Remembering Chuck Ahrens

by Al Myers

The most famous picture of Chuck Ahrens, from "The Super Athletes" by David Willoughby. In this picture Chuck Ahrens is muscling out a 75 pound girl on one arm at Muscle Beach, California, on August 1957.

Word has come to me that the great Muscle Beach legend Chuck Ahrens has passed away earlier this month. This was reported on the IronMind Website by David Shaw. I have not been able to find an obituary, and don’t even know what day he died on. But I want today’s story to be about REMEMBERING Chuck Ahrens and what he has done to promote weightlifting. During the late 1950’s Chuck was a mainstay on Muscle Beach, and created a mysterious legend of super strength without ever competing in a competition. He was a huge man – with very wide shoulders measuring 26 5/8″ across. Some people said he had a bigger upper body than Paul Anderson. He often wore long sleeve shirts and long pants when working out and very RARELY ever displayed his huge 20 inch plus arms. He didn’t like his picture to be taken. Chuck didn’t train much on legs, and spent most of his time training his arms, shoulders and chest. In researching this piece on his lifting accomplishments – I found so many differing reports about what he lifted that it is hard for me to report anything with accuracy. So instead, I am going to list some of these “reports” that you may take any way you want:

- Triceps Press with 345 pounds

- Crucifix with pair of 150# Dumbbells

- One arm dumbbell press with 320#

- Bench Press 400# for 28 reps

- Clean and Press pair of 205# Dumbbells

Chuck Ahrens left the muscle scene by the early 1960’s. It has been reported that he hurt his shoulder and discontinued weight training after that injury. Not much has been reported on him since. But he did something very few others did – he created a legacy with his strength feats that other lifters would talk about and debate in their gyms for years to come. Thom Van Vleck told me that he remembers his Uncles discussing Chuck’s lifts in the early JWC Club – both skeptical and in awe of him. Chuck Ahrens inspired many lifters to “take on the impossible” and get stronger. As Thom said, “Ahrens was probably the most famous lifter that never actually lifted in a meet.” From what I have read about Chuck Ahrens, it is obvious to me that he was a very humble and private man and most of his “lifting stories” were propagated by others, who had the privilege first hand of getting to see him lift amazing poundages. Chuck Ahrens will go down in history as a HERO in the weightlifting world and stories of him, hopefully, will continue to be told.