The fitness channel MegSquats focuses on powerlifting, highlighting Megan Gallagher's journey in strength training. (Tanya Sichynsky/The Washington Post)

Powerlifting consists of three lifts: the squat, bench press and dead lift. Scrolling through the latest fitness trends and gimmicks, the compound word offers a rather simple elevator pitch — lift increasingly heavier objects to get stronger.

It took Megan Gallagher years to find this “weird sport.” Now, it’s her career on YouTube. Gallagher has said part of the reason she started her channel was to raise the profile of the sport.

Gallagher’s channel, Megsquats, has 272,000 subscribers, with new videos every week or two. Gallagher has a larger audience on Instagram, where she posts videos on topics such as quick tips for dead lifting for her 380,000 followers. She’s now a certified USA Powerlifting coach and has competed in national competitions four years in a row.

USA Powerlifting reports that competition membership has more than tripled since 2014 — from 6,410 members to 22,026. In 2018, the federation listed a 2-to-1 ratio of men to women registered for competitions; four years ago, that ratio was roughly 4-to-1.

The Post talked to Gallagher in March about her channel and the world of powerlifting on YouTube. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Why did you start vlogging on YouTube rather than just posting your lifts?

I knew how confused I was at the start, and I was aware that most women who were in my life were surprised that I chose this facet of fitness.

So, I powerlift, right? I compete in the squat, bench and dead lift. Guys grow up and, if they play football, they’re in the weight room. Girls, that experience just never happens. So those are just so foreign. Even doing a pullup. . . .

Strength was never introduced to me until I really, really dug for it. I tried CrossFit and then I tried bodybuilding and I did a bikini show and then, finally, I found this weird sport where I could just lift as heavy as possible.

“Guys grow up and, if they play football, they’re in the weight room. Girls, that experience just never happens.”

— Megan Gallagher

How did you find powerlifting?

I had just come off a bodybuilding show like I did a bikini show. And, so, you diet for what seems like forever, and you get really lean so that you can show off your muscles and you compete in a bodybuilding show.

When you do that, you have to diet. It is incredibly taxing, and at the time on Instagram a lot of women were doing this. . . . A lot of us rebounded — ended up looking really awesome, and then almost immediately I gained 30 pounds. I just gained all the weight back, and that was so discouraging because it felt like I just wasted all this time to look great for this one day. And then it was just gone. I was like, what’s the point of even working out anymore? That’s when the answer was, “Well, you can get really strong. I don’t know if you knew this, but you can just try to be strong.”

That was the thing that kept me coming back to the gym in a time where I wasn’t really feeling the gym.

Thank God that happened, because I probably would have just never gone back had I not found something that interested me so much.

Where did your channel’s slogan, ‘Strong, strong friends,’ come from?

I knew I needed a greeting and, honestly, there was another YouTuber that I was watching her videos, and she would say “Hello my sweet, sweet friends.”

I can’t just steal her greeting obviously, so I was like, “Oh, what if I say ‘Hello strong friends.’ ” ...

When I started, I was really lucky because my gym, it’s D.C. young professionals, so everyone’s really nice and easygoing and just happy to be out of work and at the gym. But I noticed the culture elsewhere, outside of that gym, was typically male and blue collar and maybe not so friendly. I knew that I wanted to let people know that there are pockets of women doing this and people who are really helpful doing this. It’s not a sport or the culture of dead-lifting and lifting heavy weights — usually you think of a certain type of person who’s doing that. And, I’m like: “No, we’re friendly and we’re strong and that’s cool.”

How do you build trust with people following your workouts online?

People who have amazing bodies have always done the same types of things. There is a recipe and it works, you know? So, I think, there are definitely trends that pop up, but there’s a way to get stronger or skinnier or better at what you’re doing, and its progressive overload. You just have to do more every day or every week, and if you do that no matter what you’re doing, you’ll probably get stronger or lose weight.

I mean, if you do that at work, you’ll get better at your job, right? That is just a principle that so many people do not understand because they’re sold something that’s sexy. They’re sold something like an easy app.

Now, a very popular thing to do is to post your workout for the day on Instagram. . . . And that’s great, but those people following it — unless they’re utilizing some form of progressive overload — they’re just not going to get better or stronger or lose weight. It’s just not going to happen. That is such a simple concept. But me saying that is not very sexy.

Powerlifting is not incredibly flashy, but on Instagram, celebrities post cross-fit workouts jumping up and down, doing bear crawls. Is that what you’re getting at? How do you handle those videos as a personal trainer?

That’s why it’s important for me to always keep things simple. I know for a fact that the strongest people in the world, and the most successful bodybuilders in the world, will tell you that it’s really just the same lifts over and over again.

“There’s a way to get stronger or skinnier or better at what you’re doing, and its progressive overload.”

— Megan Gallagher

How do you balance your career as an athlete, the videos to create for YouTube and the growth of your apparel business?

It is hard and I do work all the time. It’s definitely a lot of work, but also I consider going to the gym and filming a workout work. Whereas before I was totally happy to do that for fun.

I definitely feel lucky that my personal interests and the way I make money are intertwined. That has its ups and downs, of course.

How do you see your long-term career? Does it involve YouTube?

The exit strategy is important to me. . . . I don’t want to be the old lady lifter. I mean that’s fine, but —

You literally were the old lady lifter. I saw that.

Yeah, [laughs] I did. I did. That probably is my future, to be honest. I do really like what I am doing. That’s not to say that there aren’t negative parts of it, of course, but I’m enjoying myself a lot. But, an exit strategy is something that I’m constantly thinking about because I want to make sure that when I have kids that they’re secure. And this job is like, “Who knows what’s going to happen?” ...

I’ve been lucky that I am in fitness, which is a place where different business options makes sense and it’s something the general public needs.

It was a business before YouTube and will be a business after YouTube.

Absolutely, absolutely.

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