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The journey to Ohio by plane is only about an hour and by car, it’s a “short” eight-hour trek.

But in reality, the path for Racine native Alexander Ersing to get back to Ohio earlier this month was much longer, much tougher, and in the end, so very worth every single minute.

Ersing wins powerlifting championship
Ersing receives his medal on stage at the at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio. – Photo courtesy of Alexander Ersing

Ersing, 36, recently returned from the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio with his second powerlifting championship, this time the 165-pound raw (no equipment used) open bench and deadlift push/pull title with a combined total of 850 pounds.

The Arnold Sports Festival is named for, you guessed it, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and dates back to 1970, when the legendary Schwarzenegger won the Mr. World contest and then vowed to return to Columbus to partner with sports promoter Jim Lorimer.

After he won the Mr. Olympia contest from 1970 to 1975, Schwarzenegger promoted that contest for a decade in Columbus before the “Arnold Classic” was founded in 1989. And it’s certainly grown through the years: the most recent event which ended last week drew more than 12,000 athletes from more than 80 nations who competed in 50-plus sports and events.

So winning a title is quite the accomplishment, and one that Ersing certainly is proud to add to his impressive powerlifting resume.

“It’s kind of hard to put into words,” Ersing said. “It’s the highest you can go for powerlifting. To get to the ‘Arnold,’ you have to really train. You either qualify or you get personally invited for doing something amazing somewhere. It’s such a sense of fulfillment.”

And even more fulfilling is that Ersing, who won the unequipped drug-free deadlift title at the Arnold last year, continues to compete 100% drug-free.

That is something he stresses and something he firmly believes in – to get where he wants to get without any additional help.

“I’ve done it drug-free, which is rare,” he said. “You don’t get too many guys who are competing who aren’t using stuff, some kind of steroid or something. I wanted to set an example, to not only the community, but my kids, that you can do it drug-free.”

An extreme juggling act

When it comes to the training, it was about as difficult – but in the end, so fulfilling – for Ersing and his family to navigate.

Ersing said he really honed in on this competition for three months before, which meant hitting the Mt. Sinai Gym in Racine at all hours, and mostly after putting in hard, physical work in construction for eight hours.

Toss in a fiancé, three children, including a newborn, and finding a balance between everything wasn’t easy, to put it mildly.

“It was difficult, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “It was a lot of hard work, a lot of late nights, diet and nutrition, trying to understand the human body. It was a lot of work. I do construction, so obviously that’s very physical.

“I would do the eight hours on the construction site, try to get that family time, train after I do that, training on the weekends. Just trying to balance my time so my training doesn’t take away from my family time. That’s what’s important to me most. I try to get that quality time with my kids and my fiancé.”

The path to get Ersing to where he is now started at a young age, he said, with a number of competitive sports, followed by his first exposure to lifting weights at about 14 years old.

Ersing wins powerlifting championship
Ersing and his son warm up at the gym. – Photo courtesy of Alexander Ersing

For the Racine Case High School graduate, the gym quickly became his second home.

“I got hooked with it,” he said. “I loved the atmosphere. It was therapy. I kept doing that, and then, I would probably say, when I was in my early 20s was when I started competing. It just kind of kept going and snowballing from there.

“It really is (a sanctuary). I’ve been doing it for the better half of my life. I’m just a firm believer that this is the best therapy that anyone could give themselves for next to nothing. It’s just amazing. You meet some amazing people. You all have one thing in common. You’re all there to work, to work on yourself. It teaches you discipline. There’s nobody to tell you to go. I had to go on my own. It makes bad days better. It gives you goals to chase. You build friendships in a positive atmosphere.”

Along with his two titles at the Arnold, Ersing also won the 2021 Nasa Powerlifting USA Push/Pull and Power Sports Lifter of the Year, and in 2019, was named the Nasa Powerlifting Wisconsin Coach of the Year.

Ersing didn’t mince words when asked about the impact the gym and powerlifting have made.

“It changed my life,” he said. “Powerlifting saved my life. It actually gave me a direction to take what I was doing further. I had no idea what I had when I first started. I had no idea you could really take it and meet Arnold Schwarzenegger. There’s no limitations. If you think small, that’s who you’re going to be.

“… If I can do it, anybody can do it, because I definitely did not have an easy start or any easy road by any means. I hope to set that example for many. None of this was easy for me at all. I hope that people pursue their hopes and dreams.”

What’s next for Ersing?

Ersing said he’s definitely planning on a return to the Arnold next year to defend his title – and training will always be a huge part of his life.

Ersing wins powerlifting championship
Ersing, (back row, third from left) with his family and 8x Mr. Olympia champion, Ronnie Coleman. – Photo courtesy of Alexander Ersing

But for now, a much-deserved and much-needed respite – and plenty of family time awaits.

“I’m probably going to take a good month to six weeks of downtime and focus on the family,” he said. “Then, we’ll see. Coming at the beginning of the summer will be something I’ll jump back into. I just want to focus on some other stuff in my life right now.”

Ersing said he’s proud to see his two children – and hopefully, someday the newborn who just arrived in December – pick up some of the habits he’s shown them through his training.

That may be the best gift of all, to know that he and his fiancé are teaching their children the right way to do things.

“I don’t push them into stuff or hound them to try to do this or do that,” he said. “I know that what I’m doing is worth it, especially if I can be a role model for my kids. I didn’t have a father growing up. That messed up a lot of my childhood. A big part of the reason I started lifting weights was it was a form of therapy for me.

“For me to be able to give it to them and be there, where they don’t have to ever wonder if dad is coming, that means a lot. It’s fulfilling as a father, as a man.”


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