Bev Francis

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Beverley Francis[1]
— Bodybuilder —
Personal info
Nickname Bev[1]
Born (1955-02-15) 15 February 1955 (age 59)[1]
Geelong, Victoria, Australia[1]
Height 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)[2]
Weight In Season: 160 lb (73 kg)[2]
Professional career
Pro-debut Caesars World Cup[3], 1983[3]
Best win IFBB World Pro Championships[3], 1987[3]
Predecessor Juliette Bergmann[3]
Successor Dona Oliveira[3]
Active Retired 1991[2]
Bev Francis
Medal record
Competitor for Australia
Women's Powerlifting
World Games
Gold 1980 IPF Women's World Powerlifting Championships 75 kg (165 lb)
Gold 1981 IPF Women's World Powerlifting Championships 82.5 kg (182 lb)
Gold 1982 IPF Women's World Powerlifting Championships 75 kg (165 lb)
Gold 1983 IPF Women's World Powerlifting Championships 82.5 kg (182 lb)
Gold 1984 IPF Women's World Powerlifting Championships 82.5 kg (182 lb)
Gold 1985 IPF Women's World Powerlifting Championships 82.5 kg (182 lb)

Beverley "Bev" Francis (born 15 February 1955) is a professional female bodybuilder, powerlifter, and national shot put champion from Australia.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Bev Francis was born in 1955 in Geelong, Australia, the youngest of 5 children. In 1976, she graduated from University of Melbourne where she obtained degree in physical education and a diploma of teaching. After university, she became a teacher of high school physical education and mathematics for eight years.[1][4][5][6]

Shot put career[edit]

As a teenager she became an accomplished shot putter in track and field. In February 1974, she began serious training. In 1977, she broke the Australian shot put record. From 1977-1979 and 1981-1982, she was an Australian track and field team member. She missed the 1980 track season due to knee injury. In 1982, she won the Australian national shot put championships. Along with shot put, she performed discus, javelin, and 100 meter reserve.[5][6][7]

Powerlifting career[edit]

In 1980, Bev held all world records in the 82.5 kg (182 lb) weight class. At the 1981 World Powerlifting Championships, she set a world record when she bench pressed 150 kg (330 lb), the first woman's bench press over 300 pounds. At the 1982 Australian Powerlifting Championships in Adelaide, she set a world record in the 82.5 kg (182 lb) class with a squat of 216 kg (476 lb). She won gold medals in her weight class in the International Powerlifting Federation Championships from 1980 through to 1985.[1][5][5][6][8]

Best lifts[edit]


From 1981 to the early 1990s, Bev earned the accolade of “Strongest Woman in History”. She was the first women in the world to bench press over 300 lb (140 kg). She broke over 40 world powerlifting records and was undefeated during her powerlifting career. She was inducted into the International Powerlifting Federation Hall of Fame in 1987.[1][6][9][10][11]

Bodybuilding career[edit]

Professional career[edit]

After being the first woman to bench press over 300 lb (140 kg), a picture of Bev appeared in several bodybuilding magazines around the world, doing a most muscular pose, or "the crab", while wearing a bikini. She possessed far more muscular size than the most muscular female bodybuilders at the time. Her powerlifting accolade led to her being invited by producer George Butler to take part in the film of Pumping Iron II: The Women, which was being shot around the Cesar’s World Cup being held in Las Vegas, Nevada in December 1983. At that contest, she said she should have been, “First or last.” She placed in the middle as eighth among 15 competitors.[1][2]

Bev guest posed at the 1985 Mr. Olympia competition, which caused the crowd to go wild. She attempted to re-invent her physique along the lines of what was being rewarded. She finishing 10th in her Ms. Olympia debut of 1986. In 1987, she won the World Pro Championships. She reeled of three third places at the Ms. Olympia in 1987, 1988, 1989 and then moved into second at the Ms. Olympia in 1990. She had overhauled her physique radically from that 1983 Cesar’s World Cup when she was told she was “too muscular”. Imagine her consternation after that 1990 Ms. Olympia runner-up spot to Lenda Murray when she was told she was “not muscular enough.” After that she decided to give them the most densely muscled physique we had seen on a female up to that point.[2][12]

To facilitate ESPN’s needs, the 1991 Ms. Olympia was held over two days. Round one (symmetry) and two (muscularity) were held on Saturday evening, October 12, 1991, whilst rounds three (posing) and four (posedown) were conducted 24 hours later: the Sunday night proceedings being broadcast live.[2]

At the prejudging, Bev walked out with 160 lb (73 kg) of dense and conditioned muscles stacked on her 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m) frame. The audience gasped – no one has seen that much muscle on a female form. Almost all the women came in considerably larger than the previous year, surprising not just the ESPN viewers who weren't hardcore bodybuilding fans, but some bodybuilding fans. Lenda Murray was herself 11 pounds bigger than the previous year. At the end of that night’s judging she was leading by four points ahead of Lenda Murray. Just prior to the commencement of the Sunday night’s finals ESPN (in an unprecedented move for pro bodybuilding) flashed up the half-time scores for a national audience and those inside the Shrine to see that Bev was in the lead. The posing round having never been recognized as a come from behind means in which to vault a place or two, most insiders, including Bev herself, figured she only had to avoid falling over to take the title.[2]

On Sunday, October 13, 1991, at 7.57 pm, Bev stood onstage holding hands with Lenda when the announcement was made that she had placed 2nd place. Her hand rose halfway to her face in shock before she regained her composure, smiled and congratulated Lenda. This was the slimmest margin of victory for a Ms. Olympia win, with Lenda edging Bev by a final score of 31 to 32. For all those in attendance what was difficult to digest was that Bev was leading after two rounds only to be overtaken in the concluding rounds. It was said that ESPN didn’t want a woman who would have beaten most middleweight men to be recognized as the planet’s premier female bodybuilder. A few months later an edict went out warning that overt muscularity would be marked down and the “How much is too much?” argument has persisted ever since.[2][13]

Sixteen months after that contest, Bev said: “After being in the lead with only the posing and posedown to go I still can’t believe I lost that contest. In my heart and in my mind I can’t motivate myself to compete in another bodybuilding contest. The fire for competition is no longer there. I have no bitterness. Bodybuilding gave me a great life and I’m thankful for that.” She added, “You know when I came in as the most muscular competitor at that 1983 Caesar’s Palace contest I said I should have been first or last. The same should have applied at the 1991 Ms. Olympia.”[2]

Body image and judging criteria[edit]

Bev's career is illustrative of the struggle with engaging in the sport for personal goals as opposed to for the satisfaction of the judges, who were required to judge female bodybuilders on a vague and subjective criteria of femininity. While her 1983 debut in the made-for-the-movie competition received much attention for pushing the sport in a more muscular direction, when she placed 8th and her loss led her to spend years changing her look in an attempt to meet this criteria.[2]

After years of attempting to meet the femininity standards of the contests, including using such beauty techniques as getting a nose job, lightening Bev's hair, and slimming down her physique, she still failed to win first at the major competitions. However, she soon figured out how to make her physique more symmetrical while maintaining the size built from her powerlifting background (the three powerlifts are basics in bodybuilding training and bodybuilders with backgrounds as champion powerlifters tend to have tremendous size and density for their frames) and won the World Championship in 1987. She continued to tinker with her physique, which led to a disappointing 1990 Ms. Olympia. After her physique was criticized as not having the fullness or muscularity compared to winner Lenda Murray and some other top placers, Francis decided to get as massive as symmetrically possible for the 1991 Olympia.[2]

Marcia Pally, in a 1985 article on the film Pumping Iron II: The Women, reported that people often thought of Bev as lesbian and Bev said of it: "The categorization annoys me more than what I'm accused of. I've been called a transsexual, a man, and a lesbian. People have to stop putting together things that don't belong together. Muscles don't make a women a lesbian."[14]


After coming in runner up at the 1991 Ms. Olympia, Bev retired from bodybuilding.[2]


Bev was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2000. She is also a judge for the International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB).[1][4]

Contest history[edit]

  • 1983 Caesars World Cup - 8th
  • 1984 IFBB Grand Prix Las Vegas - 8th
  • 1986 IFBB Grand Prix Las Vegas - 3rd
  • 1986 IFBB LA Pro Championship - 3rd
  • 1986 IFBB Ms. International - 3rd
  • 1986 IFBB Ms. Olympia - 10th
  • 1987 IFBB Pro World Championship - 1st
  • 1987 IFBB Ms. Olympia - 3rd
  • 1988 IFBB Ms. Olympia - 3rd
  • 1989 IFBB Ms. Olympia - 3rd
  • 1990 IFBB Ms. Olympia - 2nd
  • 1991 IFBB Ms. Olympia - 2nd[3][4]

Personal life[edit]

At the 1983 Caesars World Cup, Bev met IFBB judge and powerlifter Steve Weinberger. She relocated to Steve’s Long Island abode and married him on September 30, 1984. They both have two daughters. In 1986, she and her husband opened Bev Francis' Bodybuilding Gym in Long Island, New York. In 1990, they expanded the gym to Bev Francis Gold's Gym in Syosset, New York. In 2005, the name of the gym was changed to the Powerhouse Gym, Bev Francis. She and her husband currently live in Syosset, New York.[2][4][6]>[11]

Bev is the co-author of the book, "Bev Francis' Power Body building". She produced the training video, "Hard Core Training With World Champion Bev Francis". She has been a contributor to monthly article published in "Female Bodybuilding" magazine and writer for "Flex", "Ironman" and "Muscle and Fitness" magazines.[6]

Television appearance[edit]

Bev was featured in the 2001 TLC documentary The Greatest Bodies.[12]

Motion picture appearance[edit]

In 1985, Bev gained notice through her role in the movie Pumping Iron II: The Women. The movie featured her in the 1983 Cesar’s World Cup. The film casts her in a controversial role within the ongoing debate over femininity and female muscularity, with her naturally massive size and muscular development challenging preconceived notions about the limits of female bodybuilding.[1][15]


External links[edit]