Women in the weightroom

An inside look at a new strength training program for young women called The Barbell Club


Anthony Arroyo

The Barbell Club meeting and discussing lifting, and life.

Joselyn Hildebrand

Over 1,000 girls learning to properly lift, having access to the weight room and most importantly, learning to love themselves. This is the Women’s Barbell Classic’s goal, by the year 2025. It will be accomplished through The Barbell Club. The Women’s Barbell Classic is an organization and also a push/pull lifting meet. The WBC is co-founded by Annie Brees and Abbie Mork. They developed a six week lifting program to share their experiences with girls here at East High School. They provided strength journals, Converse tennis shoes, and The WBC T-shirt and hoodie to each girl. Their plan is to share this program throughout all of the Des Moines metro high schools.
When The Barbell Club was first introduced to East High, many young women were interested. No previous experience or knowledge about lifting is needed to participate.
“The Barbell Club is a free, six week strength training program for high school girls. We meet twice a week and focus on improving movement competency, strength and self-esteem,” co-founder Annie Brees said.
Women in the weight room may be an abnormal sight for some, but it’s expected in The Barbell Club.
“Lifting has been a lifelong skill that has given so much more than strength to me. It’s my hope to pass on that same skill to girls in hopes that they build the physical and mental strength to tackle the weight room and life in general,” Brees said.
A goal for The Barbell Club is to have been in every high school in the Des Moines metro by 2025.
“I have had so many people ask when The Barbell Club can come to their school. I genuinely want every single female to have access to a club like this with support from amazing women like Annie, Meghan and Abbie,” East High School strength and conditioning coach Becca Ites said.
Strength lifting doesn’t require as much skill or experience as you may think. Good form is more important than anything.
“Before the club started, I was a little skeptical. As it progressed, I learned to love it. It has prepared me to be in the weight room with others and it has taught me how to properly use weights,” junior Hayli Williams said.
The weight room is a great place for anybody who may struggle with self-love, confidence, being alone or feeling like they want to take power.
“The weight room is a magical place, it can give you confidence you didn’t know you had. Being able to lift heavy things and overcome barriers is empowering in so many ways. Females need to be given the chance to find that confidence and I truly believe it can happen in a weight room,” Ites said.
The Women’s Barbell Classic has very positive goals for The Barbell Club and the young women participating.
“We want to give them the tools to be able to walk into any gym and get a workout in. From there, we believe that the physical strength crosses over into mental, and emotional strength. We believe that when you feel stronger, you stand up taller. You take on challenges differently. We want our girls to know they can be scared or nervous and be brave and courageous at the same time. We also want them to feel a part of something. We want to build a community of young women who believe in and encourage each other,” treasurer Meghan McCoy said.
Many people are excited for this program to keep expanding. The Barbell Club is something everyone should experience at a young age to open up their mind to the possibilities it provides.
“I needed a program like this when I was in high school. I wasn’t exposed to strength training until I was a senior and wished it had come years sooner. Growing up, exercise was always about weight loss, shrinking, and staying small. Lifting was just the opposite. It was the first time I felt like I was working with my body, not against it,” Brees said.
The Barbell Club is not just about lifting. The young women discuss things like positive self-talk, failure and confidence.
“I am more confident in myself and look at myself in a more positive way. I’m much happier,” senior Isabella Lopez said.
It may be tense or uneasy for anyone to walk into the weightroom who never has before. The Barbell Club is not only to inform young women about strength-lifting, but to inform young women that there is more to lifting.
“I felt as though the club would be a little overwhelming since I didn’t know who was in the club but it ended up being really fun and I made new friendships,” junior Aeelyn Magallanes-Tristan said.
Throughout this program, many young women realized they were much, much stronger than they thought. Anything is possible with a barbell.
“I love watching Hannah discover she’s strong enough to bench the bar, or how the deadlift clicked for Lindsay and she got a 95 pound deadlift. It is always a highlight to me to watch some of our girls discover just how strong they really are, and we have some crazy strong girls in our group,” McCoy said.
The Barbell Club is a six week, twice a week program. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. It is hard to say goodbye.
“I hadn’t expected to genuinely care and adore the girls inside the club so much. These girls are magic. They’re smart. They’re funny. They’re kind. They are strong, and getting even stronger. Every time I leave East High, I’m on cloud nine. Monday and Wednesday afternoons have quickly become the highlight of my week,” Brees said.

Pullquote Photo

“It has shown me the great potential I have within myself and the ability to gain strength with work and motivation,”

— Magallanes-Tristan

Anthony Arroyo
Coaches Annie Brees and Meghan Mccoy demonstrating a bench press.