October 2015 Bar Bulletin
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October 2015 Bar Bulletin

Heavy Metal: Listening and Lifting

By Faith Ireland


When you leave your law office, but not for home, where do we look for you? Perhaps a local bar or law library? More likely a gym, especially if you are lawyers Alma Kimura and Jack Rankin, and addicted to lifting heavy metal.

They work out with coach Todd Christensen, owner of Seattle Strength and Power, in the basement of the Melbourne Tower. Seattle Strength and Power is not a "fern" gym with scented shampoo. Kimura describes it thusly: "Rusty pipes and peeling paint with heavy metal music blaring. During heavy rain, grab buckets to catch the drips from the sidewalk above. Think 'Rocky' or 'Million Dollar Baby.'"

Kimura's Recruitment

Kimura, a Georgetown law graduate who practices solo in estate planning, probate and family law on Capitol Hill, was recruited by a tennis colleague who powerlifts. She told Kimura, "You have the perfect body for powerlifting."" The author emailed Kimura: "What sport can you enter at 50 or 60 and become a state, national or even world champion? Come in and try it out."" As a Superior Court judge, the author had seen Kimura's tenacity and persistence as a staff attorney for a public defender's office from 1979-86 - essential qualities for powerlifters.

In July 2013, Kimura, age 58, together with her son, who was home from college for the summer, headed to Seattle Strength and Power.

What Is Powerlifting?

Powerlifters compete in three events: squat, bench and deadlift. For a "legal" squat, you must squat so that the top of your hips are slightly lower than your knees (getting "below parallel"). For bench, you lie supine, take the bar and on the judge's command, press it up until elbows lock. For deadlift, you squat into the bar, then pull and stand until upright with shoulders back. In a powerlifting meet, you get three one-lift attempts for each event. The lifter with the highest total for the three lifts wins the gold.

Lifters compete by gender, age and weight categories. Most of Christensen's lifters compete in drug-tested federations including United States of America Powerlifting (USAPL) and the World Association of Bench and Deadlifters (WABDL).

Kimura's Challenge

Kimura played on the Vassar College tennis team, but says she lacked the "killer instinct" to be a champion. She played defense on women's soccer teams for more than 25 years, but at 4-foot-10, a coach once told her she was not tall enough to be good at defending against corner kicks.

When she started lifting, Kimura's biggest challenge was getting "below parallel." She started with body-weight wall sits and then dumbbells. To Kimura's surprise, seven months after she started training, at her very first meet in February 2014, she set an American squat record (242 pounds).

Kimura won silver at the Masters Nationals in Baton Rouge in May 2014, and in June 2014 she set four more American records at a local meet. She won silver in the Masters Nationals in San Antonio in May 2015, setting an American deadlift record (314 pounds). She also competed with Team USA in the International Powerlifting Federation World Master Powerlifting Championships in Denver in September.

Kimura, who handled plaintiff personal injury cases for a short time, was also surprised to find herself training beside Jack Rankin, a seasoned insurance defense attorney. He and Kimura spot each other and offer encouragement for heavy lifts.

The Veteran: Jack Rankin

Rankin, 67, president and managing partner at Reed McClure, and a powerlifter for nearly 20 years, is also coached by Christensen. Rankin, with a B.S. in mechanical engineering, handles construction, product, structural failures and many other claims. He is a Vietnam veteran, serving in the U.S. Navy from 1969-72, and received his J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law in 1975.

Christensen says Rankin's most amazing attribute is his ability to come back. Rankin has had three rotator cuff surgeries, and in June 2010 had open-heart surgery to replace the aortic valve. Four months after the surgery, he competed in WABDL worlds, pulling a deadlift of 451 pounds. Rankin has competed in WABDL for about 12 years and has won bronze, silver and gold.

Rankin says, "I started powerlifting in 1995 with my first competition in 1996. I joined Seattle Strength and Power around 2004 where coach Christensen improved my technique and motivated me to get more serious about competition in 2007-08. I've competed at the USAPL state meet every year since, winning my age and weight division several times."

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