Written by Elena Popadic

Women need iron. Not the vitamin. The barbell.

It's true, you can be fit, healthy and strong through other means, so why powerlifting? Why would anyone subject themselves to the commitment of lifting increasingly heavier weights, year after year? Other women who lift usually "get it," but there aren't that many of us in the world.

My parents lost their damn minds when they saw a video of me deadlifting for the first time. I was immediately posed with the question: "Why?"

You would have thought I killed someone by their reaction. I was expecting them to be proud of me for being committed, active and strong. They were livid.

I was in so much physical pain standing there and facing them, as they reprimanded me for being strong because it felt like someone ripped my heart right out of my chest.

I could barely find my next breath, never mind an answer, so all I mustered up was:

Because I'm a feminist.

I didn't know how else to say I wasn't hurting myself, but rather helping myself. It was only afterward that I realized how loaded, and accurate, my response was. 

Society has taught women to believe:

  • women should be fragile
  • women should be thin
  • women should be submissive
  • women should ask men how to do or fix things
  • women should choose a career that allows her to cook, clean and raise children
  • women should ask men to pick up heavy items
  • women should not be intimidating
  • women who prioritize themselves are selfish
  • men like women who need them

And women who find freedom in powerlifting are often women who have been hurt, in one way or another, by believing those teachings.

A woman who lifts heavy is creating a stable, strong physical self, but an even stronger, and more resilient, mental self. 

Powerlifting is a sport that demands you do not suck in your waist, avoid food or remain quiet. It is a sport where heavier girls are stronger, and growth is celebrated. It is a metaphorical middle finger up to everything we were taught to define being a woman. 

When the weight feels heavy, we grunt. When we're afraid of getting under the bar, we stomp. When the bar starts to slip away, we cover our hands in chalk ... even if our nails are done.

We rise to the occasion, no matter how many times that day we were told we were wrong, silenced, objectified, insulted or ignored.

Every time I step up to the bar, I step into my skin, and out of a stereotype I was conditioned to believe was me. 

I no longer show up to places where I am made to feel unwelcome, I'm not quiet on controversial topics, I don't continue speaking with people who aren't listening, and my needs are always a top priority.

You say selfish, but I say self-respect.

I am not afraid to speak up, speak out, gain weight, stand out, look different, and especially not afraid of making misogynists feels uncomfortable. 

Because powerlifting is more than a sport, it is a teaching. It is a therapy for women betrayed by the system. A system built by fragile men that thrives on unrealistic expectations and lowered self-esteem.

So, I guess I'm not really a powerlifter because I am a feminist. But rather, I am a powerlifter, because I am, finally, just me.

Learn more about Elena on her blog supersassystrength.com


  • Noelani: March 31, 2022

    YES, YES, and YES! I am getting a bit old and osteoporotic these days for the big lifts, but I spent 20 years cinching that belt and stepping under the Olympic bar, not for anyone else’s benefit or pleasure, but purely for the intoxicating feeling of being strong, capable and ready to test and push myself in all areas of life. I still lioft weights in ways that work for my aging body and I give the young girls with the chalky hands and the weight belt a conspiratorial eyebrow and an encouraging smile when I see them at the gym. My strong back, legs and shoulders are serving me well at every stage of life – there are no downsides to this investment! Go hard, girls – do it for yourself <3

  • Nathan : September 22, 2020

    This is wonderful article. Me being a man and mostly raised by strong women all my life has shown me what women are more then able to do so much more then what men give credit for. So reading this I say kudos to you! Keep on doing what your doing and don’t stop! So swing those balls (metaphorically) and show them who has the bigger ones! I always keep in my mind when I do lifting I always remember 50% mental+ 50% physical= 100% heart ,mind body connection makes it pump. Many blessings and a wonderful future for you!

  • Lorel West: November 16, 2019

    Brilliant. Rang so true with me. My mother made a comment to me recently that I should stop the diet my trainer had me on as my arms and shoulders were bigger than they had ever been. At first I though she was saying I was fat and I was so angry, even though I do have weight issues and I know I need to lose, (hence why I went for the fat thought first-always my first thought) but then she made some comment about muscle and I realised she meant muscle growth and then I felt f…ken awesome. y thought then was, that’s awesome. She has an eyesight problem, and I thought that if she could see a difference in my muscle, that was brilliant. My thought then also was, “That’s what I want, muscle gowth, muscle definition, etc”…It may not be what you or other people want or perceive….but that is what I dream of and this, after all, is about me and what I want. We need to stay strong. I feel amazing since powerlifting has come in to my life….. “Lift Up and Lift Heavy” Thank you for your amazing site.

  • May: November 01, 2019

    This spoke to me in such an intimate way. This is exactly way powerlifting is so incredible powerful. It is the physical embodiment of inner strength.

  • Karen : October 29, 2019

    Good points well made!! 🥰💕

  • Kate: July 22, 2019
    This is a beautifully written piece. I am a 45-year-old fencer and have been practicing my sport for about 15 years. All of the things that you said resonated for me within my own sport.

    Thank you.

  • April: July 22, 2019

    Guuuurrrl PREACH!! Yuuuuusssss this is the truth!! Beautiful written and exactly on point. Well done! I’m sharing with everyone.

  • Donna Lee Delleree: April 25, 2019

    I’m one of the pioneers in female Powerlifting . Started in the early 80’s competed for 25 yrs. Also judged and trained many in the sport

  • Jillian CANE: April 25, 2019

    HIt the nail on the head I’m 65 years young and not afraid of offending the world anymore Yeah to us

  • Sarah Strong: January 02, 2019

    I LOVE this!

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