In three years, Suzanne Davis went from being overweight and sedentary to deadlifting 461 pounds. And she’s never felt stronger, inside or out.
THIS PAST FEBRUARY, Suzanne Davis set the all-time raw deadlifting record in the 123-pound weight class with a pull of 461 pounds and was the top-ranked deadlifter in the U.S. A few months before, she earned her IFBB pro card, winning the NPC Team Universe Women’s Physique. Yet just three years earlier, she had never even picked up a barbell before. But when a workplace wellness program revealed that Davis, now 44, had ballooned in weight to 189 pounds with 44% body fat, she was desperate to make a change.
Her first instinct was to try and run off the weight, and she lost nearly 30 pounds and shrank her body fat to 36%. But after her results stalled, she turned to a co-worker, who set her up with trainer Tim Sparkes, a record- holding deadlifter and owner of Die Hard Gym, a no-frills, powerlifting mecca in Peoria, AZ. “I wasn’t even given the chance to back out, which I probably would have!” she says.
After listing her goals (“I told Tim I wanted to ‘tone up,’ and he asked what that meant—now I know he was being facetious,” Davis recalls), her first session began with some legwork. “The next day my legs were screaming at me; I had muscles in places that I didn’t know existed.”
It took Davis about six months to fully throw herself into her training plan, but she soon revealed her potential. She began holding her own with the other female powerlifters, and her body weight continued to drop, falling to 118 pounds. In 2013, Davis hit a 305-pound pull in her first competition. She began to pursue competitive fitness, finishing second in her first physique competition. And while the numbers can sound intimidating (“It’s crazy to think that I just deadlifted 461 pounds!”), she advises other women to not be scared off by powerlifting. Most of all, she says, don’t limit yourself. “In my early training days with Tim, I remember saying, ‘That’s too heavy, I can’t lift that.’ That was a mistake! I don’t think I’ve said I can’t do anything else after—in or out of the gym!”
On Her Menu
Oatmeal and egg whites “Since I don’t like to eat eggs, I make it a farmer’s scramble, lots of vegetables. You have to do what you have to do to make it work.”
A protein, usually turkey, with vegetables and brown rice “It gets boring sometimes, so I like to switch it up using different spices.”
A light fish with a large salad and a baked yam
Whatever fruit is in season, plus three protein shakes spread out throughout the day
- Vitamin C
- Fish oil
Greek food, chicken alfredo, and doughnuts
When bodybuilding, Davis focuses on lighter weights and higher reps (10–12). For powerlifting, she sticks with heavier weights and lower reps (6–8), doing only one body part per week.
DAY 1: BACK AND SHOULDERS
DAY 2: ABS AND CORE
DAY 3: LEGS
DAY 4: ABS AND CORE
DAY 5: CHEST AND ARMS
|DUMBBELL CHEST PRESS||3||10–12|
DAY 6: POWERLIFTING PRACTICE WITH ACCESSORY WORK