Boy, did she ever build some strength.
Less than 12 months later, Pettel, 21, found herself transformed into a competitive power lifter — winning competitions and setting a national lifting record for her age and weight class.
According to Pettel, it was during those training sessions that trainer Ian Gerber suggested that she try her hand at power lifting — squats, bench press, and deadlifting.
She quickly became proficient, said Gerber, a four-year trainer. By January, she had already set a national record when she lifted 292 pounds for squats.
“It's just about efficiency and knowing what you need to do,” Gerber said of Pettel's rapid advancement. “(Pettel) probably only trains for about 3 hours per week.”
On Saturday, June 21, Gerber and Pettel found themselves in Santa Barbara as Pettel competed in the U.S. Powerlifting Association's Santa Barbara Open Powerlifting Championships — her third-ever competitive meet.
After lifting 308 pounds in squats — which broke her previous record of 292, but wasn't officially recorded by record-keeping officials, 176 pounds in the bench press, and 314 pounds in the deadlift, Pettel's aggregate score of 798 pounds lifted was easily enough to propel her to victory, not only in her weight and age class, but in the overall event scoring as well.
She said that she's not satisfied, however, to rest on her laurels.
“I want to break the benching record,” Pettel said. “I want to break the deadlifting record.”
Her other goal, she said, is to attain what's known in lifting circles as an “Elite Total” which means, for her age and weight class, lifting an aggregate score of 818 pounds — only 20 pounds more than what she lifted in Santa Barbara.
Only a very small percentage of powerlifters can attain Elite Total status, Gerber said. Even fewer have a shot at it so quickly.
As for Pettel, who recently became certified as a trainer herself, she said that she was surprised how much she enjoyed powerlifting and now looks forward to future competitions.