Power Portrait: Emma Swanston

First, the basics! Your name, age, and where you live. 

Emma Swanston
Sydney, Australia

I am also a certified personal trainer with a deep passion food: Buying it, preparing it, eating it, photographing it, you name it! I pour all of that passion into my website, BetterWithCake.com.


JVB: Let’s dig right into it: What does becoming Unapologetically Powerful mean to you?

Emma: To me becoming Unapologetically Powerful means so much more than physical strength. It’s about accepting and embracing yourself here and now as you are and uncovering your true self and owning it. I have found a quiet, self-assured confidence in knowing that I’m not perfect but unique and one of a kind. Improving my physical strength has helped me accept that I am who I am, and to stop apologizing for being me. Embracing me, stepping up and owning it—that is where my true power lies.

JVB: Everyone’s entry to powerlifting is a bit different: how did you find yours? 

Emma: Through JVB and Jen! I have always been interested in lifting weights, the heavier the better, but I didn’t know much about powerlifting until I started looking into JVB’s Unapologetically Powerful powerlifting program.


JVB: Think about where you started and where you are now: what did you find most helpful in learning how to powerlift?

Emma: There have been so many lightbulb moments through this journey that I’m not sure I can narrow it down to just one….

That being said, I think one of the biggest things for me has been bio-feedback, the intuitive training component written into the Unapologetically Powerful program. Biofeedback is an absolute game changer. I’ve learned to take time to tune into my body and  listen to what it’s telling me, and do the exercises that feel best for my body in each workout. I’ve learned that it’s ok to investigate what little tweaks and adjustments I can make in the squat, bench, and deadlift to honor the positions that feel and work best for my body, instead of forcing myself into certain positions or to follow certain rules just because that’s the way the textbook says it’s supposed to be done. Doing this has really helped to unveil strength and ability I didn’t even I know I had.


JVB: Let’s talk about challenges. What was your biggest hurdle when you first started powerlifting? How did you overcome it?

Pride. I want to lift all of the weight and I want to lift it now!

But, it’s not good to lift weight with poor form or technique and risk injury just for the sake of lifting X amount of weight.

 Now, I set pride aside and really focus on form and technique. This approach has allowed me to see gains in strength that have exceeded even my own expectations.

JVB: In just three words, describe how you feel after a powerlifting workout?

Emma: Satisfied. 
Accomplished. Empowered.


JVB: All three are awesome, but if you must pick from squat, bench, or deadlift, which one is your favorite? What do you love about it?

Emma: Deadlift! What don’t I love about it might be an easier question to answer!

Deadlifting works your quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, back, and lats all in the one movement! I love that even though it’s just one movement you’re really working your entire body. Talk about major bang for your workout buck!

Plus there’s the fact that deadlifting makes me feel seriously empowered, super strong, and like I could rule the world. 
JVB: Time to get your PR pants on! Tell us about your most memorable personal record.
Emma: Without a doubt my deadlift PR of 90kg (or 198lbs), just over two times my body weight, in the most recent Unapologetically Powerful virtual meet.

JVB: OK, now a biggie: What is the biggest impact becoming UP has had on your life?

Emma: Oh gosh…UP has impacted my life in so many ways but the biggest thing would be confidence.

Developing confidence in my physical ability has led me to establish a better relationship with, and grow a deep respect for, my body. Focusing now on what it can do rather than what it looks like has really helped me feel more confident and secure in my own skin.


JVB: You’ve come a long way, baby! What has been the biggest contributor to your powerlifting success so far?

Emma: Having an amazing coach who knows exactly how to give insightful feedback along with incredibly helpful and sometimes quirky cues in a way that I can easily understand and put into practice.

I’ve also learned the benefits of slowing down and keeping my eyes on my own on my own work and progress.  I focus on one workout at a time. One set at a time. One rep at a time. Strength is so individual and looks very different for all of us. Getting strong is not something I want to rush, I want to take my time and really savor and enjoy the process.


JVB: We know that improving your physical strength has a way of bleeding into every aspect of your life. In what ways are you Unapologetically Powerful outside of the gym?

Emma: I’m just so much more self assured, confident, and dare I say brave?!

I no longer shy away from challenges or view mistakes as a negative thing. I’m much more likely to step up to a challenge and face things head on rather than taking the easy way out.

I also love that I can carry a week’s worth of groceries from the car up to our apartment in one trip, unassisted.


JVB: I know you love to do more than powerlift! Tell us about it!

Emma: I love to get outside and take leisure walks with my sweet little family which is something we do as often as we can, usually weather permitting. Getting out into the fresh air and sunshine with my two favorite people is good for my soul.

I also love a good daggy dance party in the living room with my little lady. I grew up doing competition dance. Tap was my fave, and I love being able to bust out some suh-weet old school dance moves every now and again.


JVB: Talk to the reader: What’s your best piece of advice for them if they’re interested in training for powerlifting?

Emma: Just do it! Please, for the love of all that is good in the world, just do it already! Come play with us!

Don’t be afraid of beginning, just begin.

JVB: Powerlifting really is a sport for everyone. It’s not limited by age, gender or experience and is open to anyone and everyone who wants to try it.

Emma: It’s also the perfect way to master the basics of squatting, benching, and deadlifting, and get a good handle on form and technique.

Important: If you’re interested in competing, my advice is to find yourself a good coach and mentor. Someone who you really click with, you’re comfortable with, and who speaks your language. A great coach knows what to do and say to help you unleash your full potential.
I know a really, REALLY, good one if you’re on the look out. Just ask.

But most importantly have fun! Take your time. Breathe deep and enjoy the process. JVB really hit the nail on the head when she said strong is fun. It really, really is!


Oh, hey! You like to talk about lifting weights? Yep, me too, and that’s exactly why I’ve created the Unapologetically Powerful Big 3 School, an exclusive ecourse written with the sole intention of improving your squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Because we don’t like to just talk, we want to walk the walk, too.

The Unapologetically Powerful Big 3 School ecourse is where I give you the information you need to build a strong foundation in the three powerlifts, and have a blast while doing it (because as I like to say, strong is so, so fun!). The course is free and my goal is for you to go forth and crush upon completion.

I want this for you. You with me? Click below to get signed up for the Unapologetically Powerful Big 3 School ecourse now!


Author:Jennifer Blake

Jennifer Blake’s leggings might be pink but her weights aren’t. A personal trainer at The Movement Minneapolis she is a powerlifting and strongman enthusiast with a passion for human movement, here to spread the good word that strong is fun. Facebook: Strong Is Fun, Twitter, Instagram
Comments: 1

One Response to “Power Portrait: Emma Swanston”

  1. Oh I just loved this interview. I always think back on how you ladies gave me the confidence to lift heavy. It was the catalyst for me to start loving what my body could do and not just what it looked like. But let’s face it, powerlifting makes you look PFG! Oh and I follow Emma and think she is the cutest!

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