Women who lift | Celebrating the greatest female powerlifting champions

It doesn’t matter whether you’re performing a deadlift, bench press, or squat, powerlifting requires a combination of explosive action and precision technique. However, you don’t have to be a professional weightlifter or bodybuilder to enjoy the benefits a barbell offers the body.

On the contrary, powerlifting is becoming more popular among recreational lifters every year, while improved and affordable access to gyms and leisure facilities is diversifying the powerlifting community right across the board.

And none more so among female lifters. In 2021 27% of Brawn app users were women, with 37% of females taking part in the IPF Exclusive or Kabuki Power Platform Events. This represents a huge step towards making powerlifting a more inclusive sport.

While Brawn celebrates many female lifters today, including several world and Commonwealth champions, let’s take a look back at some of the greatest female lifters in the history of the sport and, in their era, helped inspire a whole generation of young women to take up the sport.


Female Powerlifting Champions

Jen Thompson

An 11-time IPF World Classic Bench Press Champion, Jen Thompson is one of the most-coveted lifters in the business and continues to break boundaries in the post-modern era. Only last year, the American uploaded a video on social media showcasing a 330 lbs bench press – more than twice her own body weight. Speaking to BarBend, she said it was a weight she had been hoping to press for seven years, having previously pressed more than 300 lbs during competition. As the sport continues to grow its appeal, it is vital that we continue to celebrate athletes of all shapes, sizes, and strength, and can be achieved with the appropriate use of digital and social media platforms, including – needless to say – the Brawn Power app.


Jill Mills

Twice the world’s strongest woman in 2001 and 2002, American lifter Jill Mills also won numerous powerlifting competitions between 1997 and 2003. Then a winner of the Strongest Woman Alive title in 2004, Mills was originally a bodybuilder before transitioning into powerlifting competitions. On her journey to greatness, she also advocates for greater equity in the women’s sport, including greater sponsorship opportunities for fellow lifters.


Bev Francis

Formerly a track and field athlete for Australia during the late 1970s, Bev Francis turned to powerlifting after suffering a knee injury in 1980 and was named World Powerlifting Champion for six straight years through 1985. Undefeated during her tenure, Francis set more than 40 powerlifting records, becoming the first woman to bench 300 lbs. Lifting a personal best 335 lbs on the bench, she also showed immense power in the legs too, deadlifting 501 lbs at her prime, and also completing a 500 lbs squat.


Jan Todd

Once considered the strongest woman in the world, and married to the United States’ first powerlifting champion, Terry Todd, Jan Todd wrote her name into the powerlifting hall of fame in her own right, breaking a 49-year record to complete a 394 lbs two-hand deadlift in 1975, then becoming the first woman to lift more than 400 lbs in any powerlifting movement a year later with a 412 lbs deadlift.

Chen Wei-ling

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Chen Wei-ling isn’t only her remarkable power, but also the fact that she can lift three times her own body weight. Weighing in at just over 100 lbs, the Olympic and World Games champion from Taiwan deadlifts 430 lbs and is known to squat more than 450 lbs, giving Wei-ling a phenomenal Brawn Intensity Points (BIPs) score of 425!


Lucy Ejike

Considered one of the greatest athletes in Nigeria’s history, Lucy Ejike’s powerlifting career saw her win three gold and two silver medals from five Paralympic Games between Sydney 2000 and Rio 2016 before securing a women’s lightweight silver during the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. Nigeria is home to several champion lifters. Having written her name into para-powerlifting legend, Ejike goes down as one of the greatest female lifters in the sport’s history.


Becca Swanson

One of the most accomplished powerlifters of all time, Becca Swanson holds several powerlifting world records for the women’s sport, including the heaviest squat, deadlift, and bench press. Among her best lifts, in 2006, Swanson became the first woman to squat more than 800 lbs (804.7 lbs), though since went on to eclipse her own record to squat 854.3 lbs. While among the strongest women in the history of the sport, the American’s strength and finesse was also admired in the world of wrestling, going on to win several world wrestling titles following her powerlifting career.


Interested in taking your lifting to the next level by taking part in a global powerlifting event? Visit the events page to find out more about how you can get involved.