Photo courtesy of Neshama Kutin

Photo courtesy of Neshama Kutin


By Kim Constantinesco

Strength can be measured in numbers, but the digits often only tell half the story.

Naomi Kutin, 14, is your typical teen in that she goes to school, does her homework, and competes on her school’s track team. That’s a full load to carry, but nothing compared to what she hoists for fun.

The freshman at Maayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, New Jersey was dubbed “Supergirl” by her parents. That’s because at 9, she started breaking world records in powerlifting. By 10, she was squatting 215 pounds, more than twice her body weight. Today, at 123 pounds, she squats 303 pounds, bench presses 120 pounds, and deadlifts 350 pounds.

“I like feeling strong,” Kutin said. “My life without powerlifting in it would be really boring.”

She’s in school for almost 10 hours a day studying the usual suspects like math, english, and biology. She’s also taking Jewish law, Jewish Bible classes, a Hebrew language class, and Medieval Jewish history.

Due to her full school days and because she’s an Orthodox Jew, where Saturdays are reserved for prayer and rest, Kutin really only gets one heavy day of training in every week.

Photo courtesy of Neshama Kutin

Photo courtesy of Neshama Kutin

She makes the most of it, though. Fascinating, right? Subject of a documentary? You bet.

It’s a fulfilling life for the teen, and one that brings her Superfamily even closer together.

Lift Like a Lady

Lifting heavy is in Kutin’s blood. Her father, Ed, has been a powerlifer for over three decades. Her mother, Neshama, is all in on the sport, too. Although Naomi’s three older siblings never got involved, her younger brother, Ari, 13, is always the first to chalk up his hands with her.

Naomi’s pursuit started when her dad brought her to karate class. She was eight years old, and he saw that she had some potential strength.

“I could do pushups really well and jump really high,” Naomi said.

He asked her if she wanted to start lifting with him. It sounded like fun, and with Ed working long days in finance in New York City, it offered them time to bond in a unique way.

The Kutin’s built a gym in their basement since local gyms wouldn’t allow children to be members due to liability issues. Most gyms frown upon the heavy use of chalk anyway.

Naomi progressed quickly thanks to some natural ability, good coaching from her dad, and a strong work ethic.

Her first competition at eight years old set the tone for the years that followed. She set a national record in the women’s 97-pound weight class by squatting 143 pounds. Eleven months later, she set the all-time women’s 97-pound weight class world record when she squatted 187 pounds.

At 10 years old, she became the first child to ever be invited to an elite lifting event in Texas, where she set another all-time record in the 97-pound class. The video of her 214.9-pound squat went viral.

Her numbers kept climbing, and at 12, she set the all-time women’s 97-pound weight class world record with a 231-pound squat, a record that still stands today.

Along with the accolades for her strength and athleticism, Naomi and her parents are regularly criticized.

“I always get comments on different videos and Instagram posts that say I shouldn’t be doing this,” Naomi said. “People say it’s very unhealthy and that I’m going to have stunted growth. They’re just random people who are very bored with their lives.”

“The truth is, she’s grown about six-and-a-half inches in the last two years, and she’s taller than both of her older sisters,” Neshama added. “I think it’s such a bogus fear that when women lift heavy, they have the potential to look masculine, and that’s just not true.”

Paying Dues and Making Due

Naomi and Ati posing strong, too. Photo courtesy of Neshama Kutin

Naomi and Ati posing strong, too. Photo courtesy of Neshama Kutin

Cyber bullying hasn’t been the only bump in the road.

With religious obligations on Saturdays, which are when most competitions are held, Naomi has to modify her contest plans.

The Jewish Sabbath doesn’t end until one hour after sundown. Before then, the day is filled with going to Synagogue, eating a meal and playing board games with the family, and taking naps. It’s a day to honor and to recharge. Thus, no working out either.

“We can’t travel on Saturdays, so if there’s a Sunday contest that’s far away, we have to wake up at 2:00 a.m. and drive for eight hours,” Neshama said.

The family looks for two-day contests. However, most schedule women and children to compete on Saturday. So, Naomi ends up performing her lifts on Sunday so that they count in national and world records. However, she can’t win a contest that way.

“If you think about it, and you’re a woman who is lifting on Saturday, someone else could come in later and see what the high scores are,” Neshama said. “Someone could come in and decide to lift a quarter-of-a-pound or one-pound more to beat your score. That’s not fair.”

When Naomi isn’t competing on Sunday’s, she’s training. She eats a solid breakfast and gets her music ready, and by 9:00 a.m., she, Ed, Neshama, and Ari are downstairs squatting for an hour. Then they bench press for 30 minutes. They break for lunch, and head back to the basement for an hour of deadlifts.

“Most people like to spread out their lifts, but because of our very busy schedule, this is how we have to do it,” Naomi said. “After that, I do homework, eat dinner, and go to sleep.”

Good thing Neshama was around because what Naomi failed to mention was that in between training and sleeping, she volunteers at Friendship Circle, which caters to children with special needs.

“For three hours, you’re paired with one of the people there, and you hang out with them,” Naomi said. “We do arts and crafts, music, and play sports.”

“She’s very kind and patient with these kids,” Neshama added.

Naomi has a soft spot in her heart for the population. Her brother, Ari, has high-functioning autism, and the two are best friends. Powerlifting has strengthened their bond, but there are benefits, too.

“When Naomi was little, she was painfully shy,” Neshama said. “Powerlifting has given her self-confidence about her own capabilities. It leaps over from the gym to other areas of her life. I’ve seen that transformation.”

For Ari, who isn’t ready to play team sports because of the way his brain processes, powerlifting provides him with an outlet.

“This is an individual sport where he can have the camaraderie of being with other people who are cheering him on, but he’s not competing against anybody but himself,” Neshama said. “This sport is really the best of both worlds. The powerlifting community is an amazing eclectic group of people that is very supportive overall. You can really learn to be your best self whether you have issues or don’t have issues.”

A Real Supergirl

Photo courtesy of Neshama Kutin

Photo courtesy of Neshama Kutin

With Naomi’s passion for the sport accelerating with age, and a discipline level that rivals any professional athlete, Jessie Auritt, an independent Jewish film maker from Brooklyn, took notice and gobbled the story.

“She’s all about empowering women and breaking stereotypes,” Neshama said of Auritt. “That’s something we never set out to do. That was never the goal, but that’s definitely what we’ve done, and we’re all okay with that.”

‘Supergirl’ just got funded, which made the filming process even more worth it.  Starting when Naomi was 11, Auritt visited the Kutin’s a few times per month to gather interviews and B-roll shots.

The film “follows Naomi’s transformation into a young woman as she prepares for her Bat Mitzvah, and simultaneously trains for the biggest powerlifting competition in North America.”

Its release date is yet to be determined, but that’s okay because Naomi has other things on her mind, like the four hours of homework she gets every night, and aspirations of one day making it to The World Games.

“It’s not like she’s this superhuman. She just happens to be an amazing human,” Neshama said. “She has real emotions and real growing pains.”

That authenticity, is what makes her so record-setting super.