Karenjeet Kaur Bains is the first Sikh female powerlifter to represent Britain in the World and European championships and lifted gold as a junior at the Commonwealth Championships in 2019.
Now, with a Guinness World Record under her belt, the 26-year-old is trying to take the sport mainstream, and is challenging lifters of all abilities to raise the bar with her online coaching. M&F caught up with the stereotype smasher to find out how she became one of powerlifting’s brightest stars, and how anyone can adopt the basic principles of the squat, bench press, and deadlift to strengthen their mind, body, and character.
Bains was born in Warwick, England. Her parents were originally from the Punjab in the North of India, but having moved to England in their younger days the two met, got married, and raised a family; putting their all into making sure that Karenjeet and her brothers had the best opportunities possible. Her parents were proud as punch then, when Bains gained a scholarship and attended Durham University while already dominating the world of powerlifting. As a chartered accountant, Bains is crunching numbers in both the office and the weightroom.
Karenjeet Kaur Bains smashes the stereotypes
Having first started powerlifting at age 17, success came quick and was well earned. Bains is a multi-time British, and All England champion, and those victories were in part fueled by closed minded people that often underestimate the potential of a woman in the weight room. It’s a narrative that Bains is working hard to change, and has plenty of her own memories to draw from.
Even as British champion, she recalls entering the gym with her dad, Kuldip, and being approached by an old man who dismissed her straight away, saying that there probably wouldn’t be a dumbbell small enough for her to lift. Kuldip, a former natural bodybuilder and powerlifter, came back with the perfect response, telling the unwanted negative voice that “there won’t be a weight big enough!” It was a definitive moment in her life, and reinforced the fact that no one should be allowed to place limitations on your progress because of incorrect perceptions. In truth, there are few men in the gym who can match Bains plate for plate. Eat that, old man!
In school, Bains had already excelled in sports before getting serious about the gym. “I’ve always been very sporty,” she says. “First of all, I did athletics from, say, 5 years of age. My dad is my coach, and coaches me in bodybuilding and powerlifting but he coached me in athletics initially. I’ve got two older, twin brothers, they are 10 years older than me and they used to do (400m) hurdles at national level. When I used to see them doing that, I would learn from an early age what it meant to win.”
Winning is about forging your own destiny
Bains is eager to represent her community, and feels that there is not enough South Asian females entering powerlifting. She makes sure to keep her full name announced in interviews and in competitions because “Kaur” is often translated as “lioness,” and is a signifier of being a Sikh female.
Through her success, the proud Sikh hopes to encourage more diverse minorities to enter the sport, and is keen to bring women to powerlifting, from all walks of life. Of course, powerlifting can be an expensive sport when you consider the coaching, gym memberships, and travel required to chase gold, but the Bains family learned to forge their own destiny by keeping things in-house. Her dad’s passion for sports and pumping iron didn’t just catch on with Karenjeet and her brothers, as even mom is also finding success with the hammer throw, discus, and shotput in the masters divisions.
“I’ve got a gym at the bottom of the garden,” shares the lioness. “It’s very old school, with cast iron weights. My dad is an engineer, so he’s made a lot of the weights and everything by hand. There are all these gears, and parts, nothing fancy but I’m always encouraging people that all you need to succeed is grit and determination.” Undoubtedly, powerlifting is one of those sports that gives instant gratification. “I think most newbie lifters kind of get addicted to it,” says Bains. “Because once you lift something, it’s always ‘what more could I lift?’ but when I initially started lifting weights, I had very soft hands and I remember my hands getting ripped to shreds because they weren’t ready. I used to use surgical spirit to toughen up my hands. I think the bench press, deadlift, and the squat came quite naturally to me and I’ve always had very strong legs from years of sprinting and everything else.”
@karenjeet_bains 175kg DEADLIFT (385lbs) from the All England Powerlifting Championships Let ME help take your strength to the next level…Coaching Link in Bio #deadliftpr #deadliftface #powerliftingchicks #pushyourselftothelimit ♬ Legends Are Made – Sam Tinnesz
Karenjeet Kaur Bains shatters world records, and glass ceilings
In June, Bains became the England Bench Press Champion in the under 69kg (152-pounds) division by raising 95kg (210-pounds). Her personal (raw) bests are 97.5kg (215-pounds) on bench press, 175kg (385-pounds) on deadlift, and 150kg (330-pounds) with the squat. And, while her powerlifting career is riding the crest of a wave, the champ hopes to use this momentum to take the sport mainstream. This inspirational woman us currently fielding television offers and was recently accepted by the Guinness Book of World Records after squatting her own bodyweight of 67kg (147 pounds) for an incredible 42 reps in just 60 seconds.
Powerlifting has provided Bains with an opportunity to see the world. She has competed in countries including England, Canada, Sweden, and Lithuania, but is now hoping to use her online fitness coaching to reach a global audience from her own home or gym.
Bains finds that constantly challenging herself is confidence building, and she is well aware that strength of mind is just an important as strength of body. Through her motivational speaking and panel appearances, through to her one-to-one coaching and regular check-ins with clients on her app, Bains is able to lead by example, noting that she has to push the
boundaries of her mental and physical capabilities just like everyone else. “So, I do the conventional deadlift,” says Bains. “I don’t do sumo, so for me there’s a long range of motion, and I’ve got quite long legs compared to my torso, and I don’t have super long arms, but as soon as I know I’ve lifted the bar off the floor, even just ‘that’ much, I know I’ve got it because I’m a heck of a grinder. I’m very stubborn, and I’m like ‘I’m not letting this go!’”
Bains says that she is keen to put an emphasis on “strong” over “skinny” and points out that her message is not just for wannabe powerlifters. She curates individual training programs for her growing list of clients, who are all at different phases on their fitness journey. Bains is also able to evaluate videos that are sent to her, in order to provide instructions on how to improve on technique, or chat with clients through her online platform in real time through instant messaging.
Karenjeet Kaur Bains Record-Breaking Lower-Body Workout
Here’s an exclusive workout for M&F readers that Karenjeet Kaur Bains has shared for building leg strength to assist with powerlifting. You don’t have to be a champion lifter to try, just work with the weight that is comfortable for you!
And, if you would like to sign up for Karenjeet’s Online Coaching, M&F readers get a discount. Go to Karenjeetbains.com, enter your fitness goal, then add the phrase ‘Muscle & Fitness’ in the text box. Complete the steps and Bains will activate a 25% discount on your first month. Let’s get to work!
Squats and Accessories Workout
Muscles worked: Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings
Squat: Aim for the heaviest you can go while making sure to deliver clean reps.
- Warm up with an empty bar, then add a light weight for 8 reps.
- Perform 5 working sets of 5 reps,
- Take 3 minutes rest between each set.
Bulgarian Split Squat: Focus on your stability, and squat down as far as your mobility will allow.
- 3 working sets of 6-8 reps.
- Take 3 minutes of rest between each set.
Leg Extension: Focus on the contraction at the top of the extension and focus on the quads.
- 3 workings sets of 6-8 reps.
- Take two minutes of rest between each set.
Dumbbell Straight-leg Deadlift: For superior technique, squeeze the glutes as you get to the top and feel the burn in your hamstrings.
- 3 working sets of 10-12 reps.
- Take 2 minutes of rest between each set.
Dumbbell Walking Lunge: Use this exercise as a finisher so complete as many reps as you can to close out strong!
- 2 working sets of 20 (or more) reps.