Meet the ‘Powderpuff Girls’

Zara Chenard
Brielle Maisonneuve
Tenley Robbins

Emily Plihal
South Peace News

There’s a global resurgence in understanding the importance of physical fitness and exercise to benefit physical and mental health of people all ages.
For a group of pre-teen girls from the Smoky River region, powerlifting has become their weapon of choice in helping them gain confidence, increase their physical strength and to become a part of a community that promotes improving oneself while also supporting other athletes.
Zara Chenard, 11, Tenley Robbins, 10, and Brielle Maisonneuve, 12, started powerlifting at Iron and Elegance gym west of Falher earlier this year. The girls have coined themselves the Powderpuff Girls, and coach Colby Robbins says the growth the young women have been able to achieve in a short time is admirable.
“The beautiful thing about powerlifting is that it forces you to make long-term goals and commitments,” says Iron and Elegance owner and coach Robbins.
“It really promotes long term commitment to physical health. These skills that they are developing will benefit them long into adulthood,” he adds.
Alberta Powerlifting Union [APU] added a youth division in January 2022 which prompted Robbins to introduce the youth program into her gym. Currently, there are only six youth in APU, but quickly gaining interest and momentum. She says this fall she will be opening two additional spots in the youth girls’ club and will be starting a boys’ club too.
Robbins says youth participating in powerlifting is not only safe but also provides a number of benefits, as long as they are given proper training.
“In addition to the obvious strength gains in adolescents who lift weights, there are also benefits of improved motor skill coordination,” says Robbins. “Through the proper training and guidance from a coach, these kids are also learning how to optimally use their bodies and develop proper body mechanic patterns.”
The Powderpuff Girls trained three to four days each week, with one of those days being at the Iron and Elegance gym and the others independently [with parental supervision]. Robbins explains they are learning the squat, bench press and deadlift, while also training other accessory movements to help strengthen the big three lifts.
“My mom inspired me to start powerlifting and I thought it would be a fun thing to do,” says Tenley Robbins, Colby’s daughter.
“Kids my age should definitely consider it [powerlifting]. It has made me a stronger person,” she adds.
The girls recently competed in the Bay Noppers Memorial tournament on July 31 in Edmonton, a tournament that is close to their coach’s heart as it was also her first competition in the powerlifting world. Beyond being able to compete, they explain that the experience was one that has sparked a desire to continue powerlifting.
“Now that I have competed in one competition, it has become my passion,” says Zara Chenard. “My ultimate goal is to go to World’s and compete against many other great athletes. I also would love to make this sport more popular and available to all youth.”
Tenley added it was fun to see others at the tournament try their hardest and to be surrounded by supportive people.
When the girls’ mothers were asked what kind of changes they’ve seen in their children since they started powerlifting, they pointed to many things beyond physical abilities. Most notable comments were characteristics like improving their discipline and other internal strength qualities.
“I can clearly see the increase in Zara’s confidence and commitment when it comes to training,” says Lynn Chenard, a sentiment repeated by the other moms.
“She’s becoming more disciplined and responsible in making sure she completes all her training,” she adds.
Robbins says the program is held year-round and the club’s next event will be early next year and that they will be attending provincials in 2023.
“Weight lifting isn’t just a young person’s sport,” says Robbins.
“As we age it’s more important than ever to do weight bearing exercises to maintain our muscle mass and bone density.”

Photos courtesy of Maria Frank [Mimi Frank Photography]

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