Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Media
Weightlifting has proven to be a powerful sport for MCpl. Ben Langley in work and in life.
Langley, based at CFB Trenton, is a C-17 loadmaster for military aircrafts and requires a lot of hauling and lifting.
“I don’t get tired when I’m lifting things,” Langley quips.
His background in powerlifting has also proved beneficial when travelling as part of the air force. He loves to go to local gyms to work out and take in the culture. Some countries focus strictly on bodybuilding while others enjoy a variety of workout techniques, including cross-fit.
Langley has enjoyed visiting gyms in Scotland, England, Ireland, Romania, Germany, Senegal, Niger and more, including the United States and Canada of course.
“It’s really cool when you travel the world and you go to these local gyms and you see what the gyms are trying to do and you get to meet new people. Mentally, that’s one thing I always look forward to and that’s why I was able to stay so consistent,” Langley says.
“It’s a lot of fun going into these local places, places where I don’t even speak their language and yet we can kind of communicate in terms of weightlifting.”
Langley was born in Brandon, Manitoba and grew up in a military family, eventually graduating high school in Winnipeg. He wasn’t big into sports, but did give wrestling a try in his later years of elementary school when his family was living in Alaska.
“I was just kind of curious so I did it and enjoyed it and then I continued wrestling until after high school,” Langley says.
His training paid off in the form of competition success, including winning provincial championships in Manitoba at ages 16 and 18.
After graduating from high school, Langley had an uncertain future. Joining the military wasn’t an option he considered or was interested in.
That changed when his father received a post in Oklahoma and Langley, 19 at the time, would be staying behind.
“One thing led to another and I walked into a recruiting office and that was the start of my career,” he says. “It’s been a really good decision so far. I’m enjoying it.”
Langley, now 28, was posted to Trenton in 2017 after starting his career in Winnipeg. He was “clueless” to the amount of sports and recreation opportunities available in the military, though does recall his father playing intersection lunchtime hockey back in the day.
“It’s really cool” that military members take advantage of those opportunities, he says.”There’s a lot of different sports, too, now that a lot of people can do.”
Powerlifting isn’t currently an official CISM (International Military Sports Council) sport, but could be in the future. That being said, Langley has found the military to be very supportive of athletes and accommodated his desire to compete through out-of-service requests approved by his commanding officer.
Langley learned that being a competitive powerlifter was possible, even while in the military, while on a Qualification Level 3 (QL3) course in Borden, Ontario. He was 21 and still posted in Winnipeg when he started powerlifting.
He entered a junior weightlifting competition in Dauphin, Manitoba and won it.
“I just enjoyed working out training for sports and eventually I enjoyed working out more than the sports I was training for so I stopped wrestling and everything and just continued to workout,” Langley says.
Competing against civilians, Langley won another local competition as well as the provincial championship for his weight class. He went on to win the bronze medal at his first national championships.
That’s when he learned he could place formal requests through the military’s Personal Support Programs (PSP), which would help cover his costs to travel and compete. He’s competed at Arnold competitions, more nationals and even the world championships in Sweden in 2018.
“They’ve been very accommodating for them,” Langley says of the military.
During a standard off-season when he’s not trying to reach peak form, Langley can be found training about three hours a day, five days a week. As competitions approach, his time in the gym increases to about four or five hours per day and then six.
Langley had no goals when he started – “I just wanted to go in and have some fun” – but the more success he achieves, the more time he wants to be in the gym and stick to his strict regimen to compete in the squats, bench press and deadlift components of powerlifting in the 74 kilogram (163-pound) division.
“My first squat I did was 420 pounds and that was at the 163-pound weight class. My first bench press was 265 pounds and my first deadlift was about 450 pounds,” Langley says.
“Since then, my best squat in competition is 585 pounds, my best bench press is 370 pounds and my best deadlift is 620 pounds.”
Those results came in Winnipeg at the 2020 national championships in March of that year right before everything shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Langley was the Canadian Powerlifting Union (CPU) 74kg champion national champion in 2019 and 2020 and also earned best lifter of the CPU.
That distinction was based on pound-for-pound considerations.
“They have some smarter people than me that determine the formula weight lifted to your bodyweight and it gives a coefficient,” Langley explains.“If that coefficient is higher than everybody else then you’re technically the strongest person and I ended up being the strongest person in Canada.”
Quite an incredible achievement, that’s for sure, but it doesn’t mean Langley is satisfied. It’s quite the opposite.
“The higher level I go and the more I lift and the more I do, the less I’m satisfied,” he says. “I’m constantly trying to reach the next person so for awhile it was nationals. Now that I’ve done that in Canada, now I’ve opened up my horizons to the world. There’s a man who just competed at the U.S. nationals in my weight class who is now the strongest person ever in history through the sport of powerlifting through the pound-for-pound coefficient.
“He ended up breaking the world record for the next weight category up at my weight category so now the sights are set on him. When you’re a high-level competitor, you’re never content, you’re never happy. You’re always hungry for more.”
Langley was eligible to compete at the world championships this year, but opted not to. With the way the past year has gone, his training hasn’t been adequate enough to compete on the world stage. Instead, he’ll go through the process of earning his way there again by competing next year at the provincial and national championships.
Langley will cheer on his girlfriend Nicola as she competes at the world championships. Powerlifting is a passion they share and how they met.
Looking ahead, Langley has ambitions to break the national squat record of 600 pounds and continue to improve in the other disciplines as well.
“I would like to bench press 400 pounds and I would like to deadlift 300 kilos which is 661 pounds,” he says.