Marisa Inda is currently the American record holder in Bench, deadlift as well as total in the 114lb class in the USAPL, but she is probably better known as the “pull-up dancing girl” from the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Note: timestamps are based on YouTube version.
Marisa trained in gymnastics as a kid, but realized as a teenager the sport had a short shelf life. At 17, she got into a weightlifting gym and fell in love with body parts split training. Her father also had a mini home garage gym, so she would lift weights for fun with her brother and his friends.
Marisa knew her strong gymnastics background provided her an ideal physique for bodybuilding. When she was just getting started, Marisa actually followed a fit girl around the gym and copied whatever movements she did.
What Marisa didn’t like about bodybuilding
Once she started competing, Marisa ranked high in open competitions (4th and 5th places). At that time, there weren’t divisions like there are today; instead it was simply men bodybuilding and women bodybuilding shows. There weren’t many teenage girls competing in bodybuilding either, so she was motivated to keep training.
But Marisa quickly noticed women taking drugs to help them get bigger, and she realized she couldn’t compete without doing the same. She decided to quit bodybuilding competitions, but still continued training.
“As you get more involved into the sport, you know you’re not going to do well if you are not taking drugs.” — Marisa Inda
Bodybuilding is great for strength training
When Marisa started powerlifting, she was already strong for her weight due to 15 years of hypertrophy training under her belt. Bodybuilding is focused on sub maximal weights for high reps, which helps build a strong, stable foundation and prevents injuries. Marisa enjoyed bodybuilding because she was able to see her body change and have control of sculpting it.
Marisa is the current All-Time All Record Powerlifting Champion at 114 lb. (all ages, all divisions). Her best powerlifting meet numbers are: Squat 330 lb. | Bench 209 lb. | Deadlift 413 lb.
Marisa was doing hypertrophy training for 15 years before she stumbled upon a flyer for a powerlifting meet. Without thinking too much, she signed up and competed. She didn’t know the full rules and didn’t even have the legit belt for her first meet. Only afterward her first meet did she start properly eating and training for powerlifting.
Pro tip: If you are interested in powerlifting or even another new sport, don’t wait on your first meet or other competition. Just sign up and enjoy the experience as a beginner!
Bodybuilding exercises help powerlifting training
Marisa incorporates bodybuilding exercises, such as drop sets and partial rep ranges, into her training by adding it at the end of her powerlifting workouts. She likes to maintain a well-rounded, strong physique and finds these exercises beneficial for her powerlifting lifts.
“In bodybuilding, you hit everything. There are not weak links.” — Marisa Inda
Marisa enjoys working out with both men and women for different reasons: men push her harder, but women can do higher reps and train more frequently. While she typically trains with men, she’ll do more sets and reps than her training partners, as it takes women more time and effort to develop muscle than men. The same is true for beginners, who lift lighter weights in the first few years, which enables them to recover faster and lift more reps, more often.
Marisa teaching the crew how to deadlift
Tune in to the video podcast to watch Marisa teaching the crew how to deadlift. Watch the video podcast from minute 17:36.
Try various technique to find what works best for you
Marisa has a relatively narrow squat for powerlifters, with feet just a bit wider than hip width. Marisa tried a wider stance for several years, but it just didn’t work for her. She found she is strongest and most comfortable in the narrow stance she consistently trained as a bodybuilder. Marisa also has a wider bench grip than most powerlifters, but that’s what works for her.
Pro tip: Don’t get hung up on tips of the best form, make sure to experiment with different techniques so you can find what works best for you individually.
Training for 25 years and avoiding major injuries
Marisa is 41 years old and has been training since she was 17. For almost 25 years, she hasn’t suffered from a major injury or joint pain. She is an experienced lifter who knows how much to push herself and how to train around small injuries to prevent big ones. She maintains great muscle and joint health by incorporating hypertrophy training and not pushing too hard, too often.
“I don’t think I pulled out a heavy one rep max deadlift until I was two weeks out of a meet, and it wasn’t even a rep max, beneath what I’ve done on the platform. I save the big lifts to when it counts, at a meet.” — Marisa Inda
Training while pregnant
When Marisa was pregnant, it was nearly unheard of to work out during a pregnancy, but she wanted to keep active and maintain as much muscle and strength as possible. Marisa consulted with her doctor and kept her usual training routine. In the later pregnancy stages (after 6 months), she adapted her training slightly to accommodate her stomach, like changing from conventional to sumo deadlifts. Other than that, she ate regularly and gained 21 lb. with each of her kids, which is normal for her size.
After giving birth, Marisa took it easy at the gym, working with light weights, focusing on breathing and core, letting the body recover and get accustomed to movement again. Only once her baby was around 5–6 months old, she was back to barbell training.
Training as a mother
Since having kids, Marisa started managing her time more tightly, but always finds 45 minutes to workout to keep her sanity. She likes to train and pursue her own goals, besides living vicariously through her kids. She believes her training positively influences them and inspires them to set their own goals.
Pro tip: Send your kids to gymnastics in the very beginning. It’s a great way to learn body and spacial awareness and build upper body strength without using weights. Gymnastics also provides a strong foundation for skill transfer many to other sports.
Connect with Marisa Inda
Marisa’s book: Fuerza: A Female’s Guide to Strength & Physique
Watch the show
Listen to the show
Mike and Doug