Interview With 7 Time World IPF Champion Ellen Stein

by Chris on November 10, 2010

I recently had the chance to sit down and interview my friend Ellen Stein. It’s always a great experience to speak with Ellen, as she is full of knowledge and passion for fitness and strength. Check it out.

First things first, Ellen I want to thank you for taking the time to sit down for this interview. For those of you out there who may not know who Ellen is, she is a 7 time World Powerlifting champion, RKC and personal trainer and I’m happy to say, friend of mine. Back when I was preparing for my first powerlifting meet, Ellen was one of the first people I contacted for help, and her assistance made a big difference on my performance.

Ellen, tell us about your background in the fitness world and you accomplishments.

I originally started out as a runner in 1978. My father was a long distance runner and he was the one who introduced me to it. I ran for 15 years, until 1993 and ran everything from the mile to the marathon. My best mile time was 5:48 and my best marathon was 4 hours flat. In 1993, when I applied for the marathon I was rejected, so when I was told that I would only be in the lottery I decided I didn’t want to commit to train for something that I might or might not get chosen to do. I took this as a sign that it was time for me to try something else. They were having a sale at my local gym, so I joined a gym for the first time. A friend of mine had showed me how to do some basic bodybuilding exercises, and I eventually hooked up with a bunch of old master powerlifters. Someone told me I ought to learn how to deadlift, and within a month I was up to 225 lbs. At that point someone suggested I try out a meet. I entered my first meet in Iron Island and was one of only 2 women. I had no idea what I was doing, and I came in 2nd. In my first meet I squatted 220, benched 126 and deadlifted 265 at 122 lbs; I was 41 at the time. After that I started training for the NY State Championships where I won and set all the Master’s State Records. Then I won the nationals, qualified for my first World Championship and set my first world record in the deadlift. Some of my accomplishments in powerlifting are 7 IPF Master’s World Championships in the women’s 132 lb class. My best lifts include 418 lb deadlift, 184 lb bench, 358 lb squat equipped, and 286 lb squat, 145 lb bench, 352 lb deadlift raw.

You’re not only an athlete, but a trainer as well. How did you get started as a trainer?

I decided to get certified in 1995 and succeeded in obtaining the NSCA personal trainer certification. I’ve only done it part time since then, as I had a full time job outside of it. Now that I’m retired, though, I plan on pursuing it full time. A certification is the least of it, though. I’m very big on education and staying on top of new topics in the industry. It’s more about staying on top of the research in the industry.

In addition to being a trainer, you’re a kettlebell instructor. What drew you to that?

I was at a fitness conference when I saw there was a woman there with a kettlebell DVD. I picked one up and got an 8 kg bell and was blown away with the workout. I first got kettlebell certified in 2006 through Kettlebell Concepts, and then in 2008 I went for the RKC. Since then I’ve done many workshops with Mike Mahler and the IKFF.

You’re an accomplished athlete in many disciplines. Are there any people out there who have particularly influenced your training?

There are plenty, but in particular I have to say my coach Matt Gary and anyone and everyone involved with the RKC community or Dragondoor.

Can you give us some insight as the what a typical training cycle might look like for you?

Right now I base my training off of Prilepin’s chart. I have used progressive overload in the past but have gotten far better results with this method. I usually only train 2 – 3 days a week, normally for a 12 week cycle. Usually it’s squat light, bench light on Wednesday, squat and bench heavy on Saturday and deadlift every other Saturday in place of squatting. Deadlifts are always heavy.

Sounds like a solid system, and it’s obviously gotten you some great results. Is there anything in particular that you are training for right now?

There is a kettlebell sport meet in New Jersey coming up soon. My next powerlifting meet with be the Raw Unity meet. I haven’t decided yet whether I am going to go for the full meet or deadlift only.

Good luck! Ellen it’s been great talking with you. Before we finish, do you have any advice for someone thinking of getting into powerlifting? Any special advice for women considering it?

For anyone, get a good coach and a solid training program. Learn how to lift properly; don’t learn from Youtube. Also, get proper footwear! Don’t squat in Nike Shox.

For women, don’t worry about getting “too big” from training. Don’t be afraid to lift heavy. Don’t try to just jump in and do it all at once, but don’t be afraid to lift heavy weight. There are plenty of smaller women in powerlifting who lift great weights. Also, follow a good diet and eat right. Don’t try to diet and powerlift.

Ellen, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. If you want to get in touch with Ellen or learn more about her, visit her site over at

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