71-year-old breaks records, heads to world championships

Lenna Barker poses with her weights at the Callaway County YMCA. The 71-year-old grandmother is headed to world championships this year, and aims to break the most records for someone in her age range.

Lenna Barker poses with her weights at the Callaway County YMCA. The 71-year-old grandmother is headed to world championships this year, and aims to break the most records for someone in her age range. Photo by Dean Asher.

Few people have gone on to break world records and compete internationally in powerlifting competitions less than two years after first picking up a weight. Lenna Barker might be one of the only people to do so in their ‘70s.

The 71-year-old Fulton resident holds the world record for squats at her age and weight, and will be heading to Germany and Argentina for world championship competitions later this year after qualifying in nationals.

Barker’s foray into competitive lifting began more as therapy than as a physical challenge. Though she was active in her youth, an on-the-job accident left her on the disabled list for 30 years. She fell into inactivity, and suffered a number of health problems over the coming decades. By the time she had a blood clot in her shoulder two years ago, she was partially paralyzed in one leg and had survived melanoma.

“My surgeon, Dr. Tarbox, did not want to operate (on the clot,)” said Barker. “He recommended physical therapy. That didn’t work, and Dr. Islam said I should get resistance training for that. Out of that, I came here.”

Barker had moved to Fulton from West Virginia to be closer to her family and watch her grandchildren while her daughter worked. Barker went to the Callaway County YMCA, and requested to talk to head personal trainer Bryan Beanland. Himself a world champion in squats and deadlifts, Beanland agreed to take Barker on and train her after he returned from competitions in Slovakia.

“With her age, she’s kind of in a league of her own,” said Beanland. “When we look in the record books, we don’t know what the record is, because before her it hasn’t been set.”

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