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6 Fearless Women Weightlifters Who Break Stereotypes and Boundaries

March is a great opportunity to recognize and celebrate the immense contributions made by women throughout history, whether it be in the arts, sciences, or sports, who inspired and empowered women of today.             

In celebration of International Women’s Month 2023, I will be sharing with you stories of women who broke down stereotypes and changed the world's perspective in the field of weightlifting. They will be telling of the struggles they've encountered and how they were able to surpass such difficulties to succeed and become who and what they are today.

Traditionally, weightlifting has been a male-dominated sport. But recently, more and more women are breaking through boundaries and making their mark in this field. Not only are these ladies breaking records, but they are also motivating others to pursue their weightlifting passion and push themselves to the limit.

Here are 6 of the most fearless women weightlifters who break stereotypes and boundaries in a predominantly male culture. Let us all acknowledge them and hear their inspiring stories of empowerment, strength, and confidence.

A woman in sportswear is doing a mirror selfie while flexing her sexy and fit body  

Anna Briggs

Anna Briggs is a CrossFit and Bodybuilding Fitness Trainer from Idaho, USA. She specializes in exercise physiology, which is the study of the body's responses to physical activity. She loves working out to gain energy and feel strong and empowered. Her now-husband encouraged her to start a gym training program, where she was able to see more women doing weightlifting, which inspired her to do the same.

Anna, like many others, struggled greatly as a beginner learning the fundamentals and know-hows of weightlifting. When asked about the obstacles she faced when she was just getting started, she said that “everybody wants to be the teacher, and nobody wants to be a learner.” With so much misinformation around her, finding the right source of information that she could learn from is quite challenging, especially for start-ups like her. 

She wanted to be someone that women and people in general considered to be a good source of information that they could learn from. With this mission in mind, she decided to take a master's degree and learned everything she needed to know with regard to exercise and fitness. 

For people, especially women who are caught up in a predominantly male culture of weightlifting, Anna believes that, whether we are advanced or not, we should continue to learn new things because, through learning, we will be able to improve and be the best version of ourselves we ought to be. “So really, just try new things. Mess up. Please mess up. You will not grow without failure. So just mess up in the gym, and you’ll learn from it,” she quoted. 

A female weightlifter in a blue top carries weights on top of her shoulder

Richelle Coberly

Richelle Coberly is an athlete, a bodybuilder, and a nurse by profession. Her fitness journey started several years ago when she decided to go to the gym to fight her depression. Everything went well until the COVID-19 pandemic, when most establishments, including gyms, were forced to close. She tends to struggle with her own demons again, but fortunately, she was able to invest in a few pieces of workout equipment and slowly put up her own home gym.

In a predominantly male environment, Richelle was underestimated by a lot of guys for her ability to do pull-ups, deadlift, and squat heavy weight, not just because she’s a woman but also because she’s smaller and lighter compared to the men around her. 

She never let these obstacles bring her down; instead, she continued with the process and worked consistently until she was able to surpass other male weightlifters with her results. She stresses that we should never let anyone underestimate us or bring us down.

Richelle believes that a fitness journey is a never-ending obsession with learning and growing. She wanted every single woman out there to not be afraid to try new things because those fears will never bring any positive results in our lives. 

She ended her message with this: “If you’re scared, seek advice from other females in the gym or just people watch, and you’ll learn a thing or two. Some guys will help out too, but there’s just something different and empowering about learning from other strong and likeminded women.”

A woman in black sportswear is lifting a barbell    

Erika Culanay

Erika Culanay is a certified personal trainer with the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). She started working out at an early age, as she was inspired by her older brother’s determination to be physically active. She then started to do push-ups, biking, and hiking, and ultimately loved the sense of relief she was able to get from them.

Having a rough time during her high school years, she was taught that exercising is a healthy outlet, so she began going to the gym with zero knowledge at all. She wanted to build her confidence and have a healthier lifestyle, so she continued to stick around, not realizing that she’d been doing the same routine every single day for years.

Typically, there’s that stereotype of Asians being skinny or thin. At a young age, she was constantly reminded of how she should look, and this made her struggle to free herself from her culture’s opinions. Her biggest battles were more internal, but the will to have a healthy lifestyle, to be in control of her life, and to be supported by people with the same visions and aspirations in life made her overcome these struggles. 

Gym is an intimidating place, and sometimes it appears to be discouraging and uncomfortable for many, but if you have that willpower and determination, you can stay on track and will never let anyone or anything keep you away from what you really wanted. “It’ll be a process, but constantly remind yourself of “why” you’re here, validating your hard work, taking pride in it, and being kind to yourself," she added. 

“What I would tell women who are starting out on their fitness journey is to find a training plan relevant to their goals, familiarize yourself with how to warm up, make time to research, be in the gym in general, and keep showing up for yourself and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.”

A woman in blue sportswear and blonde hair is flexing her muscles    

Alicia Joy

Alicia Joy is a fitness, mindset, and nutrition content creator from Miami, Florida, USA, who loves the feeling of being strong and independent as a woman. She started going to the gym and doing cardio exercises as a way to stay active after playing sports during her high school years. She then slowly learned to lift weights, which became her biggest passion.

Her biggest obstacle is navigating a space where there are mostly male occupants; she only sees men in the free weight section of the gym. It can be intimidating at times, but she never lets that feeling of intimidation stop her from doing what she loves. Instead, she used the situation to her advantage by asking for help from them, and it surprised her how supportive the male community was. 

“If you are a woman and you’re just starting out in the weight room, I would recommend asking for help when you need it, even if it’s from a man.”

A female weightlifter in a beige sweatshirt poses inside the gym

Cianah Hee

Cianah Hee is a fitness, travel, and family blogger from Redding, California, who grew up being the only girl in a household of four brothers. She was in high school when she first joined the women's wrestling team. Being part of this team made her realize that health and fitness should always be top priorities.

During those times, she struggled with reconciling the traditionally masculine image of wrestling with her own feminine identity and defining femininity as a high school female wrestler. She pushed herself to be as tough and aggressive as possible, believing that these are what wrestlers are expected to be. She realized that she doesn't have to sacrifice her femininity to be a successful wrestler; she can be strong and powerful while still embracing her own unique identity as a woman.

For women who are just starting out on their fitness journey, not only in weightlifting, she advises prioritizing self-love and self-acceptance above all. During the times when you feel like you're being underrated or intimidated in a male-dominated fitness culture, she stresses staying focused on your goals and what makes you feel good. 

“Don’t be too hard on yourself, and celebrate every small victory along the way. Fitness is not just about achieving a certain body type or level of strength. Fitness is about feeling good in your own skin and being healthy in all aspects of your life. Authenticity is also key. Embrace your unique qualities and what makes you feel most confident and empowered. You don’t have to sacrifice your femininity to be a strong and capable athlete.”

A woman in red sportswear is lifting a barbell overhead

Stormi Knight

Stormi Knight is a bodybuilder and a certified neurosequential coach from Covina, California, USA. She focuses not just on maintaining her own health but also on helping others understand that mental and physical health are equally important and helping people build a resilient mind. 

A basketball accident, which broke Stormi’s leg, started her fitness journey. She was then a forensic science student and, at the same time, a volunteer and a part-time worker at the VA hospital. 

She decided to take a different course and ended up going into biomechanics and kinesiology.

With a mission to help other people and not experience what she had experienced (disappointment in the current healthcare system), she started up boot camps at the athletic and biomechanics programs, where she trained students for free. 

The biggest obstacle she ever faced in her fitness journey was dealing with her own health. 

She was diagnosed with Hashimoto's and Lupus several years ago, and it scares her when doctors keep on dismissing her and telling her that she was a hopeless case and there was nothing they could do to make her condition better.

Every time she looked at herself, she started going through a spiraling depression because of the pain she was going through and asking how an active athlete suddenly became someone she couldn’t recognize; she could see her ribs and her spine, and none of her clothes would fit anymore. During that time, her boyfriend even needs to pick her up from bed to take a shower because she can’t stand on her own at all. 

She lost everything—her work, her clients, and the people she thought were her friends. Even though she felt so frail and hopeless, and people started to leave her side one by one, she decided to take her power back. She started to take good care of herself and her overall well-being because if she gives up, she will never be able to fulfill her mission of helping other people.

Being physically healthy and fit is not an assurance because there are things that we ourselves cannot understand and that even doctors have no answer for. While finding a cure for herself, she was able to meet some awesome friends along the way. Stormi stresses the importance of being surrounded by the right people who are doing immensely better than you and with people and mentors who can really help you achieve your goals. 

In her journey, she admitted that she listened to too much advice to the point that it derailed her and prolonged her time achieving her fitness goals.

“The advice I would give to women who are just starting out in the fitness industry in a predominantly male world is to make sure you have an unshakeable mind. Be confident, gain as much knowledge as you can, do as much research as you can, whatever you can do to build that core, that stability, for yourself. Most importantly, build your confidence. Make sure you're confident in every way, but establish core values and morals and don't drop beneath that many, many times.”

Key Takeaway

These women have paved the way for others to follow in their footsteps by overcoming challenges and breaking new ground to attain success. With their perseverance, determination, and unwavering spirit, they demonstrated that anything is possible, including overcoming prejudice and discrimination.

They have demonstrated that women can succeed in any sport, and their accomplishments must be acknowledged and honored. We must continue to promote and enable women to realize their full potential.

Women in general continue to face prejudice and inequality in a number of societal spheres, at the workplace, and even at home. The Women's Month Celebration serves as a reminder that more work has to be done to achieve gender equality. By recognizing this celebration, we can raise awareness of these issues and work to build a more equitable and just society.

Cheers to all the empowered women of the world! Happy International Women’s Month! 

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