An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

New York Air Guard Woman Powerlifts to Success

  • Published
  • By Jaclyn Lyons,
  • 109th Air Wing/Public Affairs

SCOTIA, N.Y. - New York Air National Guard Master Sgt. Sarah Chambers wasn’t in it for the recognition or to set records when she decided to try powerlifting.

“My personal life wasn’t going as planned and it made me pivot. Instead of choosing a road where I could develop destructive habits, I chose to take my hurt and harness it towards the weight room,” Chambers said. “I didn’t realize I was kind of strong until I just decided to try it at the base gym.”

Five years later, Chambers, a member of the 109th Airlift Wing based at Stratton Air National Guard Base, is ranked third nationally in powerlifting and first in New York State for her division.

Chambers said a previous coworker who was a powerlifter asked if she had ever thought about trying it.

“I said maybe I’ll try it out, and he gave me a template to follow to get started. I didn’t have a trainer or nutritionist or anything; I just looked up some videos and practiced over and over again,” she recalled.

Chambers, a member of the Air Force for 19 years — 17 of them with the 109th — serves full time in knowledge operations in the communications flight.

Powerlifting is a strength sport that consists of three attempts at maximal weight on three lifts.

The squat is a deep knee bend where the lifter’s thighs must drop to or below parallel to the ground.

The bench press requires the lifter to lie on their back and lift.

The deadlift requires the lifter to raise the weight from the floor to hip level in one movement.

Chambers’ competitive career began when she participated in a local competition and did well. She also started competing in United States Powerlifting Association contests and excelled in those.

Chambers was ranked first in the submaster division  (ages 35-39) the past four years. In July, she became national champion in two divisions at the 2023 United States Powerlifting Association Drug Tested National Championships.

Her classification in lifting landed her in the International Elite category, determined by how much weight you can lift compared to your body weight. Only a small percentage of powerlifters fall into this category.

During that competition, Chambers was able to squat 237 lbs., bench 126.7 lbs. and deadlift 352.7 lbs., for a total weight of 716.5 lbs. She weighed 119.2 lbs.

Chambers won the open 56kg division, open to competitors of any age, and the and submaster 56kg division, for ages 35-39.

Chambers said she didn’t let the hard times she was going through get her off course.

“I like to think of the squat as an analogy. The squat is this tremendously devastating lift because all of the weight is on you,” she said.

“It feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You get down in the hole and there is a 2-3 second conversation you have with yourself, ‘Can I get this back up, or am I going to have to dump it?’ And the more times you go down into that spot, the more you are comfortable and confident,” she said.

“I feel like, as people, we get into a lot of uncomfortable situations and we’re like, ‘Oh, this is scary.’ But the more times you put yourself out there and dig deep, it becomes comfortable,” Chambers said. “So it has helped me develop more of a belief in me and who I am as a person and dealing with life.”

Next up for Chambers is a new challenge: bodybuilding. 

“I’ve been training for 10 weeks and it is a completely different sport and is challenging in different ways,” she said. “It is totally a mental game.“