‘Powerlifting gave me purpose’ | Brawn athlete stories in their own words

There are many reasons why our Brawn athletes become lifters – no matter their level. Even for the elites, it isn’t only about pushing their bodies beyond pre-conceived limits but also finding an outlet for personal fulfilment in other areas of their lives. 

For many lifters, who may have picked up weights through necessity or even as part of their careers, powerlifting is more than a sport – it presents a gateway to becoming the people they so desire and, in some cases, overcome adversity.

This is the universal power of powerlifting – because it doesn’t matter your ability or what sporting background you might come from, lifting barbells – whether on a bench, as part of a deadlift, or performing a squat – has the capacity to give people a sense of purpose.

Here, we want to introduce you to some of our most inspiring athletes to become part of the Brawn community and hope to inspire more current and soon-to-be lifters to join the movement.

‘I wanted to take back control’

Sophia Ellis is a professional lifter and powerlifting coach, who also leads a vegan lifestyle. While a role model for female athletes in the UK, the Commonwealth champion says, after suffering from anorexia and bulimia during her years in higher education, her recovery can be attributed to her decision to take up powerlifting. 

“I’ve overcome anorexia and bulimia to become a powerlifter for Great Britain and England, holding several records including titles as Commonwealth, British, and English champion,” Sophia told Joe Media

“I experienced a lot of childhood trauma. When I didn’t have much control over my life, I took control over what I was eating and became a coping mechanism. 

“My way of dealing with it was to destroy myself – whereas today I am deadlifting 200kg, which is amazing considering that, at my worst, I couldn’t lift myself up most of the time. Powerlifting helped me feel strong and gave me a lot more mental clarity.”

‘Why can’t girls be strong, too?’

Sophia also addresses a common misconception that women cannot be as strong as men – and hopes hers and other female athletes’ stories can inspire more women and girls to take up the sport. This sentiment is shared by fellow British powerlifter Karenjeet Kaur Bains, who got her first taste of the sport as part of her athletics training during her youth and has since gone on to win three gold medals at the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships.

Becoming the first Sikh to represent TeamGB, Karenjeet – who lifts alongside her day job as a chartered accountant – says she wants to show her followers that they can be a “multi-dimensional person” – whatever they choose to do in life – and that, despite coming from a traditionally career-focused culture, it was her father who encouraged her to give powerlifting a go as a teenager.

“Being a Sikh, we are often referred to as being the ‘Warrior Race’,” explains Karenjeet, speaking to ITV News. “There are plenty of men in the lifting community from my heritage but very rarely any women. It is my hope that, as the first female lifter from my culture, I can help open the floodgates for more women and girls from all areas and strengths to get involved. Why can’t girls be strong, too?”

‘Bodybuilding a way of life’

As with many sports around the world, Covid-19 has forced competitive and recreational athletes to train from home – albeit some of the most dedicated lifters in the business have been seeing the benefits of a home gym long before the pandemic. 

Among them, professional lifter Tony Cliffe, another of Brawn’s official athletes, says that, in order to be the best lifter he can be, it is essential that he puts in the time during training while also ensuring it doesn’t impact his efforts as a husband and father. 

Speaking during the documentary series, Stronger Than Before, Tony said: “To be able to fit my training in around my family life takes discipline because life and what’s important does have to come first. However, there’s no perfect plan when it comes to lifting and that means, even when there are days I don’t feel motivated, I have to remain disciplined and put the hard work in. It’s a personal choice, so don’t make training impossible because that’s when it will be. One cannot affect the other. That’s bodybuilding.”

Connecting the lifting community

There are several simple methods to finding your own personal nirvana close to home while also continuing to feel connected to the lifting community. Rob Clark, who became Brawn’s first official athlete shortly after its inception in 2020, competes with the Amateur British Powerlifting Union (ABPU), and previously the British Drug Free Powerlifting Association (BDFPA), as part of his career in the military. 

According to Rob, the Brawn Power platform has proven to be the ideal place to stay connected with other lifters and their progress, and to take part in virtual powerlifting events available via the service. He said: “In order to track my own progress, the Brawn Power app has been extremely useful, especially with access to Brawn’s BIPs scoring algorithm. It demonstrates how I am doing and also how I should be doing.”


Sophia, Karenjeet, Tony, and Rob will be competing in one of the two virtual events Brawn is hosting in December. Visit our events page to find out how you can get involved.