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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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February 03 2012

Powerlifter Goes Primal, Lifts Very Heavy Things for the Win

By Guest
149 Comments

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

On Primal I’ve gained about 10 pounds – 10 pounds of muscle that is.

Over the two past years, I’ve been trying to increase my strength and add muscle mass.

The first year, even though I was lifting heavy weights, I didn’t add much, if any, muscle. I was eating a low-fat, low carb diet (which was extremely flavorless and hard to maintain) and just got plain old skinny. Not toned. Not jacked. Just skinny.

I then of course fell off that diet and put on a bit of fat, which is when my fiance and I decided to start Primal.

Since starting Primal about a year ago, I’ve seen the scale jump up 10 pounds, but I look lean and more muscled than I’ve ever looked before. And my strength has also really increased over the past year.

It actually increased so much that two months ago I decided to train for my first powerlifting competition.

When I started training, I was told by another trainer at the gym, that I would need to eat carbs, like bread and stuff, if I expected to really see results.

I just shook my head and kept eating Primally and my numbers just kept going up. And actually the couple of times I did cheat, I had my worst workouts EVER the day after!

Although throughout the two months I planned to compete, I didn’t actually enter the MA/RI Powerlifting State Championship meet until right before the deadline. I was super nervous and could think of a bazillion reasons why I wasn’t ready.

One of my reasons not to compete was because my training wasn’t true powerlifting workouts. The second reason was that I’d gained a bit of weight throughout the training and especially over Thanksgiving.

But I’d committed to doing it, so I refused to back out. That last week before the competition, I threw in some longer fasts and only ate meat and vegetables. Everyone at the gym told me that I shouldn’t fast and that I needed to eat “real” food.

I didn’t listen to them when it came to fasting because I was eating real food just later in the day. Delicious meals like pulled pork, oxtail, rib-eye and chili.

And I dropped every ounce of fat that I needed to and felt super strong on the day of the competition. (I also did throw in some potatoes the day before and the day of the competition just to feel extra energized.)

Anyway, on the day of the competition I sat there in my wrestling unisuit, with no equipment and no belt, eating my Primal snacks (potatoes, apples, macadamia nuts and 100% grass-fed whole milk yogurt and protein) while everyone else sported some sort of equipment and chowed down on peanut butter banana sandwiches, protein bars, candy and Gatorade.

I definitely felt slightly out of place, but my fiance thought it was pretty “gnarly” and “bad-ass” that I didn’t wear a belt or use chalk or anything that lifters were supposed to use.

And the meet was a success even though I didn’t lift as much as I had in practice. I won both my weight class and received the MA/RI Powerlifting State Championship award for Best Lifter – Women’s Raw Division (PDF).

The Best Lifter award is a measure of relative strength, which means that this Primal Powerlifter, weighing in at 118, was the strongest woman in the Raw division at the meet!

I was thrilled to receive the award! And so was my fiance. He also ended up loving the fact that I kicked all of their butts while eating Primally. He liked it so much that he encouraged me to send my success story in to you! Actually he was SO excited that he told you I’d won when we saw you in the Boston airport. 🙂

(Here is a video of the competition if you want to check it out!)


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149 thoughts on “Powerlifter Goes Primal, Lifts Very Heavy Things for the Win”

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  1. You are seriously bad-ass! Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  2. Is it bad that when I first started reading I thought this was a man posting? Then I scroll down and I swear I have never seen a cuter powerlifter! And that is totally meant as a compliment! You go girl!

    1. I did the same thing, just reading along thinking this was a guy, and Pow, Right to the Kisser! You go girl!! Congrats!!

    2. Wow that’s impressive and super inspiring! I too thought initially I was reading about a man, Awesome work!!

      1. Haha me too…but I have come to learn the hard way that plenty of girls at my gym are stronger then me! They are some strong as primal females!!

    3. I thought the same thing! LOVE that it is a woman kicking some ass out there!

    4. Really glad I wasn’t the only one… the pictures are blocked for me at work so I was just reading thinking it was a man until the 3rd to last paragraph.

      I always like reading these success stories every Friday at work without pictures and then getting to put a face to the story once I go home.

      Congrats on being primal and kicking ass!

    5. hahaha me, too! Exactly! Big Congrats, Cori – you do us women proud!

      When I was reading Cori’s description of her body pre-prlmal, I thought – “that sounds just like my husband and his diet – he doesn’t seem to be carb intolerant. He is super healthy, no meds, perfect blood work. If anything what he might benefit from going primal is to preserve/add lean muscle mass and strength – and at age 60 that is really important.”

      So, of course I am mentally adding Cori’s story to my list to share with him. Then, I see – oh, its not a guy its a girl – so maybe not. THEN I watch the video and YOU BETCHA I’m sharing this story with him! He’ll love it!

      Thanks for sharing!

    6. Ditto for me. Cori TOTALLY surprised me. And I just smiled watching the video, because yes, I’ve never seen a cuter powerlifter, either. I’m also totally inspired!

  3. I love how this story unfolds…my preformed impression after reading the title and first paragraphs was that this was about a lifter who is a man. LOVE that you had so much success, and that you are a woman. Congratulations!

    1. “Raw” means the lack of any gear. No belts, gloves, bench press shirt, squat suit, etc…

      Great job on your meet! Congratulations.

        1. Raw allows belts and gloves, and some bodies allow wrist wraps under the theory that the wrists are static in all the lifts they recognize (squat, bench press, deadlift, strict form curl).

          Belts are debatable and the studies are inconclusive, but I swear to grok if I have one more crossfitter with torn up hands try to explain to me that not wearing gloves is somehow good for you I’m going to choke myself on one of the gloves I wore every day when I did manual labor for a living.

  4. So impressed this story is about a women, I mean really. If that isn’t motivation, idk what is. Good job for shunning CW!

  5. Oh, and it’s also awesome you do not look like a man with big bulky muscles. I guess I had to see to believe. Great job again!

      1. This is so encouraging! Thank you for posting. We have a particular hour during the week in my CrossFit gym called “Power Hour” which is dedicated to lifting heavy things and I’ve started going to this class.

        BTW, I’m surprised gloves are frowned upon in CrossFit because my gym allows them.

        Keep lifting! 🙂

    1. That’s another way that Cori defies CW! Makes me almost want to turn the clock back so that I could take up competitive powerlifting! LOL

    2. Agreed!! You are gorgeous! I absolutely love this story! Who says women can’t power lift?? (other than rob below…)

  6. It’s a woman … thought it was going to be about a powerlifter who lifts very heavy things … it’s cute when women lift weights.

    1. Cute?! She is moving almost 2.5x body weight my friend. “Very heavy things” is a relative term. She’s not out there doing bicep curls with 2.5 lb dumb bells, she has put in some serious work to get where she is…I don’t think cute is the word you are looking for.

  7. I love Fridays. Your story and the others before you really keep me honest and inspired. Keep Grokking Power Cutie!!!

  8. Very cool. You would kill me on the squats. That’s some serious below-parallel you’re doing!

  9. this is awesome, as a crossfitter turned mixed powerlifter i can agree to this 100% eating a nearly 100% paleo/primal diet i have seen strength increases almost nonstop as well as size and definition increases with minimal to 0 fat increases

  10. More than just about anything I’ve read or seen, this makes me want to start lifting heavy things. I weigh just about the same as her, and couldn’t come close to doing that. Awesome job Cori!

    1. Thank you!!! Definitely start heavy lifting. It honestly makes you feel wonderful and so empowered!

      1. Thanks Cori! I will definitely look into an avenue to turn my serious envy into muscle mass 🙂

      2. Cori,
        First, congratulations and you look awesome! Second, I have been a regular in the free weight section of my gym for 10 years now, and it frustrates me that it’s such a boys club. I love that not only do you lift, you lift heavy, and you look great. I always feel stronger, emotionally and physically, after lifting. I have heard tons of other women in the club say they feel like they’re “in the way”, or more typically, they’re afraid to get “too bulky”. While you definitely are cute, it is NOT “cute” when women lift weights, as another MDA reader stated above. Great job Cori, and thanks for being an inspiration to women, and men I’m assuming, everywhere. I’m passing your story on to those women at the gym!
        ~LizS

  11. Great story Cory! You’ve inspired me to get back to olympic weightlifting! I started lifting 15 years ago but the last 4 or 5 years I haven’t lifted or competed. I’ve been primal for a year now and looking back on the training that I did with my coach years ago, it was really crossfit with the classic lifts thrown in! I miss the workouts and the competitions.
    Keep up the good lifting girl!

  12. Wow, you *are* bad-ass! Good for you. I bet the power you get from lifting transfers into the rest of your life, too! And wonderful you have such a supportive fiance. Sounds like you’re on the same wavelength – bodes well for the future. 🙂

  13. Great story. I feel like quite the chauvinist, though, since I, too, was expecting photos of a guy! But now I see how really impressive a 10 pound muscle gain can be!

  14. Wow. Great job. That’s a legit deadlift (not that you need my validation). Also, it looked like you could have squatted about 10 more kilos no sweat!

      1. Hey, just think what you might do now that you are over all the nervous self-doubting about being ready and all!

  15. You are seriously my new hero. Awesome story, you rock!

    Oh, and lol, that guy sitting in that second photo is totally checking out your behind. 🙂

    1. OMG I thought I was the only one who saw that!!! He’s totally oogling your primal goodies

  16. Wow! That was my first thought and second, and third. Super impressive. I bet you’ll have some people in your gym wondering if they should go primal so they lift more. Thanks for sharing!

  17. 259 deadlift at your weight is insane.

    Why sumo vs. conventional, though? Is there a benefit?

    1. IDK what Cori’s reason is but I also pull sumo, there are two reasons:

      1) Almost every female powerlifter I’ve seen pulls sumo, and I think it’s because there is more posterior chain involvement. We ladies tend to have more PC strength as relative to upper body.

      2) The wider stance artificially shortens your legs so if you have long legs as relative to your back, or short arms, it may be useful biomechanically speaking.

      1. I do it because it allows me to use my legs more than my back and my legs are stronger!

        It was funny. Actually most of the women at the meet pulled conventionally.

  18. Awesome!! Cheers from a fellow primal female raw powerlifter. And yay for sumo DL, for some reason almost every female powerlifter I’ve ever seen (myself included) pulls sumo 🙂 I think high-carb is way overrated for powerlifting.

  19. Awesome story! And cheers to your fiance for supporting your efforts.

    They say “Behind every strong man is a strong woman.” It’s good to know that someone is behind strong women.

  20. One of the most impressive personal posts I’ve seen! Loved the video.
    I’m working on my pull-ups. (And I thought they were tough!)
    Congrats on you win!

  21. You Rock Cora! Way to follow your intuition, your understanding of your body and what works for you. You are a an example of how conventional wisdom isn’t always wise.

  22. WOW! That is really impressive!! Congrats on the win and for being such a bad@ss, in general!!

  23. Holy crap, Cori! You make those look so easy! I’m 123lbs and my 3×5 max on all those moves are lower than all your first attempts! Haha, I guess I better cut out the chocolates…

  24. Great job Cori! I was planning on Lifting Heavy Things tomorrow, you’ve inspired me to lift even heavier! And I love that you stuck to Primal despite all the bad advice from your fellow gym rats- are they believers now?

  25. What a fantastic way to go. Congrats Cori. I also thought I was reading about a man initially. You are an inspiration.

  26. Fantastic story – very impressive! You have earned the right to be proud of your powerful primal efforts!

  27. I haven’t posted in months but I had to come out of my shell and say that you are an absolute beast and my hero of the year thus far. Totally an inspiration! Lol I finally did my first pull up today without jumping… can’t wait to be stronger like you are though 🙂

    1. Just keep lifting heavy things! Pull ups are hard and to be able to do one is awesome! 🙂

  28. Great inspiration for someone like me just starting out.
    I look forward to that kind of power coming my way from strength training.
    Keep up the good Primal work 😉

  29. cool. I’m a martial artist and been teaching for 10 years now. It’s always awesome and soooooo HOT to see when a LADY can kick some serious ass. And what those guys doing in the picture. They did not think that this woman can lift. booyaa…..

  30. super inspiring! I’ve been wanting to start lifting but haven’t gotten off my butt to do it.

    also, manbicep.com is a hilarious url!

  31. I thought it was going to be a guy who didn’t know how to spell “fiancee.” =) Great work!

  32. Cori, you are my inspiration. I have started lifting heavier — and I love how it affects the rest of my life. Cheers from Sydney, Australia.

  33. Well, right when I thought I’d read every type of PB success story, I checked in today expecting to see pictures of massive weight loss or hearing about getting off of meds for some condition or another (all GREAT things!) and you throw this curveball at me. And yup, like the others, I was thinking let’s see this dude. Then I glanced at the first pic I thought…he has long hair! After .2 seconds I set, whoops…cute girl! And I mean that in the best way…being a powerlifter takes being cute to a whole new level…badass!

    A couple thoughts I took away:

    1. Many women shy away from weightlifting, especially beyond “sculpting” type activities with light weights…because they are afraid of bulking up. Here’s the proof they are wrong…a female lifter with a lean, strong body. You look great!

    2. All the CW we hear in the gym is rubbish. Primal nutrition provides the basis for great results, and can support the work needed to lift heavy things like YOU can!

    3. I was always a traditional workout guy (dumbbell/free weight sets with body part isolation, etc. Only since going Primal last year in June did I start doing the big functional stuff like deads and squats (nowhere near the angle of your squats…I’d never be able to stand up!) as well as pullups, kettle ball swings, and other CF type of stuff and LOVE all of it. And really understand the idea of functional strength and fitness and lifting heavy things. Your results underscore that.

    Fun story and video…congrats!

    1. +1
      OH, so very well said! – especially “All the CW we hear in the gym is rubbish”

    2. I LOVE the big functional lifts! I do kettlebell swings like every week to help me with my deadlift. And don’t forget to include push ups!!!

  34. Very awesome Cori! Awesome video! You are an inspiration!

    Cheers!

  35. You guys want more “Cori Inspiration” ? Check out the videos on ManBicep’s channel on uTube – like the Primal Fitness Playground video.

    1. Great Video! Proves that not being able to “get to the gym” is NO excuse. This is the video everyone, past in browser but take out the spaces. (leave in the period)

      youtu.be/ pNK6CZKHUFE

      1. The Primal on the Playground video was so fun to make! There are so many great ways to workout outside of the gym!

      2. You bet! I’m so inspired! I plan to embarrass my kids and grandkids my next visit when we go to the playground! Monkey bars here I come! LOL!

        1. Clarification – I plan to practice now at my neighborhood play ground. Its a perfect walking distance from the house. I won’t tell the kids what I’m doing. Then, the next time I visit I’ll surprise them by making like a monkey all over the playground! LOL! This plan will be just the motivation I need right now.

  36. I’ve always looked forward to Fridays and thoroughly enjoyed all the success stories on MDA, but it’s these type of posts that just give me the “willies”.

    Going from already good, to great, to flatass “knock ’em out” is just one or two more feathers in the PB lifestyle! — not to mention the incentive you’ve given all of us (men as well as women) to go for it and be the best we can possible be! Congratulations on your achievement!

      1. rarebird – I’ve probably got you beat on the “old” part — I’m 67+ and still hangin’ in there thanks to PB.

        1. Yeah, at 59 I’m still officially middle aged anyway. I guess I won’t be allowed to call myself “old” until 65, right? Anyway, its all relative, isn’t it?

  37. Wow, love your story Cori! I’ve been Primal for a year but I just started powerlifting a couple weeks ago. I am 5’7″, 126lb. I am at bench 85lb; squat 135lb (probably could do more but I am still nervous about squatting and form); and dead 165lb. I love doing deadlifts! Haven’t tried the sumo stance yet for them, I think I will next week. Guys at the gym are constantly asking me what I am training for when they see me deadlifting and such. I’m like, nothing specific, I just love heavy lifting! You have totally inspired me now though, I want to train for a powerlifting competition! Will you be my trainer?? 🙂

    1. Hi Jennifer

      If you live in Boston, I would be more than happy to workout with you!! 🙂

      Shoot me an email and we can even discuss training programs!

      1. I just LOVE seeing people meet up to support each other this way! You go girls – and don’t forget to make some videos, please :-).

  38. EEk! I love this! I love you Cori!

    I put on 10lbs when I went primal and started powerlifting (after being a 13x marathon running vegetarian for 3 years). I’m pregnant now and taking it easy, but I can’t wait to get back in the groove.

    haha and for the record, I picked up you were a female the moment I read “fiance” without the extra E. My husband heard me squeal with delight 🙂

  39. ROCK ON! That is a great tale told. Thanks for sharing the video too. I really enjoyed that. You are an inspiration to us all. Proof that dynamite comes in small packages!

    1. I just saw a t-shirt that said: “I’m not small, I’m fun sized”. 🙂

  40. “Everyone at the gym told me that I shouldn’t fast and that I needed to eat “real” food.”

    Funny–everyone tells me I’m destroying my health by skipping breakfast too–and I’m not even a power lifter. As for the “real food” comment, I never cease to be amazed at the processed garbage that atheletes, particularly body builders and runners, have been convinced they should jam down their craws with the belief that it gives them some kind of edge over those of us naive enough to eat *gasp* meat and vegetables Jell packs, NO Xplode, soy protien bars–ugh…please.

    Cori, your story is awesome. Way to go and keep up the great work!

  41. Maybe your story will be the motivation my wife needs to workout more. She’s worried what she’ll look like if she works out, now I have something to show her. Thanks for the story. Good work.

    1. Yea trust me…if anyone has tried to get “big” it’s me…and there is just no way of that happening unless you take steroids.

  42. That video is totally awesome!!! I love seeing women empowered by eating real food and lifting heavy things. Too many ladies slog it out at the gym focusing on hours of cardio….seeing them at peak hour reminds me of hamsters madly spinning in their wheels…they are going nowhere fast! Congratulations on your primal eating transformation and awards at the power lifting competition. You truly are an inspiration! Strong is definitely the new skinny 🙂

    1. Congrats Cora, you are an inspiration… truly! I got a new, used weight bench 2 days ago and benched 35lb on my first try. No problem! I’m headed out today to buy more weights!

      “strong is the new skinny” — love it!

  43. Mark, thanks for sharing and offering a guest blog, that girl kicks some serious butt, awesome of her to challenge herself in so many ways, BIG respect!

  44. Congrats, well done. I had a similar experience. I won NY state championships in my weight class while eating primal/paleo. Crushed all my PRs and was the strongest I’ve ever been in my life.

  45. Great job! You are cute, strong, and Paleo. That is my definition for a perfect woman.

  46. Gyday People..

    Thats a very uplifting story to be sure….

    Well done mate.

    PS: The ‘Grand Canyon’ is awesome…..someone lifting is not awesome….it can be alot of things that need adjecives to describe it/them. But awesome is a very tired worn out word to describe someones achievements.

    Can we ban the word ‘awesome’….please!

  47. It’s really time for me to do less cardio and lift heavier things. I have the plan in place, and now this gave me the inspiration!

  48. I am inspired! Definitely have to kick it up and lift heavy things. New goal to shoot for over the the next year. Thank you for sharing Cori!

  49. It’s great to see that so many “serious” athletes are starting to lean towards paleo type nutrition. That’s inspiring.

    Regards,

    Tom

  50. Very impressive work! However, please be careful on the deadlifts. I hope you talk to your weightlifting coach about the proper alignment for your back when doing deadlifts. It looks like you are rounding your back, which is an extremely dangerous thing to do when lifting heavy things.

    1. Thanks for the critique! I actually train myself. And I know I round when I get super high in weight…it’s the nerves..what can I say haha 🙂

  51. Hey Cori,

    You are doing great. You do more raw than some of my old teammates at similar weight were able to do with gear, especially for deadlift.

    This is not meant as a critique but a suggestion. If you could have someone coach you on your form your weights moved would go up dramatically. I noticed this the most on your bench. If you arched your back, pulled your shoulder blades tight together, and pushed through your legs, you’d be up to 135 before you could believe it. For your squat you could keep your chest out a little bit more at the bottom and that might get a few more pounds out of it, also again with the squeezing of your shoulders. Deadlift, man, I won’t even try to coach you on that!

    1. Hi Kat

      Thanks! I’ve actually been working on correcting my bench form and my weights have gone up.

      Thanks!!!

      Cori

  52. Awesome! And some muscle on a woman is pretty sexy, too! Women shouldn’t be afraid to be strong and confident – real men dig that.

  53. Great story! You totally kicked ass! How awesome that your fiance is so supportive of your sport, and that you are doing it all by eating primal. I am inspired by you to stick with my heavy lifting workouts and remember that lifting and eating primal gets results. Great job Cori!

  54. As a beginner powerlifter, I am extremely impressed and insanely jealous!
    How long did it take till you started lifting the biiig numbers? And did you do any extra training to improve grip strength? Grip is what is really letting me down in deads (stoopid girly grip!)

    1. Shoot me an email and we can definitely talk!

      I’ve been really focusing on lifting heavy for at least a year now, but only over the last six months have I been working on maxing out.

      Just be patient!

      Farmer walks are great for grip strength. Also, all back exercises really work on grip!

  55. That was awesome. Great job. Gives me something to work toward.

  56. Get a pl trainer to teach you better form and I bet you will get 25% more on each exercise. Bench especially. You have natural talent.