'I feel better being stronger': Powerlifters face off in Manitoba's largest competition to date

Manitoban weightlifters put their muscles to the test in a "feats of strength" competition of sorts this weekend as part of the Manitoba Provincial Powerlifting Championships.

Sport is all about building muscles while building confidence at the same time, says association president

Jessica Antony finishes her back squat at the Manitoba Provincial Powerlifting Championships on Saturday. It was the largest competition the Manitoba Powerlifting Association has organized, with 81 athletes competing over two days. (Sarah Petz/CBC)

Manitoban athletes put their muscles to the test in a "feats of strength" competition of sorts this weekend as part of the Manitoba Provincial Powerlifting Championships.

This was the biggest competition the Manitoba Powerlifting Association has organized to date, as 81 athletes competed over two days to see who could do the heaviest bench press, deadlift and back squat — the three main lifts that make up the strength-based sport.

In recent years, powerlifting has seen a surge in popularity, in part due to social media, where people post videos of their best lifts, said Mathew Bowen, president of the Manitoba Powerlifting Association.

"Next thing you know we've, like, quadrupled in size in three years," he said.

Powerlifting involves three main types of lifts: the bench press, back squat, and deadlift. (Sarah Petz/CBC )

Bowen, who has been powerlifting since 2012, says it's an athletic pursuit that's all about getting stronger.

"A lot of people associate lifting weights with looking good or fitness, but for us it's a sport. We want to lift the most amount of weight on the bar," he said.

"We have people of all sizes, all ages. It builds confidence — people are able to better themselves, you want to chase that next number."

Watch as these athletes attempt their first bench press in the competition: 

Aside from the physical gains, that confidence is one of the biggest benefits of powerlifting, he said.

"It teaches anybody that they can train and be better, that you can set goals and achieve them," he said.

"It's a confidence sport, and I see that all across the board."

Jessica Antony broke a personal record during Saturday morning's women's open competition, squatting 215 pounds (about 98 kilograms). She starting lifting four years ago, and says it's made her less afraid to take risks in her daily life.

Jessica Antony when she's not squatting with over 200 pounds on her back. (Sarah Petz/CBC )

"When you can see that, oh, I can go up on stage in front of a roomful of strangers, squat 215 pounds … other, smaller risks in your day-to-day life don't really seem like that much," she said.

"I feel better being stronger."

Among Saturday's competitors was Hailey Kostyniuk, a Canadian National Team member who took home bronze in the International Powerlifting Federation World Championship in Calgary last September.

Hailey Kostyniuk has won medals at the national and international levels in powerlifting. (Sarah Petz/CBC)

She started lifting five years ago and now, she can squat over 500 pounds (more than 225 kilograms).

Anyone who's interested in the sport should find a powerlifting gym in the city, and not be nervous about going to competitions, she said.

"Everybody's always scared that they're not ready for a meet, that they're not strong enough or whatever," she said.

"Just go through the rules, go through some meets, and go and try it."


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