I have written about Amanda Harris here before, and she recently set new AAPF National and World Bench Press records in the 60-kilorgram (132-pound) class in both the junior (ages 20-25) and open women’s divisions with 220.5 pounds! It was her 92nd meet and her 92nd win. Impressive. Let’s find out more about her.
DG: How long have you been powerlifting?
AH: I started training when I was eight years old because I had acute scoliosis and my parents did not want the doctors to put me in what’s called a halo for three-plus years. I loved lifting weights because my dad and my brother were powerlifters. In fact, my brother and Dad won AAU National Championships together in 1999—and that was the year I started training. I weighed 54 pounds at that time. My first competition lift was a squat of 95 pounds—and this was my very first world record. From that first meet to current day I have set more than 466 state, national and world records, winning 20-plus National Championships and 15 World Championships.
DG: I know that you have lifted in a number of different weight classes. What are your best competition lifts in each class?
AH: Wow, it’s been a lot of meets and so many weight classes as a youth lifter—hard to recall, but I do remember that at 10 years old and weighing about 66 pounds, I squatted 187 pounds—almost triple my bodyweight. At 13, I weighed 104 pounds and squatted 285; at 14, I was 107 and squatted 304, and at 112, I squat 325 pounds in the Arnold Squat-Off Challenge at the Arnold Sports Festival. At 16, weighing 114 pounds, I hit 355, and then I took a little break from squatting, as I was having some issues with my scoliosis. That was when my dad said I needed a break from heavy lifting, as I was having a growth spurt and my spine was bothering me.
I did not squat for almost a year and came back at 19 in the gym and hit my all-time-best squat of 420 pounds. My bench press has gone from the empty bar [45 pounds] when I first started 11 years ago to 265 pounds in the gym. My best official bench press is the 220.5 pounds I did at my last meet.
During a two-year break from powerlifting, I got involved in figure competition. I have loved competing in figure—and winning all my competitions made it even sweeter! Now that I am back to powerlifting, I am focused on my bench press more than anything else. My muscles have actually gotten so strong that I can lift more than my spine can handle, so I doubt I will ever do a full meet again, but that won’t keep me from benching.
By the way, my best deadlift in competition was 302 pounds at age 16 and a bodyweight of 114. I have pulled 365 in the gym just this year.
DG: Those are unbelievable numbers!
AH: When I lived in Beaumont [Texas] years ago, I was fortunate to get to work out regularly with World Record Holder Jesse Jackson. His best official squat (at that time) was 705 pounds in the 148-pound class, but I saw him do a triple with 725 in the gym, weighing about 155 pounds.
DG: In 2008 at the age of 16 you stepped on an NPC stage to compete in figure and racked up three straight wins in the teen division as well as runner-up spots in the open figure divisions at both the Texas Shredder Classic and the Branch Warren Classic, and you qualified for the Nationals at the Capital Roundup. What made you decide to jump into figure?
AH: There are several reasons I came over to the NPC. First I love the thrill of competition, and second I needed something to fill the void from the break I had to take from powerlifting. But the biggest reason I went into figure was because instead of going out onstage and people seeing how strong I am, I wanted them to see how beautiful and how much of a women I had become. I wanted people to see that just because I lift really heavy weights, I did not look like what most people think of when you hear of a female powerlifter. I want other women to know that it’s okay to lift heavy because you will not get huge muscles like men do.
DG: Did you compete in any powerlifting meets in 2008 while you were training for the figure competitions?
AH: Yes, I competed at the APF National Bench Press Championships just two weeks after winning the NPC Texas Shredder. I was told by an NPC Judge that I would not be able to do both, that I would have to pick one or the other. Well I do not like people setting limits for me so I proved to that person that yes, I can do both, and yes I can win at both too.
DG: So at 20 years old you have numerous state, national and international powerlifting titles and records. You have figure titles. You have a contract with Bodybuilding.com. You have an Athlete of the Year Award—and I just learned from your dad that you have a book coming out about your life. What about a movie?
AH: I have been in two documentaries so far, and I’m in a reality show that will be aired in the United States later in 2012. It’s set for release in Europe this fall 2011. The book publisher is lining up some of the big talk shows for me next year, and once that happens, there is a good chance that you could see a movie from the book. The publisher calls me his little Soul Lifter, referring to the movie “Soul Surfer.”
DG: With all you have accomplished, what are your sights set on next?
AH: I want to accomplish so much more in the fitness industry, to continue powerlifting. One day I would love to get my pro card in figure and to do much more modeling. My main goal is to help young people overcome childhood obesity. I do not want to just stay in the fitness industry; I want to go mainstream and reach out to those who want and need help in overcoming health issues caused by poor eating and lack of exercise.
DG: Good for you! Your dad, Mark Harris, is an accomplished powerlifter as well. Every time I see him, he’s glowing proud of you. I’m assuming he is your coach. How does that work?
AH: Yes, he is my coach and has been my only coach. He has been with me every step of the way. It has made us very close over the years. He has been my coach, my teacher—I was home schooled from seventh grade on—and most of all he has been my daddy. Now he is still my coach and dad, but he is working with my agent and oversees my business ventures, making sure things are always headed in the right direction.
DG: Thanks for your time, Amanda. It’s always a pleasure seeing you and your family at the events. Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
AH: I would like the readers to please buy my book when it comes out [available at www.BarbieBarbell
.com]. I hope it will be an inspiration to all. Anyone can take what I’ve been able to do and apply it to their own life and accomplish whatever they want. You just have to have faith in God, faith in yourself and faith in the people closest to you. Never let anyone steal your dreams—you are the creator of your own universe! In life we are not born winners or losers; we are born choosers. What will you choose?”
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