Why woman in Fareham are pushing their weights around in bid to boost girl power

Body builder Ann Grier at Lougars Gym in Southsea''Picture: Paul Jacobs (150957-2)
Body builder Ann Grier at Lougars Gym in Southsea''Picture: Paul Jacobs (150957-2)
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For generations strength sports have been stereotyped as the archetypal activities used to weed out the men from the boys.

From bench presses to arm curls, the lengths alpha males traditionally go to craft the perfect physique through sports such as bodybuilding and powerlifting is relentless.

Power Lifter Marina Cornwall (150986-2)

Power Lifter Marina Cornwall (150986-2)

But this is 2015. And the world is rightly changing and strength sports are fast becoming a woman’s game.

Ann Grier, from Fareham, is just one of the many women hitting the gym more than five times a week as she begins her competitive bodybuilding career.

‘A friend and I were at the gym just doing our own regular routine,’ the 39-year-old said.

‘I saw someone training on the weights and I thought “I could do that”. Eighteen months later and I am still doing it, competing and my confidence has soared as a result.

Some people just come home and sit and watch the TV but I’m always in the gym

Mum of two Ann Grier

‘Some people just come home and sit and watch TV but I’m always in the gym.

‘It acts as a social tool. You can share your experiences and create so many new avenues as a result of it.’

As a discipline, bodybuilding is about sculpting the body to generate the perfect tone and physique.

Within the world of female competitive bodybuilding entrants carry out a number of mandatory poses dressed in bikinis before partaking in a ‘posedown’ while judges score them.

Mother-of-two Ann, who trains at Fareham Leisure Centre and Leigh’s Fitness in Havant, condemns the supposed negativity that surrounds the competition as she has experienced it first hand.

However, she does feel that as the world has changed, attitudes will too.

‘In the beginning my children – Bethany, 15, and Luke, 17 – were funny about me getting on stage in a bikini because they thought it was sleazy and trashy.

‘But that was last year and at my last show my daughter and mum came and they realised just how much work has to go into it and that it wasn’t like their previous thoughts on it.

‘They saw so many passionate people looking after themselves. They realised you can’t just click your fingers to get the figure you want.’

Another woman changing the face of the sport is Southampton-born Marina Cornwall, who is a personal trainer at gyms across the south coast including at Portsmouth’s Fitness First in Fratton.

Recently the bodybuilder-turned-powerlifter returned back from the World Powerlifting Championships in Finland – adding to her already bulging medal collection which includes British, European and now World titles.

After only becoming a powerlifter a few years ago, the 61-year-old has had success within the sport and she has already claimed a Hall of Fame award.

When she started out as a professional bodybuilder 17 years ago, she encountered a similar experience as Ann but was quick to acknowledge the thriving landscape female bodybuilding is currently in.

Marina said: ‘My mum and dad felt it was a man’s sport and not very feminine. They don’t realise the hard work and dedication you have to devote to the sport.

‘Particularly for women it can be intimidating, as people are fearful they will end up looking like a man, but I don’t do I?

‘I really do think when Jodie Marsh took up bodybuilding and they did a programme showing her in the gym eight hours a day, that was the start of it.

‘It brought a trend and the Olympics in 2012 completed changed the perception of women in sport.

‘In my opinion men watching the games started to like woman with muscles and we saw a rise in the number of people going to the gym, but it’s like that with any sport.

‘When Wimbledon’s on more people take up tennis, but the country has become incredibly body conscious because we want to look as good as our athletes. It’s created a lot of interest.’

Bodybuilding as a format rose to global prominence throughout the late-70s with competitions such as ‘Mr Olympia’ unearthing future acting stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno.

In the decades that followed the sport itself became tarnished with claims over performance enhancing steroids.

But as the world – and in particular the UK – continued its drive to fight the flab, the format is experiencing a booming renaissance.

Ann said: ‘You see so much on social media about it and I think a lot of people – men as well – want to lose weight and cardio-vascular is good for it but if you want to look fuller you need to do weights.

‘You can be skinny but have a saggy bum but lifting weights will sort that out.

‘Bodybuilding has just changed my world and I have never felt more confident.’

And it here why Ann feels the most important aspect of her sport thrives.

‘It gets people together, it builds confidence and above all it keeps you healthy and looking good,’ she said.

‘I don’t know why there is a certain attitude towards it.

‘All I care about is the fact I love it and will carry on doing it.’