Our society tells us that we can have brains, beauty or brawn – not all together. We are individually defined by categories that are predetermined by our times – categories that are often more like stereotypes than anything else. If you are a cheerleader, you have to be pretty. If you’re intelligent, you have to be nerdy. If you are a fitness freak, well you are most likely full of yourself. It isn’t until someone comes along and challenges the status quo that we realize just how incredibly misguided these views and characterizations truly are.
When one thinks of powerlifters, many often have a preconceived notion in mind – someone loud, likely cocky and not usually someone who you would associate with intelligence. Warranted or not, this is often the picture that has been painted by society – you know, pretty much those people who Planet Fitness have banned from working out in their gyms.
If that is your idea of a powerlifter, then you might be just like countless others who pass Becci Holcomb on the street as she travels to and from class without even thinking twice. She is quiet, spends most of her time studying and is working on her Doctor of Chiropractic degree. Often she can be found deep in her studies or just enjoying an evening out with friends when she needs a little break.
On the surface, she seems like just a woman pursuing a future career.
That video is Holcomb setting the American deadlift record at the Georgia and South States Championships in Norcross, Georgia, on October 26 with a deadlift of 507 pounds. She is a name that many within the powerlifting community are beginning to recognize, and a name that will take many by storm when the international Arnold Sports Festival takes place next May.
However, before you just marvel at her powerlifting accomplishments, you must get to know this woman – a woman who has left an impact on all who have ever met her.
Before becoming the powerlifting sensation who is pursuing her doctoral degree at Life University in Georgia, Holcomb tackled one of the hardest jobs available – being the oldest of ten children. It is a job with responsibilities that dwarf many of those within the powerlifting industry.
During her years in middle school and high school, struggles began piling up for Holcomb – struggles that proved to become obstacles that stood between Holcomb and her true potential for over a decade.
I had a mother who wasn’t the kindest, my childhood was a bit rough,” said Holcomb.
Her opinion of herself was under attack from her mother who often degraded her regarding her personal appearance.
“She told me frequently how I was too fat to do anything. She would tell me that I needed to go on a diet and that I shouldn’t wear tank tops or anything without sleeves because I shouldn’t show my chunky arms.”
For Holcomb, these comments were more than just words – they were degrading comments that forced her to have a misconception of her physical appearance.
Yet for Holcomb, she was given a guardian angel to guide and lead her along the way in the form of her father Michael. During the negative comments of his now ex-wife, Michael stood by his daughter’s side and held her hand promising her that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel.
“My dad has always been my biggest supporter,” Holcomb said of her father. “He’s always there when I need to talk or vent. He is my spotter/loader when I come home for breaks. In all that I do – lifting or otherwise – I just want to make him proud.”
“She has gone through some tough times through no fault of her own,” her father explained. “She has come out of those situations stronger and even more determined to prove something to herself – not others.”
It was Michael who took it upon himself to create a new atmosphere for Holcomb – one in which she felt at home and comfortable being who she was. It was within this atmosphere that Michael realized just how special his daughter truly was, and the determination that she exhibited from a young age.
“When she was five years old, the two of us would walk once a week to Wolfgang’s Diner in Grand Rapids, Michigan,” Michael reminisced. “We would just sit and have long conversations about life – I would drink coffee while she had hot chocolate, eggs and a waffle.
“One day she decided she wanted a job, so she sat down and began calling businesses out of the yellow pages asking them all for jobs. The businesses were quite impressed at her age and determination.”
In fact, that persistence and determination helped her to obtain her first job at just six years old as she was hired by a neighbor to help do chores around the house. It was at this moment that Holcomb’s determination first presented itself, and it has been growing ever since.
That determination became the backbone of her role in the lives of her siblings as well.
Learning from her father’s leadership and steadfast love, Holcomb took it upon herself to ensure that her siblings would spend their childhood comfortable in their own skin. It was the years of low self-esteem that pushed a determined Holcomb to make sure that self acceptance was a trait shared among her brothers and sisters.
However, while she was building high self-esteem within her siblings, Holcomb was still unable to overcome the mental obstacles that had long been rooted inside her over the years by her mother.
Finding the Power Within
As Holcomb graduated high school and moved onto college at University of the Cumberlands, she became involved in track and field. While she never considered herself athletic, her venture into the world of track and field opened many new doors that she had never considered. Not only did this adventure lay the groundwork for her eventual record-breaking performances, but it began building the stepping stones for Holcomb to develop the self-acceptance that she had long been creating within her siblings.
Success began to build for Holcomb – in the classroom as well as out in the field. There were those who doubted her along the way, yet she continued to stay focused on achieving the goals she had set for herself. She stayed consistent and determined to succeed.
After five years at UC, Holcomb began pursuing her chiropractic degree at Life University. It was there that the tools Holcomb had received over the past seven years were cultivated by a very unlikely source.
Another chiropractic student, Stephanie Mahan, introduced Holcomb to the PrettySTRONG Powerlifting team. Mahan, who was already part of the team, felt as though Holcomb would be a good addition – and the results are proving that Mahan’s intuition was exactly correct.
While the records have begun breaking for Holcomb in just over a year on the team, it has been the breaking of her mental walls that has been even more impressive.
“I’ve watched Becci gain incredible self-confidence above and beyond any woman I come in contact with on a regular basis,” said her coach Vanessa Gale. “There’s something about lifting the weights that lifts the spirit to a level of pure independence.”
The self-acceptance and confidence that Holcomb worked tirelessly to build within her siblings finally began making its way back to her, thanks to her father and the people of PrettySTRONG helping her to unlock her physical and mental power from within.
Those days of being ashamed to wear tank tops were finally gone.
“Because of my powerlifting team, my confidence has skyrocketed,” Holcomb stated. “This past summer, for the first time in my life, you couldn’t get me out of tank tops. I have learned that my body is perfect. Yes, it may be bigger than the average woman’s body, but I can do so much that I never dreamed possible!
“I have always told my many brothers and sisters that they are beautiful just the way they are – and I am now showing them that no matter your size, you are capable of doing absolutely anything.”
The new-found confidence that Holcomb possesses is evident to all who know her, including her siblings who even take her into school now as their “Show and Tell” project.
As Michael knows, his daughter possesses much more than just physical strength.
“People might look at her and say her physical ability is her greatest strength, but that isn’t even close,” Michael explained. “For her, the greatest attribute she possesses is determination to succeed at whatever it is she puts her heart into. Often she did not start at the top, but almost always she ended up there.
“Additionally, her ability to forgive and unconditionally love people no matter how stupid they behave is a quality that can only come from God. She firmly desires to have God’s love move through her to touch the lives of others.”
And thanks to her determination, powerlifting is giving Holcomb the chance to touch the lives of others while she continues to break records.
Rewriting the Books
As you can tell, what makes Holcomb so fascinating is much more than what goes on in the gym – it is her compassion and kind heart that make her a hero to those who know her. Holcomb’s dedication and attitude are not only opening the eyes of those at PrettySTRONG, but they are changing and challenging the views of society.
“Becci has brought the walls of gender crashing down,” Gale said. “She is everything that embodies the mission of ‘PrettySTRONG’. ‘PrettySTRONG‘ is a statement that gets people thinking about the roles that society has placed on women and men. It changes everyone’s perception of the limitations of strength – and that is beautiful.
“She is the strongest person on our team. She isn’t strong for a girl, she is just strong!”
To say Holcomb’s last year has been a success would be a drastic understatement. Take a look as some of her accomplishments:
- 1st place Super Heavyweight Class (GA and Southern States Championships)
- Set 3 New Georgia State Records
- Set the American Record in Deadlift
- Runner-up at the USAPL Raw Nationals
- Ranked 12th on the Michael Songs All Time Historical Powerlifting World Records/Rankings
- Qualified for the Starting Strength Pro Raw Challenge at the Arnold Sports Festival (upcoming in March)
It has been the PowerSTRONG team that has continued to push Holcomb to reach new heights on a daily basis.
“My team has been amazing! They have become my family since I moved to Georgia for chiropractic school,” Holcomb said. “They are encouraging in every aspect of my life. They push me to work hard so I can reach my full potential in not just powerlifting, but in life as well.”
Holcomb’s record-breaking success is about more than just pure physical strength. The determination that fueled her throughout her undergraduate career has given Holcomb an advantage in a field often known for just physicality.
“Her success comes from consistency – simple as that,” said Gale. “She never misses a training session, even if she is scheduled for a light or rest day, she comes in to do mobility, foam roll or to cheer other teammates on during workouts. She surrounds herself with the people who she knows will push her. She doesn’t let the bull of life keep her from her goals.”
For Holcomb, the success has yet to truly sink in. To her, she is still that shy girl who buries her nose deep into her studies. Needless to say, the notoriety is all still foreign.
“[The success] is all surprising,” she said. “I have never been considered great at something athletic. I’ve always been uncoordinated and slow. It amazes me everyday to see what I can do. I’ve always known I was strong, but I never thought I could be doing something like this.”
As the Arnold Sports Festival quickly approaches, Holcomb might want to learn how to accept the accolades and awards that are coming her way, as there are likely many more forthcoming.
The Best is Yet to Come
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Holcomb’s short but incredibly successful career thus far is the fact that she has just begun to scratch the surface of what she is truly capable of. As her team at PrettySTRONG can attest to, her future is simply limitless.
“She has been told by world champions and legendary powerlifters that she could go all the way,” said Gale. “Coaches have approached her soliciting for the opportunity to coach her to the top.
“Becci’s deadlift is the best in her weight class, but she still has to build her squat and bench if she wants to win a National Championship in order to get a spot on the World Team. Her competition has been lifting for over a decade, and she has only been at it for a year.”
Believe it or not, Gale even believes that Holcomb still has much more room left to grow. As she has shown in the past, her determination will allow her to succeed at whatever goals she sets forth for herself.
“As her coach, I see her one day holding the largest women’s IPF (International Powerlifting Association) raw total ever,” Gale added.
“Without a doubt.”
Looking forward, Holcomb is excited about the opportunities that are awaiting her. Her goals have been laid forth – continue to train, work towards setting PRs and records while also qualifying for the International Powerlifting Federation’s World Championships one day.
And as you can tell by now, with her determination, these goals are more than just a dream.
While all of that excitement is happening inside the gym, Holcomb will continue touching the lives of those she comes into contact with wherever she goes.
“I am most proud of the woman she is becoming,” said her father. “All the accolades in the world do not make you a good person. In the area of being a good person, good friend and being compassionate for those less fortunate, she excels above all others.
“At this age, she is a friend and a daughter – someone I know I can trust with the ‘real me’. Someone I know who loves me through all my faults.”
For Holcomb, the records and accolades are gaining her publicity around the industry, but they are also just a fraction of what make her someone people can’t help but cheer for. And as you now know, there is much more to this record-breaker than what can be seen in the gym.
After all, who said you can’t have brains, beauty and brawn all in one?
Whoever it was obviously never met Becci Holcomb.
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