By Nathan DeenJuly 25, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga., (July 24, 2013) -- When life weighs down Jackie Hammond, she takes a deep breath and benches 185 pounds.
Once she takes that first rep, that weight is off her shoulders, the 31-year-old aspiring powerlifter said.
"It's a great outlet for me," Hammond said. "Any stress that I have, when I powerlift … it's a way to release that stress.
"Everything around you just fades. You don't really think about anything except your lift. It doesn't matter how bad your day or morning went. As soon as you start lifting, none of that matters anymore."
Two years ago, Hammond gave birth to her third son, Maximus, and afterward looked to get back in shape. She said she started weightlifting with her husband, a Ranger with the 75th Ranger Regiment who powerlifts for a hobby.
Hammond will powerlift competitively for the first time Aug. 10 in Atlanta at a U.S.A. Powerlifting event -- Powerlifting for Pups. The event is an official qualifier for the USAPL Bench Press Nationals, which are also held in Atlanta.
Powerlifting started out as a hobby for Hammond, who originally thought she wanted to be a bodybuilder, which is different in that a bodybuilder trains for appearance, whereas a powerlifter trains to compete, she said. Since so many women were bodybuilding, she said she decided on powerlifting, but had no idea about where to start for competition.
She said things changed two months ago during a morning workout at Max Fitness Center on Tower Road in Columbus. Three-time All-Army powerlifter David Ramsey approached her and asked if she competed in powerlifting.
"She caught my attention because she was deadlifting," Ramsey said. "She had two plates and then she put on another plate … I said to myself, 'She looks exactly like a powerlifter.' I know a powerlifter when I see one."
There are six classifications for female powerlifters, according to the USAPL website, and they are ranked one through four, with four being the lowest, and then there are the master's and elite classifications. Without the experience of a single competition, Ramsey said Hammond is already averaging a Classification 1 score -- two classifications away from Elite -- for the 148-pound weight class -- a combined 710 pounds between her squat, benchpress and deadlift.
"Nationally, she's right there," Ramsey said. 'She has a lot of potential and didn't even know it."
Ramsey offered to train Hammond free of charge. It was just what she needed, Hammond said. She now has a trainer who can get her into competitions and show her the right way to train for them.
"I've noticed a strength increase," she said.
"I was doing bodybuilder type of workouts. His workouts are designed to make you stronger."
Because of the nature of powerlifting, bodybuilder workouts generally don't benefit a powerlifter, Ramsey said.
"A powerlifter has to have more of a recovery time," he said. "A bodybuilder will usually wait about 30 seconds before they hit it again.
"They want to do these fast sets. It builds their muscles. A powerlifter -- you have to rest at least three minutes. You want to get all your strength back."
Her kids look up to her as a "Super-mom," she said. Her oldest, 14-year-old Devin, brags to his friends at school that his mom can lift more than their moms -- and in many cases, their dads too.
"I love lifting more than men," Hammond said. "I love looking over and seeing I'm lifting more than the guy next to me."
Feeling strong is what she loves most about powerlifting, though she can't outlift her husband; her best effort is a little short of what he can lift. But he's her biggest supporter, she said.
"My husband is the one pushing me to do it," she said.
"I hate training with him. He doesn't let me slack. He treats me like one of his Soldiers."
Meanwhile, the 55-year-old Ramsey, who is still competing, is looking to train more powerlifters and hopes to start a Fort Benning team.
He is looking for active-duty or retired Soldiers, Family members or Army civilians.
Hammonds is his first student, and the two said they are anxious to see how the last two months of work will pay off in Atlanta.
"I'm ready," Hammonds said. "I'm just ready to win something."