Meet the peewee powerlifters

Thursday, May 10th, 2018

The New York Times invites us to meet the peewee powerlifters who are changing the demographics of the sport:

For the past seven months, Etta has been fully engaged in the sport of powerlifting and has just set 12 new American records. She is 11 years old and weighs 65 pounds.

“I don’t just like power lifting; I love it,” she said. “It makes me feel strong, and like I can do anything.”

Damiyah Smith, also 11, and from Commerce, Okla., began powerlifting in fourth grade and goes by the nickname “The Powerhouse Princess.” She’s become a staple on the youth circuit, earning 22 world records over the course of two years and starting her own fitness brand for children, Powerhouse Athletics.


And Luma Valones, who is just 5, has been performing weighted dead lifts, squats and bench presses since she was 3. Luma, who is in kindergarten, has her own private Instagram page, “HappyLuma,” where her mother, Nicole Lacanglacang, 36, a graphic designer who lives in Hayward, Calif., shares videos of her triumphantly raising a set of pink weights over her chest. Ms. Lacanglacang, a powerlifter herself, began training her daughter on a homemade PVC pipe barbell sporting 3.5 pounds out of her garage in February 2016. Luma’s dead lift maximum is now 53 pounds, 18 more than her total body weight.

Ms. Lacanglacang said powerlifting has made her daughter self-confident and is helping her to foster a positive body image. “She tells me she wants to get bigger, that she doesn’t want skinny arms — just big muscles,” she said. Luma seconds that, exuberantly declaring that she wants “to be the strongest person in the universe.”


Priscilla Ribic, the executive director and chair of the woman’s committee for USAPL, said that powerlifting has proved particularly popular among girls; the 2018 USA Powerlifting Nationals competition was over 75 percent female, she said. “I have never seen females outnumber the males, so it was really kind of awesome,” Ms. Ribic said.


  1. Phil B says:

    I used to teach Aikido a while ago and it was recognised that children under age 14 or thereabouts should NOT take classes or practice because the long bones of their body, before puberty were still relatively soft and developing. Too much stress on the wrists in particular would cause problems later on in life.

    Wait a few years until the joint problems start to appear …

    But who cares about that as long as the girls can do whatever they want. Grrrrl power is MUCH more important, eh?

  2. Kirk says:

    First thing I thought of, too…

    We very badly need to be doing some serious longitudinal studies on all this stuff as we make these changes. My guess is that, much like the Olympic gymnast programs, we’re going to see some severe side effects on things like fertility and joint health.

    There’s a reason the old school did things the way they did, and arrived at the solutions they had. Empirical observation sometimes leads to better results, even if nobody documents it and/or arrives at the conclusion through reproducible experiment and analysis.

  3. Redwolfe says:

    I can’t help but think of this as mostly positive. Strength training will teach kids to take care of their bodies, and that success is the result of consistent action over a long period of time, without immediate positive feedback. Those two lessons are rarely learned by youth these days. I expect that if you come back in 20 years, you will find that these kids greatly outperformed their peers at just about everything.

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