Beauty in Strength: The Rise of the Strongwoman Athlete
“Strongman? But you’re not a MAN!”
This is a common response I receive when explaining that I am a strongman athlete. While fighting off the urge to roll my eyes, I smile and explain that despite their disbelief, the sport of strongman for women is very much real and is growing rapidly.
The Legacy of Strongwomen
The history of women in strongman is unique, dating back to the 1880s. During this time, the majority of strongmen were circus performers and entertainers who made a living by performing superhuman feats of strength for an audience. Here’s a glimpse of some notable strongwomen in history.
Josephine Blatt, aka Minerva: Blatt was born in the 1860s and was recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as having lifted the greatest weight ever by a woman. She was known for breaking horseshoes with her hands and breaking steel chains.
Laverie Vallee, aka Charmion: Vallee was a trapeze artist with great strength who gained popularity around the same time. One of her most notable performances was filmed by Thomas Edison.
Kate Brumbach, aka The Great Sandwina: Historically known by the title of Strongest Woman in the World, Brumbach grew up in a circus family and toured the United States with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. She was known to press her 165-pound husband above her head using one arm, and carry a half-ton cannon on her back.
Strongwoman Laverie Vallee "Charmion" (1875 - 1949). [Photo credit: Anonymus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
Strongwomen of Today
Fast-forward to recent years, these strongwomen have been taking the world by storm with incredible feats of strength:
Jill Mills: 2001 IFSA World's Strongest Woman Champion, winner of all events at the 2002 Northeast Showdown Pro Strongwoman, 2002 IFSA World's Strongest Woman Champion, 2004 Strongest Woman Alive champion.
Donna Moore: Britain’s Strongest Woman 2014 and winner of the Arnold World Strongwoman Championship 2016. She also holds the world record for Max Atlas Stone: 327.58lb to a 44″ platform.
Kristin Rhodes: America’s Strongest Woman title in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013. She won the Strongwoman World Championship in 2012, and the Strongwoman Arnold Classic title in 2014 and 2015. She also holds the record for max log press at 250lbs.
Strongwoman Competitions Upcoming
2016 is a tremendous year for Strongwoman athletes, with the creation of professional contests in two of the major strongman federations: Strongman Corporation and US Strongman. Be on the lookout for these groundbreaking events this year:
When/Where: August 27-28, Jacksonville, FL
The Strongest Woman in The World 2016 will be the first-ever professional Strongwoman contest. This event will serve as the qualifier for the Arnold Pro Strongwoman event at the Arnold Sports Festival in 2017. The top ten women from this event will be invited to compete at the Arnold Pro Strongwoman Competition.
When/Where: October 28-29, 2016, Kentucky Muscle Strength & Fitness Extravaganza
A US strongman competition, offering cash prizes for overall female winners in first, second, and third place, as well as the overall female deadlift will be entered into the chance to earn XPC Arnold Deadlift Championship at the Arnold Classic 2017.
When/Where: March 2-5, 2017, Arnold Sports Festival, Columbus, OH
Modeled after the Arnold Strongman Classic, also taking place at the Arnold Sport Festival, which is the regarded the most prestigious title in professional strongman. Strongwomen will compete for over $10,000 in cash prizes and the Katie Sandwina Trophy.
A Growing Sport
With the growing popularity of CrossFit, powerlifting, and the mentality that “strong is sexy,” more women are venturing to the weight room to try a new form of fitness. I encourage you to check out the Professional Strongwoman events and see what these incredible ladies can do, and who knows? Perhaps it will inspire you to sign up for a strong(wo)man competition yourself.
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