For most people, being able to lift double your weight isn’t too impressive. That is, unless you’re 80, in which case it’s downright amazing.
Ernie Larson is capable of doing just that – I watched him as he lifted 170 pounds five times on an incline press, and that was despite some medical issues and a bad shoulder.
“I’m not lifting very heavy now,” he told me.
Larson was born and raised in Revelstoke. He worked as a logger and it was while living on a logging camp north of town that he took up weight training. One of his co-workers brought a set to the camp with him, so he made use of it. “I used to bench press 225 pounds, that’s all the weight we had,” he said.
He bought his own weight set for home and hasn’t look back. He took part in logger sports, travelling around the circuit and winning the occasional event. He still takes part in Timber Day in Revelstoke, competing in the axe throw and Jack-and-Jill cross cut with his daughter Tammy.
Even after he stopped working as a logger, he kept up his regime. While working long days on the ferry, he would do dips on the stairways to stay in shape.
After his retirement in 1998 he started going to Trans Canada Fitness and is a fixture there. At home, he said he has some dumbbells and also uses elastics.
80-year-old weightlifters are rare. A quick Google search turned up a few others, including Merrill Matzinger, who at the age of 95, could still do 1,500 crunches. Then there’s Israel Libshtein, who is featured on YouTube doing a partial deadlift of 200 kilograms at the age of 82.
Still, Larson’s ability is most impressive. On first sight, he doesn’t seem overly ripped, but when you watch him lift the weights, you can see his muscles flex and strain.
“I call Ernie the patriarch of the fitness centre,” said Neil Jones, the owner of Trans Canada Fitness. “Ernie sets an example of the lifestyle, of what this is all about.”
On top the physical benefits, Larson’s weight training has the added benefit of improving his cognitive ability. A UBC study showed that older women that stay in shape through lifting weights have better cognitive functions than those that took toning classes.
For Larson, it’s simply about the exercise. He had to give up skiing and swimming due to injuries so going to the gym is his outlet for exercise.
His doctor supports his habit. “They like the shape I’m in,” he said.