Meet Rachel Denis!
Rachel is a powerlifter who competes in both raw and equipped with USA Powerlifting. She holds NY State records, won the Northeast Regional Raw Championship in 2016, and placed 4th at Equipped Nationals in 2017.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I grew up in Florida and currently live in New York City. I’ve always been relatively active and was a cheerleader and played softball when I was younger. I am also a powerlifting coach at the gym in which I train, South Brooklyn Weightlifting Club, a USA Powerlifting Certified Club Coach, and a USA Powerlifting Referee. Powerlifting pretty much takes up the majority of my time in one way or another, and it doesn’t bother me one bit.
Tell us about how you got into powerlifting?
I was doing some general weight lifting just because I enjoyed it and actually sustained a very minor injury. That prompted me to begin to research proper form for the deadlift, and I stumbled upon an article about powerlifting. I was immediately intrigued and once I started training for it, I was hooked.
How has powerlifting changed your life?
It’s hard to even try and describe all of the ways powerlifting has changed my life. I feel more confident in literally everything I do. I feel extremely capable physically, but I’ve also learned to be more comfortable speaking up when I need to. My coach has talked about a “quiet swagger” that powerlifters have, and that resonates with me. It’s like I have this fantastic secret that I walk around with.
I also can’t minimize how the people I have met through powerlifting have changed my life. The community is amazing, and I have gained valuable mentors and very meaningful friendships along the way.
How does participating in this sport make you feel about your body?
I take real ownership of my body in a way I had never done previously. I feel proud of what my body is capable of. I’m stronger than the majority of the general population. The focus has become much less about what my body looks like, and much more about what it can accomplish, which has been incredibly liberating.
I also want to make something very clear though: while my focus is on what my body can do, I do also truly love the way my body looks. I love my muscularity and thickness and nobody can take that away from me.
Where do you think the sport of powerlifting is going for women?
Female participation in the sport has grown so much in recent years, and I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon. The gym that I train and coach in is a powerlifting gym and the membership is currently at about 40% women. That always surprises people. The sport gives women permission to appreciate their bodies in a different way than society generally tells them to do, so of course, women are excited to be included in that environment.
You recently had a video of yourself go viral on Instagram; what was the response?
That was a surprise! Honestly, the response was lovely. Most of the comments were from women who were taking note of a technique I was using to be able to do pull-ups, and said that they were going to try it themselves. In a big way, that is what posting videos on social media is all about. Maybe something I say or do will stick with someone and inspire them to try something new. I’m all about encouraging women to do what makes them feel strong!
Who is your inspiration?
I am constantly inspired by so many strong men and women I know, but my niece and nephews inspire me more than anything. I want them to grow up in a world where they see strong women doing amazing things. I also want them to see and know women who are proud of their bodies and what their bodies are capable of, and not just focused on what they look like.
What do you want to say to women who may not yet have the confidence to follow their dreams?
Be kind and patient with yourself. If you haven’t yet reached whatever your dream is, that’s okay. Much more growth is made during the process of getting there than when you attain your goal. Find something that centers you and make it an essential part of your life.