This book explores strength sports as a site of political contestation and a platform for insurgent gender practices. It contributes to our understanding of key themes in the study of sport, such as feminism, power, the body and identity.

Drawing together interdisciplinary work spanning political science, sociology, gender studies, and biological and cultural anthropology, the book argues that in the face of ongoing embodied precarity, strength sports have become a complex form of both resistance to, and reproduction of, patriarchy. This argument also challenges traditional understandings and definitions of “strength.” Covering recreational-level participation and elite athletics, across experiential/individual, local, national, transnational, and global scales, the book explores diverse topics such as the pregnant strength athlete, the status of trans women in strength sports, and the gendered dimensions of online fitness communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. In so doing, it traces power dynamics and the interplay among multiple oppressions.

Showcasing important empirical and activist research, this book is fascinating reading for anybody with an interest in women’s sport, women’s studies, gender studies, the sociology of sport, strength and conditioning, feminist politics, or cultural studies.

chapter Interlude 1|7 pages

Bulky Is Not the Worst Thing a Woman Can Be

part I|69 pages

The Public Body

chapter Chapter 2|16 pages

Lingering Muscles, Latent “Threats”

Contesting the Exceptional and Threatening Status of Trans Women in Strength Sports

chapter Chapter 3|20 pages

Fit to Mother

Risk and Self-Care in the Pregnant Strength Athlete

chapter Interlude 2|6 pages

Deep Analogies and the Power of Heavy Lifting

part II|52 pages

The Disciplined Body

chapter Chapter 4|23 pages

Women's Empowerment Through Strength Sports—and Its Limits

The Case of the German American Turners, 1880s–1920s

chapter Chapter 5|21 pages

On Death and Fitness

Hero Workouts, US Militarism, and the Necrosociality of CrossFit

part III|66 pages

The Social Body

chapter Chapter 6|23 pages

Transformative Writing and Naming

Gimnasio Elba y Celina

chapter Chapter 7|18 pages

Between my breaths

CrossFit as a depathologizing healing strategy for sexual trauma survivors

chapter Chapter 8|23 pages

‘I Exercise With Others in About 6–7 Online Fitness Communities’

Women's Exercise Routine and Resilience During COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Orders

chapter |4 pages


Judging the Lift: Are Strength Sports Insurgent or Reactionary Practices?