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Camille Holland focuses on new weights in Europe

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Camille Holland at the House of Fitness. Picture: Keith Heppell
Camille Holland at the House of Fitness. Picture: Keith Heppell

Powerlifter eyes place in record books

In the world of powerlifting, it is interesting to consider the role of mental strength.

It would be an immediate and obvious answer that physical strength is the be all and end all to be successful, and understandably so.

After all, when you consider raising a bar weighing more than 200kg in the deadlift position, it does not matter how mentally strong you are, if you do not have the physical power or technique you are just not going to be able to achieve it.

But without focus it makes it difficult to achieve and, just as importantly, you could end up with a serious injury.

All those factors will be in play for Camille Holland when she attempts to break the European squat record at the Arnold Classic Europe in Barcelona this weekend.

Holland, 29, already has the British record of 227.5kg, an unofficial European mark, after setting it on her way to a third British title in August.

And that is some feat for someone who only took up powerlifting three years ago.

She started by lifting weights at the gym with her brother, and her natural strength led to a question as to whether she had ever considered powerlifting.

“I had done other things in the past, like military bootcamps. I’ve always liked being active but I never found something that I really clicked with,” said Holland.

“In school, you always do things like athletics and tennis, and I don’t move very fast. I’ve also had a lot of force behind me – I’ve always been pretty strong.”

After doing some research into powerlifting, Holland adapted her training to deal with the bigger weights, and after joining another gym and meeting like-minded people was soon told to start competing, as her personal bests were better than some local divisional records.

And she had already got the basic technique for lifting properly, a crucial factor in taking up the sport, after being taught by her brother.

“You spend a lot of time building technique,” she said. “You can still get your weak areas so what we tend to do is knock the weight back again and start working on the form again and again.

“We’ve had hours and hours in the gym doing this with my coach, where you just keep going over the lift and increase the weight, and as soon as your form starts breaking, drop the weights.”

Holland perfects her art at the House of Fitness in Babraham, spending three hours a session, three to six times a week working on the squat, bench and deadlift.

Her current personal bests in the three disciplines – which combine to give an overall total in competitions – are 113kg for the bench, 227.5kg for the squat and 192.5kg for the deadlift.

And lifting such huge weights is where the mental resilience comes into play.

Imagine being faced with lifting an average-sized male lion for instance, which can weigh around 200kg – even the thought is daunting enough, so it is interesting how you overcome that first hurdle before actually raising the bar.

“I know a lot of other sports are out there to beat other people, but in powerlifting, you can make it a lot more individual,” said Holland.

“You’re always up against yourself and if you don’t do very well, it’s down to you. You learn to take responsibility for your actions and how you are feeling. You learn to analyse yourself.

“It’s mindset more than anything else. If you come into the gym and are feeling a bit rubbish, you can turn that around and make it a good session. If you come in here, put everything that’s happened outside of the gym at the door, leave it and come in and have a great session, then you will feel much better.

“When you do go to compete, you know that everything comes down to how you are feeling and you’ve got to do a lot of focusing.

“I’ve done some hypnotherapy work with someone called Simon Stocker and he has been really great in finding that focus. I do find that my mind gets quite cluttered sometimes and I do lose that focus, but he has really helped me.

“When you do have the focus, you know that everything that you are working towards is all just channelled a lot better.

“Whereas, when you haven’t got that focus you could be doing anything and you’re not going to be lifting or performing at your best.

“If I come in and I’m feeling fantastic, but my mind’s not quite there then my coach will always stop me and will change my plan because mindset is such a big deal.

“If I’m going into it and not properly thinking about the lift and how I’m going to move the weight then I might as well have failed the lift already because I’m going to injure myself.”

Those methods will no doubt be at play on Saturday as Holland attempts to break the European record.

As for the rest of 2017, she has set weight targets for all three disciplines – 120kg bench, a bigger squat and more than 200kg deadlift – and, further down the line, has ambitions to win a world title.

And, given her focus, it would be a brave person to bet against Holland achieving her goals.

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