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Military powerlifters gather in Tacoma

Lifters of all ages, genders and body types challenge popular misconceptions

Army EMD and aspiring powerlifter Randi Lindstrom set new personal bests in every category - including a 390-pound deadlift - at the USA Powerlifting State Championships in Tacoma. This was her first competition. Photo credit: Jared Lovrak

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From regular Atlas to Charles Atlas, the classic image of a powerlifter that endures in the public consciousness - the gigantic, muscular meathead - shares more in common with turn-of-the-century circus strongmen than it does with present-day reality. With all due respect to Atlas and his literal "world record", almost anyone can be a powerlifter, and you're unlikely to find any handlebar mustaches, leopardprint singlets, or any of that bunk among them.

This past Saturday and Sunday, hundreds of aspiring powerlifters - men and women of all ages and body types - gathered at Tacoma Strength in downtown Tacoma to compete in the 2017 USA Powerlifting Washington State Championships.

"You don't have to be a huge muscle-bound person to get started and excel in powerlifting," said State Chair Danna Snow. "Powerlifting is for everyone - male, female, old, young, big and small. We had several lifters above seventy and the youngest was 10."

Of course, there's much more to powerlifting than, uh, lifting powerfully. For one thing, steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs are rightfully considered poor sportsmanship. In fact, USA Powerlifting is the largest drug-free powerlifting federation in the country, and works under the same stringent guidelines as the International Olympic Committee, so competitors need to be able to pass a drug test. That didn't appear to be a problem for many of the competitors. Marcelle Ford set a new state record with her 280-plus-pound dead lift, pausing only briefly to revel in her victory and talk to The Ranger before cutting things short to run to the restroom. It appeared that some other lifters, so focused on taxing their bodies to the limit, lost control of their systems during their lifts. Considering that some of them were singlehandedly lifting barbells weighing more than the average refrigerator, it's perfectly understandable.

Amy Tiemeyer, an Army and Navy veteran and current president of the Association of the United States Army, set new personal bests at the competition, dead lifting 270 pounds and back squatting 187.5 pounds.

"Next year I'd like to go for a state record in bench press." Tiemeyer said.

The current state record is 160 pounds. Tiemeyer hopes to bench 175.

Randi Lindstrom, an Army EM doctor, set new personal bests in all three competition categories, back squatting 270 pounds, bench pressing 160 pounds and dead lifting an astonishing 390 pounds. This was her first competition. Lindstrom's advice to anyone interested in powerlifting who might be on the fence due to personal limitations, whether actual or perceived: "Just get up and do it."

Pretty obvious, (and treacherously close to copyright infringement thanks to a certain shoe company), but it's a pearl of wisdom that all kinds of would-be couch potatoes need to hear sometimes - and one that USA Powerlifting shares.

"Powerlifting is a sport which almost anyone can be involved. We have members who started lifting in their 60s, people who have overcome major health issues or physical disabilities and everyone in between," Snow said. "It provides each individual the opportunity to see what they are truly capable of."

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