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Ali Huston

(Deb Widdis and Ali Huston sidebar)
by Gene X Hwang

July 2004 - If you made it out to the 2004 Arnold Classic and checked out some of the other goings on, you may have seen the World's Strongest Woman strolling through the halls or moving huge amounts of weight. Or, if you didn't know much about the powerlifting going on, you still may have seen a big woman that would have made any of the Ms. International competitors look small. Yes, that must have been Becca Swanson.

The women of Big Iron Gym
Ali Huston, Becca Swanson and Deb Widdis
(left to right: Ali Huston, Becca Swanson and Deb Widdis)

Becca Swanson's gym, the Big Iron Gym is home to many bodybuilders and powerlifters and several of them were on hand at the 2004 NPC Jr Nationals to support one of their own, Deb Widdis.

Widdis had been incorporating a lot of powerlifting moves into her training and it definitely paid off with a lot of dense thick muscle packed on since her last competition. She credits the training she does with Becca as well as Ali at the Big Iron Gym.

With such a supportive team of women there at the gym, it must be looked at as one of the premier places to sling iron in the midwest. With the world's strongest woman in charge and National level bodybuilders like Widdis training there, it should be a place you will be hearing more and more about and with young talent like 18-year-old powerlifter Ali Huston, stay tuned!

We'll be planning to cover some powerlifting meets later this year that Ali will be competing in too.

"There is a great saying from the woman's historian of FLEX magazine, Steve Wennerstrom. He stated that my presence in front of a person that has never seen me before changes that person's spectrum," explains Swanson.

"They may have thought they knew what a muscular girl looks like, but that thought is expanded at the site of me. Wow! I want to continue changing people's view on what a woman's physical capacity is or should be.

"My genetics allowed me to be this big, there is nothing wrong with me tapping into my full physical potential - I want to show the world. So, a future goal is to get myself into a vast majority of the public eye. Now that I can look back on powerlifting and say, 'I am satisfied' - only now can I start the road to be a public figure. Where that road leads, is yet to be revealed. And just because I am satisfied, doesn't mean I am finished."

So it may sound like Swanson is finished with powerlifting but that is certainly not the case. Rather, she is referring to the fact that she accomplished many of her goals, and anyone who has seen her lifts, or heard of them knows that she has destroyed records and is stronger than most men that walk this earth.

Becca Swanson"Oh, I never think like that. But I get plenty of guys that tell me, 'I am trying to keep up with you.' or 'You out-lift almost all the guys in my gym.' Some places have pictures of me up for motivation. I need to capitalize on this. I am getting shirts made that say: Front: 'I train hard because...'; Back: 'Becca outlifts me.' Overall though, it is a cold hard fact, and I love it!"

After working so hard to earn that Swanson is allowed to enjoy it! Of course being that strong has some notoriety to it as well, but she hasn't let that get to her head and her humble demeanor doesn't always match her somewhat intimidating exterior for many who don't know the real Becca.

"You know I feel like the same Becca; I am the same person I was 10 years ago. When it is called to my attention [being the world's strongest woman], I smile because of the road behind me. The workouts I endured, the consistent training for eight-and-a-half years, the 'leaving family/friends on the back burner,' every bump in the road was worth it. It is really neat when a gym member says, 'Yeah, I was down in Florida and people down there know who you are,' Unreal!"

Swanson was a bit of a natural with strength too. "It wasn't hard to get interested. The first day my coach had me deadlift I did 250 lbs. with no training under my belt. It is not hard to stick with something you are good at. I remember saying to myself, 'I am never going to be petite, so I might as well get as big as I can,'" she says with a smile.

Standing at 5'9" tall and weighing in around 240 lbs., she sports 27" quads, 17.5" arms, and 17.5" calves.

"People mostly stare, in a non-offensive way. The occasional girl will say, 'You go girl!" It is a rare occasion when an educated person asks, 'What do you squat?' and I about dropped when one guy asked, 'What do you deadlift?' That is the kind of person I am excited to talk with, because they comprehend what it takes to deadlift 650 lbs.

"Kids are so super honest and mostly scared of me. It all comes with the territory and I am glad to deal with all responses," Swanson adds.

So what did she do exactly at the Arnold meet? Well, we asked her what motivates her and here's what she said:

Becca Swanson and Ali Huston - powerlifting"Ahh, Gene, your question is perfect. Usually the question is 'who motivates you?' I don't work that way. The drive to get to a certain point was easy. It was easy to get to 605 lb deadlift and a 635 lb squat. Those are the numbers I needed to have the highest deadlift and squat ever.

"I wanted the best lifts ever and that is what motivated me at first. And this is how I
describe the rest, 'I climbed to the top of the mountain, then I took off running. Full speed ahead.' The numerical barriers are what I set my sites on: 1600 lb. total, 1700 lb. total, 700 lb. squat, 800 lb. squat, 1800 lb. total, 1900 lb. total.

"The people around me had no doubt I was capable of these things - my coach and my powerlifting peers. That instills a bit of fear in an athlete, the fear of failure, not an option," she adds, in a very steady voice, which exudes the determination Swanson is filled with.

In the end she totaled 1912.5 lbs. at the Arnold with a 501.5 lb. bench press, 760.5 lb. squat and 650.5 lb. deadlift.

Swanson is also good friends with fellow strong woman, Jill Mills, with whom she's done a very impressive video showcasing their strength with some incredible lifts in the gym. Both are great ambassadors for the sport, and with luck, we will be seeing more and more strong women like them.

And with a body like Becca sports, you will be hard pressed to miss her the next time she's around.

"I love my body. I love the control I have over my appearance. I can choose to be 240 lbs. or I can chose to be 215, etc. I know my body inside out and that makes me comfortable. It clears my mind and allows me to focus on other life issues other than appearance. I am comfortable with all the decisions that I have made along the way and I wouldn't trade my life for any other."

That kind of confidence and straight ahead vision has sent her to the top of the strength world, and we will have to see where it will take her.

You can keep up with the latest on Becca at her official web site:

Also, you can see more of her in her video with Jill Mills. Click on the banner below to find out more!

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female muscle, shawna walker, larissa reis, michelle jin, wrestling, tracey toth, kira neuman, female bodybuilding, cindy phillips, britt miller, casey daugherty, lyris capelle, jill brooks, olga guryev, olga guryeva, kristy hawkins, cheryl faust, lindsey cope, lindsay cope, veronica miller