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This Woman Swapped Cheerleading for Powerlifting and Found Her Strongest Self Ever

I was a cheerleader in college, and after graduation, I needed a new fitness goal. (Plus, I had just worked hard to lose 65 pounds during my senior year, and wanted to keep that momentum going.) Weightlifting had always been part of our team training, so I kept at it to see how far I could go. I figured powerlifting was similar to what I did in cheerleading, only I'd be lifting barbells instead of people. I wasn't very good at the lifts—the barbell back squat, deadlift, and bench press—at first, but I progressed slowly. Those small #wins and the sensation of getting stronger was totally exhilarating. (Get more powerlifting inspo from Instagram sensation @megsquats.)



If looks could kill... • Pin squats 5x6 @ 65% (180) + 1-chain bench @ 70% (115) #girlswhopowerlift #tpsmalden @kwcann

A post shared by Alyssa Orlando • HHNQ (@alyssa72kg) on


Within months, I was squatting 185 pounds, and that inspired me to sign up for a local powerlifting meet, where you do a single rep of each lift at maximal load. I couldn't sleep at all the night before; weigh-ins were at 7 a.m., so I think I only slept three hours. But by the end of my nine attempts, I had set two personal records, and with my top lifts combined, I had lifted a total of 622 pounds. It ignited a new fire in me to get even stronger. I was hooked.



Running on iced coffee & gummy bears. Photo skillz by @moffitt_photography! #girlswhopowerlift

A post shared by Alyssa Orlando • HHNQ (@alyssa72kg) on


I've competed five more times since that first meet, and in those two years, I've added 111 lbs to my total and set countless PRs. Each time, I learn something new about myself, and every time I miss a lift, it fuels my motivation to come back and avenge them. There's nothing quite like getting stronger and blowing past your own strength. (More from Alyssa: Read her open letter to that Bachelorette jerk who fit-shamed female weightlifters on Twitter.)

Have your own story about conquering a new workout or learning a new fit skill? Email with your name, age, hometown, details about your Crushed It! moment, and photos of yourself. You could be featured in the next issue of Shape.


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