LAST month, the world got introduced to a world champion. Monique Newton’s sickness to strength story had us marvelling at her inner strength and determination, having overcome cancer (on her spine and abdomen) and a somewhat troubled past at such a young age.
And now, at just 19-years-old, as she prepares herself for the Olympic campaign with the help of Adidas, what we’ve all been wondering is how an unassuming, petit teenager from Fulham can lift three times her bodyweight above her head. Yes, three times.
"Through powerlifting I have managed to shape and tone my body whilst gaining strength. I think I've proven that you don't have to be big to be strong."
As you may recall, Body Confidential featured an article titled Strong Is The New Skinny earlier this year, addressing common misconceptions placed around women lifting weights any heavier than those 0.5kg pink dumbbells women are ‘supposed to’ lift.
Monique said: “People are always shocked by the amount I can lift. Usually when I say I can lift 132.5 kg they ask if I meant pounds not kilos, and when they realise it’s kilos they can't believe it.
“Even then, most people still think that I must have somehow got it wrong or they think because I can lift it, it must be really light. Even people who have known me all their lives, still can’t believe someone as small as me can be lifting all that weight. They will always just see me as little Monique.”
Now a pint-sized powerhouse after two years of competitive powerlifting, Monique divides her time working 9-5 at an engineering firm where she’s training to become an AutoCad technician and exercising in the evenings - aiming to workout a minimum of four days a week at a weightlifting gym in Fulham.
“The first time I ever walked into the weightlifting gym it was a bit daunting because I knew there wasn't going to be many girls. But once I was there I saw that actually everyone was just focused on their training. The way I saw it was, I have every much of a right as they do to be in the gym.
“When I first started powerlifting I could only squat and bench the bar (20kg). It was the first time I had ever done weights and getting the technique right was the hardest part. But once I was taught how to lift correctly I was then able to add some more weight on the bar. Within a week of training my deadlift went from 40kg to 60kg and from that point on I always knew that deadlift would be my strong lift.
“It's taken me just under two years to get my deadlift from 40kg to 132.5 kg. Here’s my average weekly routine.”
Monday: Usually bench repetition work. For example, I might do 20kg for 6 reps - (3 sets) Then 25kg for 5 reps (3 sets ) Then 27.5 kg for 4 reps (3 sets) Then 32.5kg for 3 reps (3 sets) Then 37.5kg for 2 reps. After I would do some assistance work.
Wednesday: I do deadlifts. Every week I’m starting to alternative my stance between sumo and deadlift. A typical Wednesday workout would be, warm up on 60kg for 6 reps, 70kg for 5 reps, 80kg for 5 reps, 85kg for 5 reps, 90kg for 5 reps - 3 sets, 100kg for 5 reps, 2 sets, 110 kg for 3 reps - 2 sets.
Thursday: I will bench again, doing less reps and going up to 40kg +.
Friday: I will squat doing 20kg for 5 reps, up to 80kg for 5 reps. Without knee wraps, and if I’m wearing knee wraps I'll go for a 1 rep max.
"I eat a lot of protein and carbs. Protein is essential for powerlifters because it promotes growth and repair of muscles. I eat a lot of steak, fish, sweet potato, brown rice, eggs, fruit and veg. I usually eat slightly over the daily recommended amount because weight training speeds up your metabolism and I train quite a lot so I need to eat a bit extra so I'm not burning off too much when I workout. On an average day I eat around 2,500 calories. A typical day would consist of:"
Lunch: Baked potato with cheese and salad.
Dinner: Steak and rice with veg.
"In between my three core meals I add an additional two meals usually pasta and tuna because it’s easy for me to pack for work and eat on the go. I have quite a sweet tooth so every now and then I treat myself with some chocolate! "
While most women are running to nowhere on a treadmill or, worse still, sat having a chinwag in the Jacuzzi of their luxury gym, Monique is busy training with the big guns. Having shared her training routine and diet with us, what’s inspiring about Monique is her ability to set herself goals and stick to them. It’s that same determination that helped her overcome illness and depression in the first place.
“After my long spell in hospital I had a long time to think about what I wanted out of life and how I was going to get there. I took up powerlifting when I left hospital because I decided I needed a hobby and I wanted to find a positive way to channel all of my emotions.
“Powerlifting really jumped out at me because it has both the physical and mental element of strength and power. I wanted something I could challenge myself in and I wanted to do something where I would be the underdog and have to push myself to get to the top.”
And that she has. Having won 18 of her 19 tournaments so far, including a second world championship last year in Latvia, Monique was approached by a Adidas who were looking for talented young people for their ‘Take The Stage’ Olympic campaign. The role has given Monique The chance to be acknowledged and recognised in her sport as well as serve as inspiration to other young people. She’s already achieved both with many young women, who once avoided weight training, stepping up their game with no fear of getting too big thanks to Monique’s physique.
“Do I ever worry about getting too big? No, not at all. My routine is set to increase strength, not size. I think most people seem to think powerlifting training will turn your physique into that of a bodybuilder, but the training exercises and diets are completely different.
“You will only get ’big’ from your training if that is what you are specifically training for. Even then, it takes years to increase muscle mass and size. Through powerlifting I have managed to shape and tone my body whilst gaining strength. I think I've proven that you don't have to be big to be strong.”
A firm believer in strength training for health and quality of life, Monique and other female powerlifters are out to change the way women think about their bodies for good. If you’re a woman who clings to cardio and snacks on biscuits at her desk, Monique has advice for you.
“I live by the motto ‘abs are made in the kitchen not the gym’. I see a lot of women go to the gym and spend their whole session on the treadmill and then go home and order a takeaway. Many people forget that the key to a toned body comes from a good healthy diet.
“I also think a lot of women are too scared to pick up some weights. Cardio can be great but there's no better way to strip fat and build muscle than a bit of weight training. Doing weights naturally speeds up your metabolism so it allows you to burn off your food quicker. Remember that every 1lb of muscle you gain, your body then burns an extra 50 calories a day for the entire week.”
Watch Monique in her video reel for Adidas' 'Take The Stage' Olympic Campaign below. You can also follow Monique on Twitter @XMoniqueAmyX
To see Monique’s story and for your chance to #takethestage with adidas visit www.adidas.com/all2012