Powerlifter Linda “The Phantom” Schaefer

Linda “The Phantom” Schaefer is a competitive powerlifter whose claim to fame is a truly impressive deadlift. I asked her about her achievements and advice for other women lifters. She writes:


1. Qualified in my first year of powerlifting for the National Championships, open division, with only a lifting belt and knee wraps! (You have to meet the total for the weight class in order to do this, best attempt squat, bench, and deadlift = total.) Almost accomplished this in my second meet. Did accomplish it in my fourth meet. Very unusual, I’ve been told! For comparison, most lifters never attain the qualifying total in their career.

2. Deadlifted 400 raw in my fourth meet ever. A major milestone!

3. Colorado State Record Holder, Open, superheavyweight (SHW), in the following: Full meet, in pounds: Squat: 365 Deadlift: 441 Total: 950 Single Lift: Deadlift: 410 lbs (haven’t competed in a single lift recently!) NOTE we are not talking about my weak spot, the bench press….

4. New!! OVERALL Colorado State Record Holder, Deadlift of 441 lbs., breaking previous mark of 435 lbs., held by Andrea Sortwell, 4 time World Champion, currently on her way to World Championships in May 1999! Also, as a note, my coach! We always seem to teach those who will better our marks. Thanks, Andrea.

advice for women starting out:

Above: Linda performs, of course, the deadlift.

1. We all start with the same tiny little weight. Do not get weight envy of your neighbor’s weight. Remember, he/she started where you did. And if you have the same determination, genetics, and perseverance, or a successful combination of same, you too will be able to move tremendous weights. Without steroids or any other nonsense. And if you’re drug-free, you know darn well how the weight moved!! Never any doubt!

1a. FORM is everything! An athlete’s ability to move increasingly large weights is dependent upon FORM. When in doubt, find a competent athlete and ASK. Most are willing to help you. Or get good videos, practice in front of the mirror. And watch to make sure the muscle you are working is the one doing the work!

2. You won’t get bulky, unless you’re one of the 1-2% who naturally get more muscular (I’m one, by the way!). Lay your fears to rest, and lift to save your bones and perhaps your life! And get your mothers, daughters, and even grandma into the weightlifting! They too can be helped to live straighter, and stronger lives at any age! It’s possible to get improvement from making the motions without any weights, just your own body’s resistance — for example, the push up!

3. You don’t have to lift it all today! For example, great results can be had by lifting just 10 minutes, even in your own home, doing biceps curls and triceps kickbacks. You would be amazed at the changes you get from just that ten minutes, ONCE a WEEK! This is a great way to test drive weightlifting….and build arms you’ll want to show sleeveless! Also helpful in getting those pesky groceries out of the trunk!

3a. Competing powerlifters cycle their training, and the length of that cycle is determined by the meets they are lifting in. You, as a beginner, can improve and strengthen yourself by the same general method. Choose a 3 month period for your first cycle. Test your 1 rep maximum for the exercises you are going to do. Then take approximately 60% – that’s your starting weight for the cycle. Do 8-10 reps, 3 sets, of each exercise for the first couple of weeks. The last week of the cycle, do sets of 3 reps, 3 sets. Then test the next week your one rep max. And reset your cycle. Start low, build the bridge to your next goals!

4. Weight gain is not a bad thing. Contrary to popular belief, when you gain muscle, you gain weight, BUT it’s parabolic, you’ll lose bodyfat when your metabolism grows to support your new muscles. You should really take your measurements, they’ll be your best guide, and perhaps you’ll need a smaller wardrobe! Don’t be afraid to eat!

4a. If you’re interested in losing bodyfat quicker, lift weights first, then walk or bike at a moderate pace afterward for 30 minutes. No great speed needed. Just take it easy, read something. And watch inches evaporate!

5. If the move you’re doing is a free weight squat, ALWAYS use a spotter, and ALWAYS put clips on the weight, no matter how tiny it seems. Movement while you lift can cause nasty damage and set you back far longer than it takes to hunt for a clip!!