In Nov. 2021, Disney’s Encanto hit theaters. On Christmas Eve, it hit the internet as a sensation after its release on the streaming platform Disney Plus. While many of the songs and storylines have captivated and inspired viewers, one character in particular stands out for the strength community: Luisa Madrigal, the big sister of the protagonist. Her commitment to her training, her family, and herself — and her beautiful, traditional-yet-lifting-inspired dress — all combines with her magical superhuman strength to make her storyline a real strength sports winner.
Even the most dedicated strength athletes often need inspiration of their own. Sometimes we look for strength heroes IRL, like trans lifters who fight all kinds of obstacles to be allowed to compete. Other times, we need the kind of fun provided by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s gym-worthy rap. Still other times, lifters turn to fictional heroes for inspiration — incredible athletes like boxer Adonis Creed or, more recently, Luisa Madrigal from Disney’s Encanto.
Like the rest of her Madrigals, Luisa was given a magical gift from her family’s heritage. In her case, that gift is superhuman strength. But her plotline reminds lifters of all strength sports (and Luisa can crush them all) how important it is to take time to rest and prioritize other aspects of your life.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
In addition to being a badass lifter, Luisa rocks a beautiful Colombian-inspired dress speckled with loaded free weights near the hem. That’s a big part of what the internet loves about her — with her tall, wide frame and bulging muscles, she is a far cry from the typical Disney princess.
Yet animators still allow her to own her femininity in both her outfit and hip-swaying dance moves. This gives viewers an oft-needed reminder that there is nothing inherently masculine about having broad shoulders and big muscles.
The Internet’s Response to Luisa
While the Madrigals may not talk about Bruno, the internet is certainly talking about Luisa. TikTok creator Maribel Martinez has thrilled the web with her dancing cosplay of Luisa’s feature song “Surface Pressure.”
Of Luisa’s groundbreaking character, Martinez told The TODAY Show on Jan. 16:
I’ve never seen any cartoon character or Disney character ever look like a feminine but yet masculine woman. It’s not a normal thing you see every day… I was shocked because I was so glad to see that I could see myself in somebody else.
You can check out Martinez’s performance here:
Luisa Madrigal’s Training Routine
Luisa doesn’t just pick up heavy things and put them down. The first time the audience sees her, she’s performing sprints on a magical treadmill. Two hefty dumbbells are in her hands while she works. One of her major tasks throughout the film is corralling runaway donkeys for her neighbors. She frequently tosses multiple doleful-looking creatures on her back and shoulders all at once.
During “Surface Pressure,” Luisa tosses up massive boulders and lets them come crashing down to break along her traps and shoulders. All for the sake of her family (and a moving musical number), she takes up the sword that Hercules abandons to fight the three-headed dog Cerberus and overhead presses the entire casita and village where her family lives.
Although this superhuman strength is a magical gift that she’s received from her family’s legacy, Luisa trains for her gains, too. In the novelization of the movie, A Tale of Three Sisters by Anika Fajardo, Luisa’s magical room in the Madrigal family casita is full of weights, pulleys, climbing ropes, and bars for swinging.
This suggests that Luisa trains for strength, power, and endurance all at once. Not an easy feat, to be sure, but something that makes her well-suited for pretty much any elite strength sport. She’s the rare athlete who could crush it at both the Arnold Strongman Classic and the CrossFit Games.
The Luisa Madrigal Workout
If you’re looking to train like Luisa Madrigal, you don’t need magical strength. After a thorough warm-up, try this Encanto-inspired workout. It’ll cover your strength and conditioning bases so you can look forward to Luisa-level gains.
- Snatch: 4 x 6
- Single-Arm Push Press: 4 x 6 per side
- Overhead Suitcase Carry: 4 x 30 seconds per side
- Front-Loaded Lateral Lunge: 4 x 10 per side
- Kettlebell Flow:
Lessons From Luisa
Lin Manuel Miranda, the musical architect behind the film, wrote “Surface Pressure” for his sister, who also shouldered a great deal of familial expectations and pressure. The song includes lyrics like:
I don’t ask how hard the work is
Got a rough indestructible surface
Diamonds and platinum, I find ’em, I flatten ’em
I take what I’m handed, I break what’s demanding
ButUnder the surface
I feel berserk as a tightrope walker in a three-ring circus
Under the surface
Was Hercules ever like “Yo, I don’t wanna fight Cerberus”?
Under the surface
I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service
So often, athletes feel immense pressure to constantly be at the top of their game. The psychological and physical tolls can be intense. Our identities as people often get wrapped up in our latest one-rep max. This ties up our sense of self-worth in lifting and how other people perceive our progress.
Luisa reminds us all that days off are not only fun, but necessary. Luisa is certainly not the only woman who feels the drip, drip, drip of pressure to constantly exceed expectations without showing weakness or setting boundaries.
You don’t always have to lift the heaviest plates in the gym to maintain exceptional strength. And programming rest days is a key part of staying at the top of your game, both emotionally and physically.
Luisa reminds us that we all deserve to plop into a hammock with an iced beverage and our nearby donkey friends.
Featured Image: @EncantoMovie / Twitter