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10 Strongest Women in the World: From the Origin Till Now

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Today, women are taking up weightlifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding, participating in the same competitions as men do. The notion of a strong woman is becoming more spread in sports circles.

But they’re becoming less feminine because they don’t fit society’s expectations. Despite this, women still are breaking free of gender stigma and expressing passion for their sports hobby.

The current role of women in weightlifting serves as an inspiration for other women, encouraging them to express their power, break stereotypes, and redefine the value of strong women in strength sports.

strongest woman in the world

Strongest Women in the World: Its Concept and Progression 

When it comes to strength training and lifting weights in particular, there is a belief in society that it’s usually men’s business to lift and pull heavy weights.

Only men can be obsessed with being ripped and muscular, while women should express pure femininity and cuteness. However, nowadays there’s a tendency that some women can outshine men making them feel weak.

You may like itEffective Strongman Training Program To Gain Max Strength

World’s Strongest Woman, also known as Strongwoman World Championships is an annual strongwoman competition, which is considered to be a capstone for female competitors and recognized as the world championship like the World’s Strongest Man.

wearing wrist wraps before training

1. Peculiarities of Women’s Strength Training in the 20th Century

In the world of sports dominated by men, women were expressing resilience and determination to take up weight training equally to men despite shattered stereotypes in the society.

At the beginning of the 20th century, there was an emergency of physical culture spread, i.e. highlighting the importance of training for overall well-being. However, societal norms and standards limit women from being involved in sports.

Despite these restrictions, there were several brave women who began to challenge these conventions. After World War II, women contributed greatly to the war expressing their high interest in weight training.

Such popularity of sports resulted in a fitness revolution in the 1970s. There were lots of pioneering fitness enthusiasts among females like Rachel McLish and Cory Everson who became influential figures in the 1970s and 1980s. McLish, crowned the first Ms.

Olympia in 1980, showed a lean physique, standing against societal norms about the feminine ideal. These women paved the way for a new epoch in which women’s strength and athleticism were welcomed.

woman uses barbell collars

The American Abbye ‘Pudgy’ Stockton was a pioneer in women’s weightlifting, known also as “The Queen of Muscle Beach.” She wrote a monthly column for Strength and Health called “Barbelles” back in 1944, giving advice and encouragement to women who wanted to take up weight training.

At that time there was a common belief that lifting weights would make women muscular and less feminine, she kept on inspiring women to be fit despite the thoughts spread around.

The late 20th and the early 21st century demonstrated a significant shift in the perception of women in strength sports, particularly in weightlifting and powerlifting. The sports industry became more open and inclusive, emphasizing individual enhancement rather than sticking to societal standards.

2. Women’s Strength Training Today: Broadening Female Inclusion in Weightlifting

Female bodybuilding is one of the toughest sports, at the same time, it’s gaining popularity over the last decades. Any strength- and weight lifting-related discipline requires years of hard, consistent workouts and extreme diet regime.

Weightlifting and bodybuilding are not just physically demanding, but also such training may result in physical injuries or some serious psychological issues. Many strongest female bodybuilders retired because of stress breakdowns, however, others gained success in the sports after getting 50.

The inclusion of women in the weightlifting sport in the Olympic Games became a pivotal point in recognizing and legitimizing women’s participation in such sport events. Women debuted at the Olympics in 2000, creating a solid platform for representing female weightlifting in the world arena.

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The History of the Strongest Women in the World Events: The List of Top Athletes

The strongest female athletes in weightlifting and bodybuilding revolutionized the idea about the nature of the female physique and appearance, and its ability to develop muscle and muscularity.

If we analyze the recent Strongwoman competitions, we can confirm that female lifters from Great Britain, the United States, and Ukraine have prevailed at these events over the past years.

Namely, British Rebecca Roberts who is the current strongest woman in the world, Ukrainian Olga Liashchuk, another British strongwoman Donna Moore, and American Kristin Rhodes are the leading athletes who occupy the top positions.

Here’s the statistics of the recent Strongest Woman events and the list of Top 3 athletes:

2023

  1. Rebecca Roberts (GBR)
  2. Lucy Underdown (GBR)
  3. Nicole Genrich (AUS)

2022

  1. Olga Liashchuk (UKR) 
  2. Andrea Thompson (GBR)
  3. Inez Carrasquillo (PR)

2021

  1. Rebecca Roberts (GBR)
  2. Olga Liashchuk (UKR)
  3. Annabelle Chapman (GBR)

2019

  1. Donna Moore (GBR)
  2. Lindsey Quinones (USA)
  3. Andrea Thompson (GBR)

2018

  1. Andrea Thompson (GBR)
  2. Donna Moore (GBR)
  3. Kristin Rhodes (USA)

2017

  1. Donna Moore (GBR)
  2. Kristin Rhodes (USA)
  3. Britteny Cornelius (USA)

2016

  1. Donna Moore (GBR)
  2. Lidia Gynko (UKR)
  3. Olga Liashchuk (UKR)

Let’s recall the Top 10 strongest female athletes in the world, mentioning their achievements and records

1. Rebecca Swanson

Rebecca ‘Becca’ Swanson is an American strongest female powerlifter, strongwoman, and a professional wrestler in the past. She set numerous powerlifting world records, including records of the heaviest squat, bench press, deadlift, and total. From 1996 until 2008 she took gold medals at the powerlifting events.

Let’s rename her major lifts: the squat is 601.9 lb (273.0 kg) (equipped), the bench press is 523.6 lb (237.5 kg) (equipped with a bench shirt). Becca is the only woman who deadlifted 621 lb (282 kg) (equipped). Swanson is also known for performing 35 kg dumbbell curls for 10 repetitions.

2. Jill Mills

Jill Mills is an American world champion in powerlifting and world champion strongwoman. She’s a two-time gold medalist at the World’s Strongest Women in 2001 and 2002, and also got bronze at the same event in 2005. At the powerlifting competitions, she also became the leader, winning the gold medal.

In 2001 the International Federation of Strength Athletes crowned Mills as the first World’s Strongest Woman champion in Zambia, setting the way for generations of future strongwomen.

3. Kristin Rhodes

She’s the eight-time America’s Strongest Woman and three-time World’s Strongest Woman. She began competing in Strongwoman competitions in 2006 after her husband, Donnie, was encouraged to compete at a local contest.

By the way, at that time, there were few women competing at such events. So, she competed in the men’s categories and managed to win. 

4. Rebecca Roberts

She’s currently the UK’s Strongest Woman alive in 2023 and the winner of the 2021 and 2023 World’s Strongest Woman competition. She regained the title of ‘World’s Strongest Woman’ after winning at the Official Strongman Games, becoming one of 4 women in the whole history who became a multiple World Strongest Woman champion.

Here’s the list of the world records she currently holds:

  • 2023 – Conan’s Wheel of Pain at Arnold Classic resulting in 92’9″
  • 2018 – Handshake Lift (one hand) at David Horne World of Grip resulting in 84.68 kg
  • 2018 – Axle Deadlift (20″ from the floor) double overhand thumbless grip at David Horne World of Grip resulting in 137.05 kg
  • 2018 – 76mm Silarukov Rolling Handle (thumbless) hold (one hand) at David Horne World of Grip resulting in 47.5 kg

5. Rhianon Lovelace

This charismatic and bright, strong woman is considered to be the strongest woman in history. She is a two-time World’s Strongest Woman winner and multiple strongwoman world record holder. Namely, she won two World titles, three European and three British championships.

rhianon lovelace
Photo by @rhi.lovelace

She has established fourteen World Records in the following events: Atlas Stone, Axle Press, Deadlift, Silver Dollar Deadlift, and the heaviest Axle Deadlift ever performed in any weight division. For instance, her Deadlift world record is 282.5kg (623lb) that is a three-weight division record, with only the heavyweight women exceeding her effort. 

Her major competition results are the following:

  • U64kg World’s Strongest Woman:
  • 2018 & 2022 – Winner
  • 2021 – Runner-up
  • Strongman European Championships 2023: Winner
  • Arnold UK Pro 2022: Winner
  • Europe’s Strongest Woman: 3 x Winner
  • Britain’s Strongest Woman: 3 x Winner

Best Lifts:

  • Deadlift: 282.5kg/623lb
  • Axle Deadlift of 261.5kg/577lb (World Record across all weight categories)
  • Strict Press: 90kg/198lb
  • Bench Press: 115kg/254lb
  • Raw Deadlift: 241kg/531lb

6. Zhou Lulu 

She is a strong weightlifter from China, known for her world records in the super heavyweight category. She won gold at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London in the women’s +75 kg category with a total of 333 kg, which became a new world record. However, those records have since been broken.

zhou lulu
Photo by @lauralaurlor

Li Wenwen (5’10” 331 pounds) won the super-heavy gold medal at the 2020 Olympics and currently holds the weightlifting world records for a woman of any weight in the snatch, clean and jerk, and total.

7. Irene Andersen

Being in her 50s, Irene is one of the best strongest women ever in bodybuilding competing for Jake Wood and Wings of Strength.  She started working out when she was 15: Irene was a serious athlete starting with martial arts, e.g. judo and kickboxing.

Several years later, she started weight training – she liked it and her body responded quickly to such tension.

Irene got interested in bodybuilding in 2003. She says that she benefits from both muscle memory and muscle maturity.  So, she’s training consistently, resulting in a ripped body, so it responds to this degree of development to be ‘normal.

8. Donna Moore 

Trying to cope with health issues and depression, Donna Moore took up weight training and shortly after joining the local gym, she competed at the strongwoman event. Thus, this is how the story of the three-time Strongest Woman in the world began.

She’s a British strongwoman and the gold medal winner of the 2016, 2017, and 2019 World’s Strongest Woman competitions, also a two-time Arnold World Strongwoman champion in 2016 and 2017, and the 2018 Arnold Pro Strongwoman champion.

She set records in the following events: 170 kg at Max Atlas Stone (2020 Rogue Record Breakers); 147 kg at Max Atlas Stone (No Tacky) in 2018, and 7 of the 9 Ardblair Stones loading at 37.14 seconds (2019 Highland Games & Rattray Highland Games).

9. Andrea Thompson 

She began competing in strongwomen events in 2013 becoming one of the world’s most successful strongwomen. During her strength career she won the World’s Strongest Woman title, four Britain’s Strongest Woman awards, and also broke numerous world records in various disciplines.

She started from Functional Fitness classes, but soon she developed a talent for weight lifting and soon moved to strongwoman competitions.

Andrea is the world record holder for the log lift event of 140kg/308 lb in 2022. She has also set world records in the Elephant Bar and Hummer deadlift, and the regular strongwoman deadlift.

10. Olga Liashchuk 

She’s a Ukrainian pro Strongwoman who is a two-time Arnold Strongwoman Classic champion and also the winner of World’s Strongest Woman, Strongest Woman in the World, and Shaw Classic Open (Women) competitions.

Her personal records include:

  • Rogue Elephant Bar Deadlift – 288.5 kg (636 lb) raw with straps at the 2023 Arnold Strongwoman Classic;
  • Hummer tire Deadlift – 306 kg (675 lb) 15″ from the floor at the 2022 Arnold Pro Strongwoman;
  • Axle Deadlift (for reps) – 218 kg (481 lb) for 10 reps at the 2022 World’s Strongest Woman;
  • Deadlift (for reps) – 170 kg (375 lb) for 15 reps at the 2019 Arnold Pro Strongwoman
  • Jeck Stone carry – 2 Stones weighing 99.5 kg (219 lb) & 93.6 kg (206 lb) for 13.31 meters (43’8″) at the 2024 Arnold Strongwoman Classic
  • Thor’s Hammer one arm grip lift – 68 kg (150 lb) at the 2024 Rogue Record Breakers;
  • Conan’s Wheel of Pain – 9,072 kg (20,000 lb) 18.19 meters (59’8″) at the 2023 Arnold Strongwoman Classic.

Common Misconceptions About Women’s Involvement in Strength Training

There’s a belief that lifting weights and everything related to this topic isn’t useful for women, namely it may be dangerous for their health and will make them bulky. Such stereotypes are still present in society, however, we’ll try to clear up these points and provide you with trusted evidence.

1. Women Will Become Too Bulky

The first common myth refers to the fact that lifting weights can make women become too muscular and bulky. Yes, this is the fact that if you lift weights regularly over a long time, you will gain muscle mass.

However, some studies show that there is no significant difference between how quickly men and women build muscles following a similar workout regime.

woman training

To start with, building muscles may be a longer process than burning fat. A muscular lean body is the result of many years of hard work. Thus, it’s impossible for women to become bulky in a short time. Even if gaining muscle mass, it won’t be noticeable, the maximum possible result is becoming fit and sporty.

Another proof that a woman won’t become bulky is that it’s 10 times harder for females to build muscle mass than men. The reason is that women have 10 times less testosterone than men, which is responsible for muscle growth.

2. Strength & Lifting Training Is Only for Men

As we can see, despite all stereotypes, there are tens of sample female athletes who got the title of the strongest women in the world. Like men, they can excel at lifting weights. As usual, men lift more weight in total, but some women can lift even more pounds when it comes to overall strength and endurance. 

Strength training is for everyone, it’s not a matter of gender. However, traditional gender roles and differences in absolute strength have resulted in misconceived slant of female strength training. Male physiology, even more than male hormones, is the key reason for men’s superiority. 

But when comparing cross-sectional muscle areas, male and female strength remains the same. This is due to regular training that results in bone and soft-tissue modeling, increased lean body mass, decreased fat rate, and facilitating self-confidence.

3. Strength Training Is Dangerous for Women

On the contrary, weight training can be beneficial for older women: the thing is that after 30s, women tend to lose minerals from their bones which may result in osteoporosis, meaning bones that are prone to fracture.

woman training for lifting

Thus lifting weights is a must in this situation: they get the needed stimulation while training by slowing down the rate of mineral loss

What’s more, weight training for women mitigates the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Women suffering from low libido (that is the result of anti-anxiety medication) should try lifting weights. 

Conclusion

Leaving all misconceptions behind, female athletes showed their passion in lifting weights, thus becoming the strongest women in the world. They created communities to celebrate diversity inside weightlifting and powerlifting.

Interested in the strongest women records and ongoing leaders? Write us below, we’ll give you an expert-level opinion.

References:

  1. W P Ebben, R L Jensen. “Strength training for women: debunking myths that block opportunity”, The Physician and sportsmedicine, no. 26(5) (1998): 86-97.
  2. Anil Kumar Chaudhary, B. Van Horn, Marilyn Corbin. “StrongWomen® Program Evaluation: Effect of Strength Training Exercises on Physical Fitness of Participants”, Journal of Extension, no. 53 (4), (2015).
  3. Watson S, Weeks B, Weis L. “High-Intensity Resistance and Impact Training Improves Bone Mineral Density and Physical Function in Postmenopausal Women With Osteopenia and Osteoporosis: The LIFTMOR Randomized Controlled Trial”, Journal of bone and mineral research, no. 34(3) (2019): 572. 
  4. Jonathan C Mcleod, Brad S Currier, Caroline V Lowisz. “The influence of resistance exercise training prescription variables on skeletal muscle mass, strength, and physical function in healthy adults: An umbrella review”, Journal of sport and health science, no. 13(1) (2023):47-60. 
  5. Weight-Lifting For Women: Why Women Should Lift, https://blog.nasm.org/weight-lifting-for-women.
  6. Photos made by Torokhtiy Media Team.

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Sergiy Osipchyk

Author: Sergiy Osipchyk
Strongman Coach,
Former coach of Oleksiy Novikov and Pavlo Nakonechnyy

Strength Training: 30+ years Coaching: 25+ years
Strongman Experience: 10+ years

Sergiy has been involved in strength sports since he was 10 years old, and already started coaching when he was just 15 years old.

He helps clients of any age and experiences achieve results using an individual approach, daily process control, consultation and training knowledge and techniques, total experience is more than 20,000 individual training sessions.

Sergiy has trained a roster of renowned PRO strongman athletes including Oleksii Novikov, Pavlo Nakonechnyy and many other.

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