These powerlifting women are strong, empowered and smashing stereotypes

Three women in Northern Ireland are smashing stereotypes and championing powerlifting as a way to improve wellbeing and promote how empowering it can feel to be physically strong. 

British Army powerlifters Lance Corporal Platten of 2 Royal Irish, Private Grant-Nichols of 2 RIFLES and Private Clancy of the Staff and Personnel Support (SPS) branch of the Army, are part of a growing number of women taking to the intense strength sport.

LCpl Platten told Rachael Price, a broadcaster for BFBS the Forces Station, that there were few women in the sport when she started but she added: "Now it's just bursting at the seams with females, it's great.

"It's one of those sports that everybody just supports each other. 

"I don't know half of the girls in there and I'm chatting to them all - everybody's just so supportive." 

LCpl Platten Powerlifter British Army (Picture: Glenn Kirkpatrick).
LCpl Platten (Picture: Glenn Kirkpatrick).

The women enjoy seeing other female soldiers on the platform lifting weights which she said might make some reconsider taking on the challenge, especially when their lighter bodyweight in comparison to some of their male counterparts is considered. 

LCpl Platten said: "It's just one of those sports that just completely throws a curveball. 

"Especially to people who know nothing about it. 

"Women are taking powerlifting by storm, 100%." 

Pte Grant-Nichols believes that women naturally bring with them something a little different to the sport. Her own experience has shown her that women are great at boosting the confidence of those around them but can flip from supportive to competitive in an instant, saying: "Some of the guys are little bit like wary and we're a little bit more emotionally connected as women. 

"We're like 'come on, you've got this' and we give them a little pep talk but at the same time we can switch like that and be in your face screaming at you when you need it." 

Pte Grant-Nichols Powerlfter British Army (Picture: Pte Grant-Nichols).
Pte Grant-Nichols (Picture: Pte Grant-Nichols).

Banter is a large component of military life and it's something Pte Grant-Nichols said is ever-present while training, especially when stereotypes can be broken down and seen in a light-hearted way, adding: "There's the stereotype of women that women who lift heavy sometimes pee on the platform and things like that and the attitude in our club is if you pee, it's fine as long as you make that lift." 

The way the women look at it, their gender does not define their ability to be powerful and successful. The only thing that matters are the statistics. 

As long as the numbers on the statistics board improve and each powerlifter is making progress and achieving new records, there are no losers. Pte Grant-Nichols said: "When we walk in that door, there's not much of a, 'you're a woman, you're a man' – we’re just all there by numbers on the board. 

"I'll be able to go in there tomorrow or tonight and change my figures on that board because I'm going to beat every one of my records today." 

Pte Clancy Powerlifter British Army (Picture: Pte Clancy).
Pte Clancy (Picture: Pte Clancy).

Private Clancy, of the SPS, uses powerlifting to break stereotypes, promote physical strength to the wider military community and nourish her mental health, saying: "For me, it's my happy place. 

"Any exercise at all is good for you but I think being able to feel strong and come out empowered is what makes my day." 

The soldier believes in the benefits of exercise, in particular the act of controlled physical aggression.  

For her, the act of lifting heavy weights helps her to take any anger she might feel during the act and not elsewhere, saying: "Whenever you're angry, there's something heavy to take it out on. 

"You have to be angry, you have to channel your anger, or whatever emotion you want to feel to get that bar up in a controlled way so you don't take that anger away from the gym." 

Cover image credit: Lance Corporal Platten (taken by Glenn Kirkpatrick), Private Grant-Nichols and Private Clancy