July 16, 2013

Personal drive puts Maine novice in power-lifting record books

Aimee Leclerc, 40, sets a world record in the strict curl, lifting 60.6 pounds in the 97-pound weight class.

By Steve Craig scraig@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BELFAST – Aimee Leclerc didn't walk into the Bay Area Fitness Center in November with the intention of becoming a world record power lifter.

click image to enlarge

Aimee Leclerc works on her strict curl – she holds the world record for her weight class in the event – at Bay Area Fitness in Belfast, where she was trained by power-lifter Ed Flanders.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Aimee Leclerc uses a weight machine that simulates a rowing motion during her workout. Using her slender legs, she can power through a set of eight repetitions of 230 pounds. “I don’t even look at the weight,” she said.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Of course, she never planned to be a competitive motocross rider, an Outward Bound instructor or a collegiate club rugby player, or to paddleboard solo from Key Largo to Key West, Fla.

It's just that once Leclerc tries something, she tends to go all the way.

"I think what inspires me the most is I have the potential, I have the strength, I'm healthy. Why not do these things?" said Leclerc, a mental health rehabilitation technician from Lincolnville who graduated from Kennebunk High School in 1991.

On June 1 in Derry, N.H., Leclerc, 40, set a world record in the strict curl -- in her first power-lifting competition. Competing in the 97-pound weight class, she lifted 60.6 pounds.

"It's so surreal," Leclerc said. "Who would think little old me would find something (I do) so well in at that age? It's kind of shocking."

Most people have tried a bicep curl at some point. The strict curl is a very specific, and more difficult, two-armed lift.

The lifter's back and shoulders must be flush against a wall or post, with feet flat on the ground -- usually slightly in front of their hips -- and knees locked.

The lift must start with the bar motionless and horizontal, and the arms fully extended. A lift is completed when the bar is raised near the chin and held motionless.

Leclerc set the world record at the 100% Raw Powerlifting Federation competition. Competitors cannot wrap their knees, elbows or fingers in any way, or even wear compression shorts or shirts. Only wrist wraps and a lifting belt are permitted.

The result is that the strict curl is as close to an arms-only lift as possible.

One person who isn't surprised by the power packed into Leclerc's 5-foot-2-inch frame is Ed Flanders, the owner of Bay Area Fitness and a record-holding masters division power lifter.

Flanders recognized something special in Leclerc before he began to train her.

"From a mile away, I could see Aimee had chiseled abs, good triceps and vascularity (veins), and I'm not used to seeing that in here," Flanders said. "It immediately became evident that she was extremely strong in certain lifts."

Flanders began putting Leclerc through demanding twice-a-week workouts that emphasize high weights working toward a fatigue level.

"Ed saw something in me and said, 'This is something you'd be a contender in,'" Leclerc said.

About a month before Leclerc competed, the pair began to prepare in earnest for a shot at the open world and national records.

The previous world record, 49.5 pounds, was set by Beth-el Algarin of Minnesota, competing in the 11-and-under division in February 2011.

The national record, set by Heather Feingold of Virginia in August 2012 in the 35-39 age group, was actually higher, at 52.9 pounds.

Flanders said some competitions aren't set up with all of the elements needed for world record certification, including three judges, videotaping and drug testing.

Leclerc, who said she weighed 95 pounds on the day of the competition, started with an "easy 50 pounds," then broke the national record with a lift of about 55 pounds (the weights are in kilograms).

After a round of drug-testing, she hoisted 60.6 pounds on her third and final lift.

Before the strict curl, she set national and world records in the free curl, a rare event that's not recognized by all power-lifting organizations.

(Continued on page 2)

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