Female Powerlifters Share the Weirdest Things Guys Say to Them

If you follow elite female powerlifters on Instagram, you’re probably familiar with the bizarre comments they get on an everyday basis. There are plenty of positive, supportive comments, too — women lifting heavy weight is becoming more and more common and celebrated in our culture. But the sight of a woman squatting hundreds of pounds still tends to prompt ignorant comments, even if they’re sometimes well-meaning.

We spoke to 10 elite female powerlifters and asked for some examples of the most, shall we say, problematic comments they’ve heard from the men in their gyms and on social media. And even we were surprised by what they told us.

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Stefanie Cohen

“Do you think you can squat me?”

“Do you lift more than your boyfriend?” 

“I prefer a girl with boobs.”

“Do you eat anything, but clean food?”

Stacia-Al Mahoe

“Don’t arch, you won’t be able to have babies.” (Mahoe says this is her absolute favorite.)

“If you lifted in a powerlifting competition, then that wouldn’t count.” (Meanwhile, she’s a 6x IPL World Champion.)

“Real powerlifters would see this and laugh.”

Maddy Forberg

“If you keep lifting heavy like that your uterus is going to fall out.”

“You should use the smith machine with light weight, so you can have lean legs instead of thunder thighs.”

“Your back is going to break in half if you keep benching like that. You’re going to herniate a disc. Do people even know what this means?!?”

“You shouldn’t do chest exercises because your boobs are going to disappear.”

“Only women pull sumo because it’s easier. Such a short cut.”

“I would never date a girl who does that stuff. Aren’t you worried you’ll never find a man and get married?”

“You shouldn’t deadlift over 135 because it’ll make your torso thick and you won’t have an hourglass figure.”

Amber Rayne Abweh

“Dang, you’re kind of strong….for a girl.”

“Wow, you have a nice physics.” 

“How much should I be lifting? I’m a 5′ 6″ male and weigh 150 lbs.”

“Nice chest, but you might get more gains if you did pushups, instead of arching your back like that.” 

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Sarah Brenner

“She should be doing cardio.”

“Squats her body weight. Not impressive.”

“She’s strong for a girl.”

“That girl will break your d*ck off in one tug.”

“That’s a big b*tch.” (or big girl, both are said often).

“Fake weights. No way she can squat that.”

From Brenner: I also get the general man-splaining about form/rep schemes. The general, “Look I found your girl” comments to friends. Men are also quick to compare, even if they think they’re giving a compliment (“I can’t even do that!”)

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• Before I do a long write up. I’m anxious and want to share my 273kg squat ((601-602 lbs)). • After my second attempt my coach Kimberly Walford @trackfu said wanna chip it? I said sure let’s give it a go. • Since I have Open Worlds next month I couldn’t really peak peak for Raw Nationals. But I’m stoked on how easy the 273kg flew up. • Thank you Natalie Hansen and Chelsea Savit for this awesome video! ❤️💪🏽 • 🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑 • #2017USAPLRawNationals #bubblypower #bubblypowerlifter #powerlifter #powerlifting #sbdathlete #dedication #sbdapparel #squatbooty #600club #600squat #600squatclub #drugfree #rawnattyproud #powerlifter #powerlifting #rawpowerlifter #rawpowerlifting #teamconcret #workethicisnotdead #sbdathleteusa #howmuchdoyousquat #squat #ironisinmyblood #ilovesquats #USAPL #usapowerlifting #dedication #ipf #theipf #howmuchdoyousquat #🍑 #squats • @biggirlbarbell @squatchamps @powerliftingwomen @girlswhopowerlift @powerliftingmotivation @sbdapparel @sbd.usa @timthebodeau @legitdepth @lvdfitness @promerasports

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Bonica Lough

“Wow, I’m impressed with a girl squatting that much weight and breaking parallel.”

“How many reps did you just do? I don’t know you, but congratulations, that’s amazing. Also, what days you workout, so I don’t come into the gym.”

“Why do you squat more than once a week?”

“No way a girl can out squat me!”

Samyra Abweh

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a girl life that much weight before.” 

“When I was in football I used to squat five plates on each side.” 

“Let me know if you ever want to workout sometime. I can spot you on squats or something.”

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"But Did You Die Tho": Scared shitless before this attempt from all the red lights (🏓paddles) I'd receive thus far (bar uneven, one shoulder not locked out, bar uncentered), this is hard yo. Had a longer caption on my unique technical adjustments for this lift, but IG shut down. 🙁 . Basically just proud of how we corrected these adjustments from attempt to attempt, watched videos over and over again backstage, and followed through (close to) perfectly here on my 3rd attempt at 105kg. Important attempt that would've locked me in on qualifying for USAPL Nationals, but the shoulder lockout was not adequate for a white light. . It's heavy, it's difficult, it's taxing on my mind and body, but it's not dangerous. Don't waste your time in saying that it is. I'm just glad I've been able to get this far completing these dead tugs with a single hand, but we move on. Not to Nationals, but to more bilateral exercises, correcting muscle imbalances, double-handed tugs, and competing in my first meet using the @harbingerfitness lifting hook!! Cannot thank @USPAPOWER enough for the opportunities they are providing for not only me but other @disabledgirlswholift. Stoked that they've taken the time with technical committees to get this approved and also word it in such a way that is INCLUSIVE to us athletes with different abilities. . #prometheusstrength #citadelnutrition #disabledgirlswholift 📽 @jralicdan

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Mary Beth

“Are you using that bar? No, actually are you?”

“Wow, you squat more than me.”

“Why do you deadlift one-handed. Why don’t you try…?”

From Beth: I think this article is essential, not only for proper gym etiquette, but also for general respect purposes, especially for disabled women, who continue to underrepresented, objectified, and not taken seriously. It’s often seen as needing a man’s help, regardless of our strength or capabilities.

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Sheri Miles

“So you lift heavy weights, huh? How come you don’t look like a butch, bulky man? “ *rolls eyes hard*

“So are you training for a bikini competition? This is such an assumption that all girls lift weights for aesthetics rather than to just be strong!”

“Just to let you know that the bar weighs 20kg, so it’s heavy, are you sure you want to put that extra weight on?!“

“Having boobs must decrease your range of motion on the bench, you’re lucky “

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Daniella Melo

“Why are you even lifting? Guys will always be stronger.”

“I want your quads.”

From Melo: The comments I get range from really positive and really negative, but both motivate me to stronger and better at the sport.

In Closing

The quotes above varied slightly, but there were some consistencies to them. One thing’s for sure: as strength sports grow it would benefit all of the sports to stop comparing female athletes to male athletes.

It may not seem offensive in the moment, but in reality, it’s assuming a feat of strength could have never been accomplished in the first place. At the end of day, we’re all athletes just tying to get stronger.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Feature image from @swoleesi Instagram page. 

Jake Boly

Jake Boly

Jake holds a Master’s in Sports Science and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. Currently, Jake serves as the Fitness and Training Editor at BarBend. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has spoken at state conferences on the topics of writing in the fitness industry and building a brand.

As of right now, Jake has published over 1,300 articles related to strength athletes and sports. Articles about powerlifting concepts, advanced strength & conditioning methods, and topics that sit atop a strong science foundation are Jake’s bread-and-butter.

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