Joe Stockinger shows no signs of lightening up

At 87 years old, legendary powerlifter Joe Stockinger of Pincher Creek is more physically fit than most 20-year-olds, and he has the world records to prove it.

“I do hold world records with the deadlift and the squat for my bodyweight and age group,” Stockinger said in a phone interview. In 2015, he set three world records at the 100% Raw Powerlifting Western Canadian Championships, then turned around and broke two of his own records the following year.

“It’s exciting to me, to see how much I can lift.”

Stockinger, who started out doing Olympic lifting in Germany before coming to Canada in 1954, began powerlifting that same year, and continues to do so, despite the fact that he’ll be turning 88 in December.

Stockinger does what is known as raw powerlifting: athletes do not use equipment or special clothing, such as squat suits, for support.

Although he stopped competing in 2016, Stockinger continues to train three times a week, spending a few hours in the gym each session.

“We have to keep our health. It’s a very important item in life, for me and for anybody,” he says.

Stockinger’s passion for weight training and powerlifting is instantly obvious to anyone who speaks with him, and he likes to share that passion with other people.

It was that passion that led him to establish Joe’s Weight Training and Fitness Club in Pincher Creek, Alta. The gym, founded in 1985, started as nothing more than a basement space and a dream.

However, Stockinger’s hard work and determination has led to an increase in equipment quality. The gym, now under the direction of an executive board and open to anyone who wants to train there, serves the residents of Pincher Creek well.

“I’m proud of our little gym,” Stockinger declares.

An advocate of lifelong fitness for everyone, regardless of age or gender, Stockinger also trains and mentors young athletes. No matter what sport they play, Stockinger believes that weight training helps improve all areas of an athlete’s performance, improving both physical and mental health.

“I like to be an influence,” said Stockinger.

“If anyone needs training, I want to be there to help them.”

One of the athletes Stockinger trained, Landon Hochstein, began training with him in 2015, spending two to three hours in the gym, four times a week. Under Stockinger’s tutelage, Hochstein can now press overhead a weight he once struggled to pick up off the ground.

One of the athletes Stockinger trained, Landon Hochstein, demonstrates the deadlift.
One of the athletes Stockinger trained, Landon Hochstein, demonstrates the deadlift.

Besides considering Stockinger a mentor and an inspiration, Hochstein also considers him a friend, saying that the three words he would use to describe Stockinger are intense, enthusiastic, and respectful.

However, that intensity definitely came through in training. Hochstein described a training session leading up to a competition, when he was warming up and preparing to deadlift a weight. Halfway through bringing the weight up, Hochstein began to struggle with the lift. Instantly, Stockinger was there for moral support.

“Joe runs over, gets right up in my face, and starts to yell, ‘Get tighter! Get tighter! Fix your form!’” Hochstein said, in a face to face interview.

At last, with Stockinger’s support, Hochstein was able to complete the lift, after which Stockinger congratulated him.

“Do you know how hard it is to deadlift when there’s an 87-year-old man screaming in your face?” Hochstein laughs he recalls the incident.

However, that intensity is just Stockinger channelling his passion and drive to the people he trains, and Hochstein has fond memories of both training with Stockinger and spending time with him outside the gym.

“Every person he meets is the most interesting person in the world,” said Hochstein.

“He always has time for people.”

It is that enthusiasm for both his favourite sport and for helping people that has made Stockinger such a respected and well-loved figure in both the town he loves and the powerlifting community.

“He has lived a life focused on improvement,” said Hochstein.

“He wakes up every day with the goal of being better than he was yesterday, and tries to pass this mentality on to others.”