23 Oct 2019
Earlier this year Yolanda Presswood competed in her home state of California, and qualified for the USPA Drug Tested Nationals in Las Vegas. The Nationals offered a chance to continue the astonishing achievements that have seen her take titles and records after a short time in the sport.
“Shortly after qualifying I decided to drop a weight class (from a 67.5kg weight class lifter to a 60kg weight class lifter)” Yolanda told Great Vegan Athletes “to have a chance at 12 records including 4 world.”
Restricting calories and walking seemed to work until she suffered an intercostal strain.
“Luckily with the help of my PT and friend Natasha Barnes, I was able to continue to lift despite the painful strain” she says.
Further issued showed themselves and Yolanda felt a loss of strength and had difficulty continuing the weight loss. Yolanda suffers from PTSD and experienced what she describes as “the worst panic attack of my life. The kind where you think you’re dying.”
Making the weight
Changing tactics to include fasting and carb cutting, she eventually weighed in at 59.5 kg to make the weight.
Starting with squat, Yolanda aimed for weights under previous bests – knowing she was a lighter lifter. By the second of the three lifts she had broken the State National and World records – extending this to 130 kg (286.6 lbs) with the third lift. Squatting in excess of double bodyweight is an achievement by any standards, and to do so just a few years after her first competition is remarkable.
Aware she needed to bench press 70kg for both State and National records, Yolanda came close with a 67.5 kg bench which is a personal best at 60 kg.
Deadlifts were an area where she felt confident, and for her third attempt set the bar at 155 kg (341 lb). She lifted this, which gave her another State, National and World record. Incredibly, she felt that was not everything.
“I had more in me but I was just ready for the whole experience to be over. Had I known I was 1kg away from placing 8th [in the open category] I would have chipped it… maybe lol.”
State, National and World records
The day gave Yolanda, an amazing nine records as the competition total was a State, National and World record. She became National champion in her M1 (40-44) 60kg category. Also competing in the open category (against lifters with no age restrictions, over in their 20s and 30s, her lifts tied for 8th 9th and 10th of 27 lifters (placing 10th officially as she was heavier.
It also gave her an official Elite Total.
The vegan powerlifter now holds 11 records across two weight categories.
“The magnitude of this accomplishment for me is huge” she said reflectively. “I set out with this as my goal and it’s exactly what I did. Nothing about this would be simple for even a ‘regular’ person but for me that much more of a challenge and with an intercostal strain up until meet day.”
Yolanda also felt she had learned from the weight loss process.
“I would not have considered cutting weight if not for a chance at 4 world records. I will never do this again. I don’t recommend it to new or newer lifters either. Just lift at whatever weight you’re at!”
Vegan ten years
Close to ten years as a vegan, Yolanda made the change after becoming aware of the acidic nature of animal products then researching more.
“I decided I’d look deeper and picked up Alicia Silverstones book ‘The kind diet’. It was there that my eyes were opened to the atrocities animals suffer every day” she explained previously. “I couldn’t look away. As you know, as vegans we start with the obvious and keep learning as we go along our lives. My household is vegan for the animals including our two teenage children ages 14 and 18 [now 16 and 20]. Vegan for life. Strong hearts. Strong minds. Strong body.”