When it comes to comes to women in powerlifting, as in every sport, there are the G.O.A.T.s, Greatest of All Time. Well, Jennifer Thompson is one of them. She currently holds the highest Bench Press Wilks Coefficient ever recorded for men or women at 154.5. That's insane! I had the immense pleasure of getting to know a little bit more about Jenn, how she started and what keeps her going. Hope you enjoy!
Introduce yourself to the GWPL community
My name is Jennifer Thompson. I I lift for USA Powerlifting which allows me to lift in the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). I currently hold the IPF World Classic/Raw Records in the 63 kg. bench press (312 lbs) and total (1071 lbs). The IPF just got recognized as part of the International Olympic Committee in June. I think this is huge for our sport!
When did you get into lifting and why?
I have been powerlifting since 1999. The world of powerlifting has changed drastically since the first year I started. I began lifting with a friend (who is now my husband :)) to keep in shape during college. I was a long distance runner in high school and completed some road races in college, but didn’t have a love for it. I was the sort of girl who always had more “guy friends” than “girl friends”, so the gym was an easy place for me to fit in. I enjoyed the camaraderie and pushing that went along with the workouts. Before long, I was lifting close to what some of the guys were. I didn’t start off that way, I started off timidly and then gained more confidence as I got stronger.
When I got married to Donovan Thompson, we took our honeymoon to Venice Beach, CA. Here I saw an outdoor bench pressing competition on the beach. I had never heard of powerlifting before. I spoke with some of the athletes and one year later entered my first competition. Best meet total to date?
Bench seems to be one of the hardest of the all the lifts for women. When did it click for you?
I often get asked why I am so good at the bench press. I honestly think it is because I started lifting with a group of men who treated me no different than any other person in the gym. I did the same exact workout they did. I saw my biggest progress in the bench because women do not typically use pec and shoulder girdle muscles in their everyday lives and it was a weakness. So I saw the biggest gains in the beginning in the bench press. Also, when people ask how strong you are, they typically want to know “how much ya bench”?
How has powerlifting changed its views towards women since you started competing?
This sport and the persona of strong women has changed drastically over the years. When I first started lifting my father told me “no daughter of mine is going to look like a man!”, and now he is one of my biggest and proudest supporters. I can remember grocery shopping in Walmart and this man started following me around. He felt the need to corner me down an aisle and tell me I looked too masculine, it wasn’t “pretty”. But these experiences just made me want to train harder and prove people wrong. At this time it used to be a novelty to see a woman in the free weight section of a gym, but now we look like we belong.
What do your students think about you being a world renowned powerlifter?
As a teacher, my students love that I am super strong with big muscles (as they say). I definitely don’t fit the typical teacher stereotype and I think they like that. Plus I am a pretty involved teacher. I attend their sporting events, I try to make my lessons fun and relevant, so that probably helps too. I also have a powerlifting club at my school that I run in the fall. I teach because I love it, and I think they see that too. So when I am off to a competition they will often watch on livestream.
What get's you through the tough training sessions?
The biggest thing that helps me get through tough training sessions is my training partners. I believe they are priceless. They make working out fun. When you are having a rough day, they pick you up. The atmosphere is hugely important. When I am not hitting my numbers or feeling discouraged my husband always says “the other girl quit and went home today, you stayed and still got in a good workout - you got stronger then her today”. That always helps and if all else fails, eat some candy, I love Smarties.
What advice do you have for women who may be thinking about competing but are apprehensive?
I think people in general put too much pressure on themselves for their first competition. I believe first, as an potential athlete, you should volunteer at a competition first. As a meet director, we always need help and what better way to get comfortable with competing than helping out at one. You will meet new people, start to understand the flow of the meet, referee commands, timing and picking attempts. Then I would recommend doing a practice meet in the gym. Wear the gear, have someone shout out the commands, pick attempts, ect. Lastly, your first meet is never going to be your best meet. Go into it knowing that. Set reasonable goals and just be happy to complete, knowing you will have learned so much that the next will be even better.
What's next for Jenn Thompson?
What’s next for me? I go to USA Powerlifting Bench Press Nationals on Sept 10th. The IPF Classic/Raw Bench Press Worlds is in Killeen, Texas in 2017, so I want to make sure I make that team. Then we have USA Powerlifting Raw Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia. I am particularly excited about this meet because they are having a “Prime Time” session each night. So they take the top qualifiers of two weight classes and they compete on one platform in the evening. I think it's’ a great opportunity to show off the best in our sport. I am also participating in several Iron Sisters Powerlifting Training camps this year with IPF Classic World Champions, Kim Walford and Bonica Lough. These are all-female workshops and will take place in various locations around the US in 2017. We have had these camps the last two summers in Toronto, Canada and are taking them on the road in the US (we should have some dates and locations in the next week or so). I really enjoy these camps, we meet some great women of various ages and get some real hands on time with them to work on their powerlifting form and various exercises. But my favorite part is the camaraderie that develops among the women. I believe everyone makes friends for life after one of these experiences.
Get to know more about Jenn on her YouTube channel or follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat: jenthompson132. Also, check out her website www.132poundsofpower.com for her training programs, photos, etc.