Champion powerlifter Karenjeet Kaur Bains (UK) lives by the motto "You are stronger than you think you are!"
This 26-year-old athlete holds the title for most times to squat lift own body weight in one minute (female).
She broke the previous record with a whopping 42 reps.
Breaking the record feels "incredible" she says, and hopes the next generation will feel "inspired to know that their dreams really can come true if they put their mind to it - they can achieve anything".
"I am extremely proud to be the holder of a Guinness World Records title. To say I have made a mark in history by not only being the First British Sikh Female to represent Great Britain in Powerlifting, but to also be an official world record holder is an incredible feeling!" – Karenjeet
She is a successful female in a notoriously male-dominated sport, but also the first British Sikh female to represent Great Britain in powerlifting.
An epic powerlifting career
Before she began her career in strengths sports, Karenjeet competed in athletics for about 10 years, winning many contests in Warwickshire.
She also built a reputation as the fastest girl in her school.
"The boys didn't want to race me at school and I used to win the 100m by 40m clear," she recalls.
Coming from a family of athletes, with her mum descending from a champion wrestling family and recently dominating in athletics, Karenjeet took up powerlifting at 17.
She knew it would mean entering a male-dominated world, but she has smashed all stereotypes and demonstrated that a positive attitude, training and passion can ensure you achieve your goals.
Karenjeet's family are a huge part of her journey, supporting her with love and remaining heavily involved in her sports career.
From her very first approach to athletics, her dad, a former powerlifter and bodybuilder, became her coach.
He taught her everything she knows, and the winning father-daughter partnership continued once Karenjeet tried her hand at powerlifting.
He taught her the basics of squat, bench and deadlift techniques, and within months of having never lifted a weight, she entered her first competition and won.
"It felt like my calling, and I've never looked back since," she says.
Today, Karenjeet is a five-time British Champion and five-time All England Champion. Other highlights of her career include:
- Competing at the World Classic Powerlifting Championships in Helsingborg, Sweden, in 2019.
- She became the Commonwealth Powerlifting Champion, winning three Gold Medals in the Squat Deadlift and Overall champion as well as two Silver Medals in the Bench press and Bench Press only event.
- Karenjeet represented the United Kingdom at the European Powerlifting Championships in Kaunas, Lithuania. She placed in the top ten again.
- She made her debut in the Senior category at the World Classic Bench Press Championships in Vilnius, Lithuania. She placed sixth in the world.
Alongside her career in powerlifting, Karenjeet also works as a charity accountant. Juggling long hours at work and relentless training regime is challenging, but she powered through.
“If you want anything in life, it’s never easy,” she says.
As she revealed during an interview that took place at the GWR office in London, her sports category is not funded by sponsors, therefore she needed a day job to financially sustain a career in competitive powerlifting.
However, her sports career is her priority, and that’s what makes her most happy.
Karenjeet's special gym
Karenjeet’s training den holds a special place in her heart, and it’s very different from what you might imagine!
Her family set up a gym in her garden, and she trains there with her father – who also built a lot of her dumbbells and machinery.
"The dumbbells, if you look closely, are made up of cogs and gears, and the machines have been specifically tailor-made to suit me.
"There is a lot of history in that gym where all the family has trained, and the gym walls are decorated with inspiration – cut outs of an old-school classic Bodybuilding magazine (Muscle and Fitness magazine) and pictures of myself and Dad in action!
"That shows that you don’t need anything fancy to get to be one of the best in the world, just sheer hard work, determination and the will to be the best!"
Training for the record attempt
Today, Karenjeet follows a strict training regime: she trains for 1.5 hours a day, six days a week.
The athlete says that she has to be "very structured about how she uses every hour of the day" to juggle all her existing commitments.
However, she only had two weeks to train for the attempt, adding extra exercises on top of her usual schedule and day job as a qualified accountant.
That made conquering a record "quite a time pressured affair!"
"I was given a short space of time to break one as there was a quick turnaround with respect to the 2023 book being sent to publish," she said.
"As a result, I only had two weeks of training to go for this squat record! This was in between my usual training for my upcoming competitions."
Given little time to prep, Karenjeet has high hopes that she will manage to get the minimum needed to break the record before attempting it again with more time to train.
"The target to beat was 30 reps so I was super pleased to have smashed that and set a record much higher than this. I also managed to beat the number of reps that had been set by the male equivalent of this record which was only 34 so that did feel quite empowering."
Karenjeet as a role model
On the back of her success, however, Karenjeet also aims to give back.
In and out of the gym, she aims to become a role model to encourage girls "to break barriers, to defy expectations and show that females can be strong too".
"Sometimes it takes just one person to start it off, to be that role model," she says.
"If I encouraged even one young person to take their sport seriously to the next level I believe I would have done a good job in life."
Her upbringing and religion have also been pivotal to her success.
"It has always given me a positive steer and helped to keep me both humble and grounded no matter where life takes me," she declared.
Being a Sikh encourages her do her best to live up to the "Chardi Kala", which she defines as an "eternal state of positivity".
Her religion accompanied Karenjeet in her highs and motivated her to stand up when she was feeling low.
"As Sikhs, we are supposed to be known as the 'Warrior race' serving to protect the innocent, and stand up for injustice and this is the same mindset I channel when I compete.
"Often you see me let out a warrior battle cry just before my deadlift (you may have seen pictures of me roaring) and I channel this mindset of going out to the battlefield or the arena towards my lifting!"
Karenjeet is a true powerhouse.
A Guinness World Records title is only the most recent, but surely not the last, accolade collected by this incredible athlete.
"Breaking this record has given me a buzz to set even more records so watch this space because there are many more to come!"
By Eleonora Pilastro