Interview: Powerlifter Tamara Walcott On Training, the Future of Powerlifting, and Competing Against Legends

The all-time raw deadlift world record holder chats with BarBend following the 2022 WRPF The Ghost Clash.

Powerlifter Tamara Walcott competes in the superheavyweight division and is the all-time raw deadlift world record holder. She pulled the current raw deadlift world record of 288.5 kilograms (636 pounds) at the 2021 World Raw Powerlifting Federation (WRPF) The Bucked Up Showdown in Kansas City, MO. During her preparation for the 2022 WRPF The Ghost Clash in Miami, FL, held on Feb. 13, 2022 — where a bevy of all-time squat world records fell — Walcott successfully hit record-setting lifts in the gym.

I did not even feel the weight on my bar. It moved very well. 635 pounds on my back felt like a peanut.

During the week leading up to the contest, Walcott proved capable of rewriting the record books by deadlifting 14 pounds over her current world record and squatting nearly 10 pounds more than the current squat world record. Considering her competition bodyweight is not capped in her division, she legitimately bested the best, but it wasn’t official as it was done in training rather than in competition.

Walcott intended to change that at 2022 WRPF The Ghost Clash. Her goal was to exceed the all-time raw squat and total world records, both held by April Mathis, as well as shatter her deadlift world record — all feats of strength she has done before. The expectations were nothing short of a legendary performance from Walcott, but it was not to be that day. The pressure of competing against legends and the anxiousness instilled by the giants of the sport whose shoulders she aims to stand on adds additional complexity to the competition mindset.

Walcott spoke with BarBend about her preparation and performance at the 2022 WRPF The Ghost Clash, what contributed to her missed attempts that day, and how she plans to attempt them again in the summer of 2022. Additionally, she shares her hopes for the future of powerlifting and how she can help influence it. Check it out below:

[Related: Danial Zamani Scores Heaviest Raw Bench Press Ever Caught On Film of 365 Kilograms (804.7 Pounds)]

2022 WRPF The Ghost Clash — Tamara Walcott | 140KG

Below is Walcott’s entire performance at the 2022 WRPF The Ghost Clash. She competed at a bodyweight of 130.2 kilograms. For context, April Mathis’ all-time raw squat world record is 278.9 kilograms (614.9 pounds), and her all-time world record raw total is 730.5 kilograms (1,610.5 pounds)

  • Squat
    • 267.5 kilograms (589.7 pounds)
    • 267.5 kilograms (589.7 pounds)
    • 282.5 kilograms (622.8 pounds)
  • Bench Press
    • 155 kilograms (341.7 pounds)
    • 165 kilograms (363.8 pounds)
    • 165 kilograms (363.8 pounds)
  • Deadlift
    • 277.5 kilograms (611.8 pounds)
    • 287.5 kilograms (633.8 pounds)
    • 295 kilograms (650.4 pounds)
  • Total — 710 kilograms (1,565.3 pounds)

Despite missing her world record attempts, Walcott still managed to score the third heaviest raw total ever, according to Open Powerlifting. She currently has the second heaviest raw total ever — 718.5 kilograms (1,584 pounds) at the 2021 WRPF The Bucked Up Showdown.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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[Related: Powerlifter Tiffany Chapon (47KG) Squats 7 Kilograms More Than Her Current World Record In Training]

Mindset of a Legend

Heading into the 2022 WRPF The Ghost Clash, Walcott was aware she competes in what is essentially a class all her own:

My mindset…has always been the same — me versus me.

“Me versus me” is a legitimate position to assume during prep and in competition. Powerlifting is an inherently individual sport — the competition does not objectively influence an individual athlete’s performance. What’s more, Walcott is already at the pinnacle of her division. She is vying for world records held by April Mathis, whose last full power raw competition was in 2011.

Unlike previous meets, though, knowing she was on the cusp of becoming the undisputed G.O.A.T. at age 38 weighed heavier on the mind:

I really felt the pressure this time because those records have not been broken in a very long time. I was a ball of nervous energy.

The combination of pressure and anxiety exacerbated underlying fatigue that Walcott trained through as she didn’t “deload since pretty much last September.” That wasn’t the only factor that impacted her performance. Traveling from Maryland to Miami brought along muscle spasms and cramps the night before and the morning of the competition. 

Although Walcott did not hit the numbers she aimed for at the 2022 WRPF The Ghost Clash, she seemed undeterred from her goals. She said as much in the caption of an Instagram post following the meet:

How can you fail when the only way to go is up! Its not failure when you’ve learned a lesson…..Yes it hurts …..but I’m not gonna live here … onward and upward!

Walcott’s sights have not strayed from the world records, and she will attempt to break them again at a meet sometime in the summer of 2022.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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[Related: Watch Powerlifter Jamal Browner (110KG) Raw Deadlift 410 Kilograms (904 Pounds) In a Conventional Stance]

Diet and Training

Walcott entered the 2022 WRPF The Ghost Clash at a slightly lower body weight than when she previously hit her deadlift world record. Her official weigh-in was 130.2 kilograms (287 pounds) — down from her previous weight of 300 pounds. Here is the macro breakdown of her diet during prep:

Walcott’s Training Macros

  • Protein 230 grams
  • Carbs — 173 grams
  • Fat — 10 percent of total calories

Walcott portions her food into five smaller meals per day as that better suits her preference.

Weekly Training

Walcott’s weekly training consists of three four-hour sessions, with an occasional fourth session on the weekend. Her sessions consist of a warm-up, accessory work, training the big lift that is the focus of that particular session, and then additional accessory work, such as lat pulldowns, face pulls, Pendlay rows, triceps extensions, and chest flyes.

I’m built to pick shit up.

Although she is a world-class lifter, Walcott moves all the weight on and off the barbells herself in the gym. When loading over 600 pounds for top singles, that is a lot of additional weight to move.

Propelling Powerlifting Into the Future

In November 2021, Walcott appeared on The Ellen Show. In the interview, Ellen DeGeneres pointed out how at that time, Walcott had only been a competitive powerlifter for three years — she made her competitive debut at the 2018 USAPL Rumble on Pratt Street. Walcott has only competed in eight sanctioned contests in her relatively young powerlifting career despite already holding one world record and challenging for two (potentially three — more. She stood atop the podium in seven of those events — a win rate of 87.5 percent.

Watch Walcott’s full interview with DeGeneres in the video below. The world record holder also performs two raw deadlifts — 495 pounds and 545 pounds — in front of a live audience:

[Related: Powerlifter David Ricks Squats a Staggering 325-Kilogram (716.5-Pound) Raw Double PR At Age 62]

Walcott’s appearance on The Ellen Show is only the first step towards her vision of making powerlifting more mainstream.

I’m trying to take [powerlifting] to ESPN. What do we have to do to get powerlifting on the platform for the world to see?

She remarked that activities that may or may not even be considered sports such as Cornhole — a game where opposing teams toss palm-sized sandbags at a hole cut out in opposing boxes — and beer pong — the drinking game that involves opposing teams throwing ping-pong balls into Solo cups filled with beer — have been featured on ESPN. 

With one world record under her belt garnering so much media attention, Walcott competes knowing her performance has the potential to impact the sport’s visibility.

This is so much bigger than myself.

We’ll see if her next sanctioned competition performance results in her name etched further into the record books and how that moves the needle for the sport.

Featured image: @plussize_fitqueen4.0. on Instagram