We met with Pro Figure Competitor and Powerlifter Leanna Carr, who won her first powerlifting meet in December 2012, as well as her division in two USAPL meets and her first NPC Figure Competition. Here’s why she’s passionate about lifting.

Tell me about yourself.
I’m 23. I’m a graduate student studying sports psychology, and I’m a Pro Figure Competitor and a Powerlifter and have been competing for four years now.

What made you want to go into this industry?
It was very unplanned actually. It was literally a New Year’s resolution to lose weight to look good for Spring Break my second year of undergrad. I fell in love with lifting weights, like a lot of people do. You get addicted to the process. I did my first figure competition and I did pretty well at it but afterward, it was kind of ironic, but I became very focused on the way I looked onstage. And you gain weight after a show, obviously to get back to healthy body fat levels. I was in the best shape of my entire life but it was probably when I felt the worst about my body. So that’s when I took up powerlifting. Instead of focusing on getting smaller and losing weight—a number on a scale—I fell in love with getting stronger in the gym, going in there and hitting a PR, and always trying to feel a bit better than yesterday. I started competitively powerlifting about two years ago and so I do a little bit of both now.

What’s the most you lift?
In competition I have a 305 squat, a 170 bench press and a 350 deadlift. It’s taken a while—a lot of training, a lot of practice, but it’s fun. I was a cheerleader and all my life I did sports but I never would’ve imagined getting into powerlifting. When I first heard about it, I had an idea that it was just big, scary, strong women and not anything I aspired to be, but since then, it’s been awesome. And it’s cool to go in and defy the norms. Women aren’t supposed to be lifting weights, we aren’t supposed to be muscular…It’s been cool to find my own passion.

What have you learned about yourself in this whole process?
I’m a lot stronger in multiple ways than I ever realized and not just on the platform but going through the contest prep, I have the discipline it takes that I never imagined. I found a lot of work ethic; I’ve always been into studying and school but I never tried this much. It showed me that in order to achieve, you have to work really hard. I got sponsored by Juggernaut Training Systems and bodybuilding.com, which are two things I never would have imagined. …It’s been awesome to find a network of people with similar interests to connect with.

Also, my passion for helping other people. I own an online coaching company that’s geared toward female strength athlete. I coach them and do personal training. It’s a really rewarding thing to help other women, to educate them and empower them not to just look good but to find something about themselves that they didn’t know about…the confidence and strength that lifting has given me.

Follow Leanna Carr on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Also, check out her website, ironwomanstrength.com.

Catch up with more athletes and read more about Big J’s FitCon 2016 in the July issue!