Weightlifting women break personal records and barriers



Holly Cole (11) performs a hang-clean with the barbell. The softball team trains in the East Gym to increase their strength and athleticism.

Weightlifting: the sport or activity of lifting barbells or other heavy weights. What happens when this male-dominated sport starts appealing to the other gender? What challenges do they face in and outside the gym?

A gym is a place that provides a range of facilities such as free weights and machines designed to improve or maintain physical fitness and health. Often synonymous with slamming weights and the intake of large amounts of protein, many athletes use the gym as a means to increase their performance. With the age-old stereotype of women being weaker than men, these girls work hard to break these social barriers in the gym.

“It’s a part of my softball class to weightlift, and it helps us build our strength and endurance for our games,” Holly Cole (11) said. “It’s very beneficial.”

Some strive to get stronger and lift heavier weights. Some strive to become more athletic. Some strive to just be healthier. For some, however, the urge to weight lift comes from a place of boredom, along with the added benefits. 

“I needed something to do, and it was a good way to do physical activity,” Anna Pham (11) said.

Many avid gym goers follow workout splits in order to target specific muscle groups throughout the week. Following personally-designed workout splits can aid athletes as they gain strength and build their routine. From working the chest and triceps to the legs and shoulders, these schedules prioritize strength training and increase discipline.

“I do follow a split, but also like when you set a schedule or a routine for yourself, it keeps you accountable,” Pham said.

Being in the gym alone is not enough to promote good health. Other factors such as appropriate rest time and a good diet are crucial to one’s progress in the gym.

“When you do weightlifting, you have to keep yourself accountable with your diet and everything, so I really try to eat healthy,” Pham said.

While some look for a steady routine at the gym, others test their limits and chase personal records. Personal records, or PRs, usually are one-rep maxes where someone will try to move as much weight as possible for one rep. Aiming for new PRs pushes athletes and proves that their training is moving in the right direction.

“At the beginning, I could maybe squat like [65 to 70 pounds], but now I’m squatting 135 [pounds],” Cole said. 

Testosterone is a growth hormone more commonly found in men. Testosterone makes it easier for men to gain muscle and burn fat. Women have higher estrogen levels, making it harder for them to gain muscle and lose fat. Nonetheless, some girls keep on pushing themselves in the gym.

“Biologically and based [on] science, women do have a disadvantage, but you can’t use that as an excuse all the time,” Pham said. “I still feel like you have to work for it regardless.”

As many women face a sense of intimidation in the gym, the discriminatory environment raises serious health equity issues. Although there are still stark stereotype lines in the gym, women are participating in greater numbers than before.

“You can feel out of place at first, but you are there for a reason and you should not put yourself down because of the environment,” Pham said.