Interview With Tiny Tiff: 97 Lb. All-Time Powerlifting Record Holder
In the past, lifters have always joked around that somewhere in the world, there’s a little 97 lb. Asian girl who can outsquat them. Well folks, come over to Dublin at CSA! Tiffany “Tiny Tiff” Leung is a powerlifter in the 97 & 105 pound weight class, and she is stronger than most grown men at your local 24 Hour Fitness. Having recently squatted 292 lbs. raw (with knee wraps), she is the current all-time world record holder in the squat at 97 lbs. and she is still continuing to improve during her journey as a competitive powerlifter.
I had first known of Tiffany back in 2013, and she was still new to the powerlifting scene & involved as a team member of her college powerlifting club at San Jose State University. While helping Kim Valentine (my former teammate) during a meet at the San Jose Fit Expo, I took note that her only opponent was Tiffany in the 97 lb. weight class division. Though Kim was the much stronger lifter at the time, Tiffany persisted and put up respectable lifts of a 215 lb squat, 77 lb bench, and 253 lb deadlift.
Fast forward to 2017, and Tiny Tiff is now known all throughout social media as both an elite strength athlete and a fitness coach for women of all ages. Her vision is to inspire other women to possess a passion for fitness & health, while building the confidence that comes with the experience of weight training. Learn more about Tiny Tiff in this interview, and gain insights into the mindset of an all-time record holder that will further your road into powerlifting!
I kinda stumbled into powerlifting! Since I was five, I played soccer growing up all the way through college. I played soccer on the club team at SJSU, and my teammate asked if I could join powerlifting the team so they’d have enough bodies on the roster. So, I went to practice, signed up, and met my former coach Zach Trahan! I did a few meets and it was really low key. We had practice every Saturday, so I did not have a real program during most of my time at the club. By the last semester of college, I had really grown to love the people I got to train with. That is really what kept me going, and I started a program with Zach.
You are perhaps best known as the current 97 lb. record holder for the squat, along with also being the former record holder in the deadlift. What is this experience like for you, and what would you attribute your success to?
It’s pretty cool, especially being able to do it at my home gym – CSA in Dublin. My family was able to be there for it, so it was special to me on a personal level. I don’t even remember when I started looking at the records on Powerlifting Watch. I had just done a meet in April, and saw Jesse post about Summer Slam (our meet held every June). I messaged Zach and asked if he thought a 275 squat was out of reach in two months. I had just gotten out of a year long squat slump, so why not go for it?! It was a mutual ehhhhhh, but I have crazy ideas sometimes.
What attributed to the success? I think was just the challenge, and how much fun I was having in training.
Despite some setbacks at last year’s USAPL Nationals in October, you came through afterwards with a big showing at Reebok Record Breakers 2 by breaking the squat record again at 97 lbs. What adjustments did you make in your approach for Record Breakers to help ensure your success on the platform?
The biggest and probably only adjustment I made was having a little more fun. Both meets were only two weeks apart, but I definitely was able to let loose a little more and crack a smile or two during training. This in turn also helped me be more focused when it was time to lift. I felt like I put a lot of pressure on myself to have a good showing at Nationals, and I allowed the stress get to me.
It has been announced that you will be competing in the US Open during April at San Diego. Can you share with us some goals for the meet?
My goal is to break my own world record squat, with a 300 lb squat – all while having fun with everyone there! Many of the lifters lifting at the US Open did the Record Breakers meet, so it will be fun to see them again.
What does your current training routine look like?
Aside from being a great powerlifter, you also have a background as a personal trainer & started Tiny Tiff Fitness as your own company. What services do you offer?
I offer in person one-on-one training, group training, at-home training, and online programming. I offer a Women’s Starting Strength class at CSA where we work out the squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press as our main movements. Afterwards, we run a circuit of accessory exercises.
Your classes have steadily been growing in size since starting Women’s Starting Strength and Sweat Therapy. What do clients aim to achieve by working with you?
A mixture of weight loss and gaining strength. Some come to start working on themselves. I’ve seen such an amazing transformation in confidence from these women! It makes me so proud to see how much they’ve changed.
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, Tiff! Last question – what’s the story behind all the weird stuff you do on Instagram?!