, but it’s really about coming in and doing things technically well and just having fun with it. It doesn’t have to be heavy. If you come in here and do things properly, it’s something that anyone can enjoy,” Barbenders coach Brent Lohmer says.

Lohmer is also a personal trainer and coaches one of the Barbenders participants' mom, Tricia Kell.

Kell says when Lohmer suggested she try powerlifting, she was hesitant at first.

“(Lohmer) said to me ‘but, then you’d understand why (your daughter) is so passionate (about lifting).’ So I said, ‘yeah, okay,’ and I got totally hooked,” she says.

Kell, who competes in the Masters 3 category, encourages others to take up the sport.

“Absolutely try it. If I can do it, they can do it. I’m the oldest one here (at) 64, and it just really keeps you younger. I feel like I could still jump a fence,” she says.

Tricia Kell performs a deadlift.

Powerlifter Jocelynn Johnson

Powerlifter Roger Girard

Jocelynn Johnson performs a benchpress. Johnson has worked with the Manitoba Powerlifting Association and judges to develop hand signals to replace the verbal commands Johnson cannot hear.

Elijah Wood puts on his game face and performs a squat.

Tammy Hardt of the Barbenders Powerlifting Team, performs a deadlift.

Hao-Yi Sim takes a powdering.

Tricia Kell began powerlifting after her daughter's coach suggested it may help her understand her daughter Tammy's passion for the sport. At 64, Tricia says that the lifting helps her stay young.

Tammy Hardt is a member of the Barbenders Powerlifting Team, which competes in the Special Olympics. On top of training with the Barbenders, she also trains three times a week with her coach, Brent Lohmer, who describes Tammy as "a pillar of strength."


Published in Volume 73, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 14, 2019)

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