Strongwoman History Made at The Arnold Classic

History was made this weekend at the 2017 Arnold Classic. The first all Pro division of Strongwoman competitors battled it out on Friday and Saturday in Columbus, Ohio at the 3 day expo.

We have talked about how the Arnold is arguably the biggest stage in Strongman in general (Brian Shaw’s win was its own momentous occasion), and this was a highly anticipated event that many hope will result in more high level women’s competitions. Ten women competed for the first Arnold title for the newly formed Pro division.

Winner Liefia Ingalls during the keg run medley

The competitors had all recently achieved pro status from Strongman Corporation in the last year. (Strongman Corporation established their women’s Pro division in 2016, and hosted their first all women’s prize-money awarding competition this past July at Strongest Woman in the World in Jacksonville, Florida, which was won in each weight-class by Leslie Hofheins (LW), Dani Schwalbe (MW), and Britteny Cornelius (HW).)

The new pro division of the Arnold is not divided by weight class, so it saw lightweights going up against heavyweights in an impressive throwdown that featured the following competitors:

Brittney Cornelius

Julie Rader

Brooke Sousa

Kaitlin Burgess

Kristin Johnson

Kimberly Lawrance

Liefia Ingalls

Leslie Hofheins

Jessica Kite

Jamie Popp Christenson

First place went to Liefia Ingalls, 2 x California’s Strongest Woman and 4th Place Middleweight Arnold Amateur Champion 2015. She was tied for 2nd place going into Day 2.

She held her own getting second on the tire deadlift with 6 reps at 500 lbs (Cornelius won this event with a staggering 10 reps), and Ingalls won the Big Top Circus Dumbbell with 8 reps at 125 lbs, securing her win.

Winner Liefia Ingalls with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Kaitlin Burgess and Julie Rader took 2nd and 3rd place, respectively. In the past, Burgess has competed as both a middleweight and a heavyweight, and Rader as a heavyweight. Burgess won the stone series with a blistering 27 second run and Rader won the “Hammer of Strength” (literally a giant hammer the athletes had to shoulder and push up notches to attempt to raise the implement up).

2nd place winner Burgess’s winning Stone of Steel series:

4th Place Winner Britteny Cornelius’ deadlift:

The competition also featured a keg run medley for fastest time. The competition was held on Rogue’s main stage — the athletes competed on a backdrop of a sea of cheering fans, friends, and supporters. The future of Pro Strongwoman seems bright.

Cara Brennan

Cara Brennan

Finishing acting school in 2010 left Cara directionless and depressed, slinging drinks for work while half-heartedly and inconsistently auditioning. She had tons of ambition, but little discipline and no direction. After a psychologically devastating break-up, she decided that, even though she had had almost no athletic development since her early teens, taking control of her body would help her find stability and a way out of her depression. She started working at an NYC gym, and began studying under the training staff. She began like many do: by following Starting Strength’s 5x5 template, and then Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1, experimenting constantly while she learned. She developed a deep desire to challenge herself physically, and training helped her manage the mental health issues that had plagued her for years.

She did her first strongman competition in April, 2015, and has competed over twenty times since then, at the regional, national, and world level. She immediately became hooked on the sport (she has also dabbled in highland games, weightlifting and powerlifting, and aggressively stalks the various Dottirs on social media - that’s the same as trying Crossfit, right?).

Strongman helped her reconnect to her artistic side. She found strongman initially through the internet via sources like Starting Strongman and T-Nation, and she wanted to give back and experience the sport in a more cerebral way by writing. Her experience in strongman inspired aspects of her webseries, Asher, which features an athletic, stone-lifting protagonist.

Cara became a personal trainer in 2014, and strongman became not only a vehicle for personal and physical development, but it also transformed her professional life: She has trained with and learned from a wide scope of strength and fitness professionals, including Dr. Pat Davidson, Zydrunas Savickas, Liefia Ingalls, Dan Trink, Travis Mash, and Cara’s coach, Andrew Triana (of The Performance Vibe with Zach and Nicholas Hadge). She currently trains her clients in Manhattan, and they range from twenty-something-year-old strength hobbyists to grandparents and post-surgery/post-rehab trainees.

Cara is very interested in how strength training and competition become means of personal development, and much of her writing explores the more cerebral aspects of training. She believes that a good training environment, a strong goal and an intelligent program can changes lives far beyond just the body’s performance capabilities. You can learn more about her on her Instagram @captainstarbuck and at

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