BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- Army Staff Sgt. Gabriele Burgholzer crushed the world women’s middleweight record in the Mouser Block, hefting a metal box filled with 194 pounds of cast iron plates over her head during the Mammoth Strength Challenge here Jan. 23.
The record capped earlier lifts of 179.6 and 189.9 pounds by Burgholzer, each surpassing the old record of 158 pounds. The Warrior Fitness Soldier seemed to get stronger with each attempt.
Finally, with a lot of encouragement from the event crowd, Burgholzer made lifting the 194 pound box, 18 pounds more than her body weight, look easy. After pulling the box to her chest, Burgholzer pressed it into the air above her head, adding another top finish to an impressive list of wins.
“I figured I was going to set the new record but I didn’t think it would be 194 pounds,” Burgholzer said afterwards.
Burgholzer said the win highlights how far women have come in the Strongman competition. It also dispels the perception that Soldiers have no personal life after duty hours.
“Women in the military have hobbies and passions outside wearing the uniform,” she said.
Standing ready with the edge of the Mouser block resting on her toes, Burgholzer thought of her family before hoisting the metal box with no handholds over her head.
“When I put the block on my feet [to lift], you see me take a second and in that second I think about my family, I think of how proud I want to make them in that moment and I go for it,” Burgholzer said.
Training for the event was a challenge. Burgholzer balanced military obligations with training for the competition. Just two days before setting the record, Burgholzer completed the Army’s rigorous Senior Leader Course, earning recognition as its distinguished honor graduate.
From Steyr, Austria, Burgholzer is known as the “Austrian Oaktress.” Her rise to world strongwoman status began in 2018 when she competed in a bodybuilding competition and placed third in Women’s Physique. Since then the Soldier has racked up a series of national and international top finishes.
In 2019, Burgholzer placed first in the Hawaii Fit Expo Strongman competition followed by second place in the Strongman competition “War on the Shore,” where she secured a spot in the June Strongman event. She then captured third in the Corps Nationals, earning her Pro Card. Burgholzer also captured first place at Roman & Roman Tampa Bay Strongman competition, as well as fourth at the Arnold Amateur Strongman World Championship. In November, Burgholzer was named America’s Strongest Woman in the middleweight division, during a stellar performance at America’s Strongest Man and Woman competition.
Burgholzer joined the U.S. Army in 2013 and graduated training as an Army medic. She began lifting as a hobby to deal with stress and stay in shape. In 2019, Burgholzer was invited to join the Army’s Warrior Fitness Team as its only female strongman competitor.
Burgholzer is mentally preparing herself for the next record-breaking attempt. In the meantime, she encourages anyone that wants to compete to give the sport a try.
“Follow your dreams! Whether it is crushing a small competition, or getting your pro card,” Burgholzer said. “Get creative! But most of all have fun with it.”
The Warrior Fitness Team Connects America with America’s Army by performing fitness demonstrations and winning at competitions. WFT Soldiers are Army ambassadors who share their skills and experience with the public, while highlighting the Army’s focus on fitness.
Fitness remains a key foible for Army recruiting with 71 percent of today’s youth not qualifying for military service, due in part to obesity and related health issues. During their travels, Warrior Fitness members promote healthy lifestyles and habits, as well as raise awareness of Army opportunities in support of recruiting efforts.